Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Baby it's Cold Outside

OK so maybe it's not freezing today but it's not as though those feet or fireplace belong to my family, just go with it.  Think winter and cold and what are the first 3 foods you think of? Mashed potatoes, chili and hot cocoa were the top 3 answers in my informal winter food survey. Wintry foods tend to be cheesy, meaty, creamy or chocolaty. There is some scientific backing for these cravings due to less sunlight on cold, winter days. However, I find a lot of these cravings have more to do with associations and memories. When you were little and came in from playing in the snow, what do you eat? Chances are you still crave some version of the soup or hot chocolate or macaroni and cheese that was served to you at 6, even though you’re now thirty-six.

The good news is that you can enjoy these foods and the memories associated with them, with a few simple tweaks (tweaks to the foods, the memories we’ll leave as is):
Meaty cravings
Meatloaf tops the list of winter comfort foods. The problem with meatloaf and other meaty foods is…well the meat of course. Most meat used is beef and even 85% lean cuts are still 15% saturated fat.
• Use leaner meat. I suggest 92 or 96% lean (beef, chicken, turkey or pork). When you can, choose grass-fed beef and free range poultry. You may, in meatloaf or meatballs, have to compensate with more liquid in your recipe to add moisture
• The breadcrumbs used in meatloaf to hold it together are not particularly nutritious. Try using whole wheat bread crumbs or, my favorite, oats instead.
• Eggs in meatloaf are used to bind the ingredients. You will not sacrifice taste switching to egg whites and you will cut the fat which is already high enough.

Creamy or Carby Cravings
Is there a person out there who doesn’t desire mashed potatoes or French onion soup when the mercury drops? OK there may be a few but not me! I haven’t met a creamy, mushy food I don’t like. For clients who come in craving mashed potatoes and pasta here are my 3 standbys:
• Mashed Cauliflower- cauliflower is very low in calories and becomes very creamy in soups when mashed. Mashed cauliflower is a great mashed potato stand in. I love a Whole Foods Market recipe that doesn’t use any dairy. You blend the cooked cauliflower with olive oil instead. This dish passes the husband-who-likes-the-real-thing test.
• Spaghetti Squash- the only drawback to spaghetti squash is that baking and making it takes a little time. You can cheat and microwave it, if you are a microwaver. The benefit is, once cooked, you can add tomato sauce, pesto, parmesan cheese or any other pasta type sauce. It’s delicious and low in calories (sans sauce).
• Sweet potatoes also have to be on the healthy winter carb list. You can mash them, roast them and fries out of them.

Chocolaty Cravings
Hot chocolate, smores, chocolate pudding are also on the cold-weather craving list. The problem with most hot chocolate and puddings are that they are often made from pre-fab mixes and the quality is poor andfat content is high.
• Use unsweetened good-quality cocoa powder and sweeten yourself with agave nectar or organic cane sugar
• Use low fat organic milk or rice milk for creaminess
• Extras- try peppermint extract, cayenne, cinnamon or ginger to give your hot chocolate a little zip.

These recipes are perfect after a long winter walk, skiing, skating or snowshoeing hint hint. What are your favorite winter foods or recipes?


  1. Hi Lauren, I found your site via a comment of FB. You and I are both friends with Laura Danford Mandel. I saw you made food comment. I am a Certified Holistic Health Counselor. My passion is healthy eating. I saw you were talking about comfort foods. I have a great recipe to satisy chocolate & creamy. Here it is:

    Dairy Free Chocolate Mousse

    * 2 cups avocado (the richer, the better- Haas is a great choice)
    * ½ cup + 2 tablespoons maple syrup
    * 2-4 tablespoons organic evaporated cane juice or organic sugar (optional- for the sweeter tooth)
    * 2 tablespoons Omega Nutrition coconut butter (optional)
    * 1-2 teaspoons non-alcohol vanilla extract
    * 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (aged balsamic is best)
    * ½ teaspoon shoyu (soy sauce)
    * 1 cup pure cocoa powder (Green & Black is choice)or 1 cup of raw cocao powder
    * 1 pint raspberries
    * handful of fresh mint leaves
    * sprinkle Scharffenberger’s cacao nibs (optional)

    In a food processor: Blend avocado, maple syrup, organic sugar (if choosing), coconut butter, vanilla extract, balsamic, and shoyu until smooth and creamy.
    Add cocoa powder and blend until smooth. Sifting the cocoa powder before adding is a good idea so prevent lumps. A simple metal strainer works well.
    Leftover Storage: Store leftovers in a tightly sealed container (sans berries and mint) in the fridge for 4 days or in the freezer for a month.


  2. Laura:

    What a great recipe, thank you for sharing it! Do you have a site where you post other recipes?
    I'll have to try this one.