Hearty winter foods are not generally known for their heart health benefits. Often thought of as calorie and fat laden, the creamy soups, heavy casseroles, hearty breakfasts and more that make up your winter menu may warm your soul, but they do little to promote heart health. However, there are many comfort foods we can turn to during the cold, short days of winter that not only offer coziness, but are healthful too.
Slow Cooking Comfort
Some people believe that slow cooking isn’t good for you, as everything including fats from meats get cooked into the recipe. However, with the right ingredients and preparation, your slow cooked meals can be convenient and good for you. Begin by using only lean meats and draining fat after browning. Also experiment with a variety of fiber and protein rich beans and vegetables. Lastly, use reduced sodium broth and salt-free seasonings to improve the overall nutrition in your slow cooked meal.
Hearty, Healthy Breakfast
Nothing says cozy snow day like a hearty breakfast. Of course, a breakfast loaded with calories and saturated fat is anything but heart healthy. Pass on those options and opt instead for Banana Bread Pancakes made with ripe bananas, spices, non-fat milk and heart healthy olive oil and walnuts. Or warm up with this Quinoa Fruit Bake, made from egg whites and antioxidant rich berries.
Today’s casseroles are not the same rich, thick casseroles you grew up with. Today’s creamy casseroles are made with non-fat milk, low-fat cheese and Greek yogurt like was done in this updated tuna casserole recipe. With the addition of whole wheat noodles, vegetables, and lean proteins, casseroles are the perfect make ahead dish for a busy winter day.
Heart Warming Cereal
Pass on quick cooking packets of oatmeal that offer little protein and fiber and go for oats that still cook fast, but offer more nutrition such as Guiding Star rated Quaker Steel Cut Oats that cook in just three minutes. Look for recipes such as Pumpkin Irish Oatmeal or Slow Cooker Apple-Spice Oatmeal, which incorporate antioxidant rich fruit. Lastly, amp up your whole grain intake by making oatmeal that uses more than just oats such as this 5-Minute Multigrain Cereal or this Guiding Stars rated Special K Nourish Hot Cereal.
Cozy Up with a Bowl of Soup
Making soup light isn’t as a big a challenge as making soup low in sodium and hearty enough to be called dinner. Look for soup recipes like this one for French Lentil Soup with Herbs de Provence, which is loaded with beans and veggies, made with low-sodium broth and only sounds fancy (but is really easy to make). If chowder is what you are craving, try this dairy-free Fish Chowder that makes use of pureed potatoes in lieu of cholesterol and saturated fat laden cream.
They may warm you up, but most winter drinks are not all that heart healthy…especially those made with rich cream or whole milk. Pass on those options, which are loaded with calories and saturated fat and try some mulled cider. Remember that fruit-flavored herbal teas are often sweet enough to not need honey or sugar (and are usually caffeine-free). If you’re craving chocolate, pick up a better for you, Guiding Stars rate hot cocoa option at the supermarket.