Do you find winter always seems to equal weight gain? You’re not alone. Many of my clients say the onset of cold weather has them turning to stodgy puddings and comforting carbohydrates.
But it doesn’t have to be that way – instead of wrapping yourself in your baggy jumper and reaching for the biscuit tin, try our best weight loss teas and enjoy warming winter foods without sabotaging your weight loss.
1. Roast dinner
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Yes, really. A traditional roast dinner, once a week – with a few healthy twists – can be an excellent, comforting meal that won’t pile on the pounds.
Buy the best meat you can afford (free range, organic if possible) and make a little go a long way.
Have a couple of succulent slices, and then fill ¾ of your plate with vegetables.
Aim for 5 different vegetables – e.g. 2 different roasted root vegetables like swede, turnip, celeriac or sweet potato to give you that comforting carbohydrate experience; and then 3 other delicious seasonal vegetables – leeks, carrots, kale – steamed alongside.
Make a gravy from the meat juices (use a gravy separator to pour away the excess fat) and settle down to a delicious, filling dinner without feeling deprived.
2. Spicy sausage / bean casserole
If you’re hankering for that comforting childhood treat of bangers and mash, try opting instead for this low calorie yet delicious, warming adult version in this spicy casserole.
Choose the best quality sausages you can buy, and cook 2 sausages per person. If you are vegetarian, this works well with vegetarian sausages, or you could use a tin of mixed beans.
Meanwhile, soften 2 large chopped onions in a little oil.
Now add a selection of vegetables – carrots cut into matchsticks, sliced courgettes, runner beans, spinach, broccoli florets, cauliflower – or whatever you can find in the fridge. Soften slightly, then add 2 cloves of garlic and a finely sliced chilli (with seeds if you like food hot!) and seasoning.
Add a tin of chopped tomatoes, and an organic chicken or veggie stock cube. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked and the flavours are melded.
Add the sausages, chopped into small discs (or your drained tin of beans) and simmer for a few more minutes.
Serve on its own or with a heaped tablespoon of parsnip and carrot mash (simmer 2 small parsnips and 1 carrot in water until soft, then mash with a little milk and seasoning).
3. Lentil bake
Green, brown or puy lentils are the perfect, healthy comfort food in winter. Full of fibre and a good source of vegetarian protein, folate and iron, they help you feel full and satisfied, especially when combined with vegetables as in this satisfying bake. Serve hot in slices with more steamed vegetables, or enjoy cold the next day with a home-made carrot and cabbage coleslaw or a selection of pickles for an quick and easy packed lunch.
In a saucepan, measure a mug of brown lentils and 2 mugs of water.
Add peppercorns, bay leaves and a sprig of thyme and simmer until the lentils are soft and the water has been absorbed – about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a little oil, soften 1 large, chopped leek, a finely diced carrot, a handful of chopped runner or French beans, and some shredded kale (tough stalks removed).
Combine with the lentils.
Add 2 beaten eggs, 2 tablespoons of flour (gluten free works well), and pack into 2lb loaf tin lined with baking parchment. Bake for 30 minutes at 200C.
4. Butternut squash (or pumpkin) and lentil soup
Nothing is more comforting on a cold winter day than a thick, tasty soup. This version is filling enough for a winter tea because of the protein and fibre rich lentils, but its free from the high calorie ingredients that can lead to weight gain. What’s more, both squash and pumpkins, both beautifully seasonal at the moment, provide a good dose of beta-carotene from the beautiful, seasonal squash. Beta carotene is converted in the body to immunity-boosting Vitamin A.
Cut the squash / pumpkin into large chunks, season and drizzle with a little oil, then roast in an oven at 200C until you can push a fork easily into the flesh (about 30 minutes). Remove from the oven and leave until cold enough to handle, then peel and roughly chop the flesh into chunks.
Meanwhile, soften 2 large chopped leeks and a finely chopped chilli in a large saucepan.
Add a litre of chicken (or vegetable) stock made up with a stock cube, plus the chunks of roasted squash, and half a mug of orange lentils.
Simmer until the lentils are soft (about 25 mins), taste and season, then blitz with a hand blender. Add a little more water if you find it too thick.
Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche for a warming treat.
5. Prawn Thai green curry
Those Thai spices are warming and satisfying, and the addition of plenty of vegetables makes this meal a healthy treat. Coconut milk is also uniquely satisfying. Although it is calorific, it contains medium chain fatty acids. It is thought that unlike other saturated fats, MCFAs are used up quickly by the body and are less likely to be stored as fat. In any event reduced fat versions bring down the calories a little if preferred.
Soften 2 very large chopped onions in a little oil until soft.
Then stir in about 100g of Thai green curry paste. Check the ingredients –use only those brands with recognisable herbs and spices with a little oil and no additives or sugar.
Fry for a couple of minutes, before stirring in a tin of coconut milk and a crumbled organic chicken stock cube.
Simmer for 10 minutes before adding a selection of vegetables – frozen is fine – try green beans, mixed strips of pepper, florets of broccoli and cauliflower, matchsticks of courgettes.
Simmer for a further 3 minutes or until the vegetables are to your liking.
Add prawns (either small or large) and simmer for another 3 – 5 minutes; serve with a small portion of brown basmati rice, or even on its own as a thick comforting soup.
With these comforting, satisfying and healthy recipes at your fingertips there is no excuse to indulge in a cold weather stodge-fest.