Experts share what they do to upgrade their diets in the colder months. (Getty Images)
Baby, it’s cold outside! While you may find yourself craving different foods than you would in the summer, that doesn’t mean your cold-weather eating habits have to leave you with extra padding come spring.
For the best ways to change your winter diet for the better, we turned to the top nutritionists and healthy eating experts and asked them the diet tweaks they make when the temps drop. Find out their secrets below:
Give in to your comfort food cravings (healthfully)
Foods like mac and cheese and mashed potatoes just sound all that much better in the winter, to warm you from the inside out. Unfortunately, these kinds of foods can also be loaded with extra calories.
Keri Gans, RD, a NYC-based nutritionist and author of “The Small Change Diet,” finds herself craving mashed potatoes in the winter, which she says are a good source of fiber, vitamins B6 and C, potassium, phosphorus, and niacin. “But I keep them healthy by swapping the whole milk or cream for nonfat milk and the butter for olive oil and a little Parmesan cheese,” she tells Yahoo Health. “I also leave the potato skin on so I don’t lose any of the nutrients it contains.”
Adding vegetables to the classics can also make them more healthful, says Elle Penner, MPH, RD, registered dietician and food and nutrition editor at MyFitnessPal. “I make the most of seasonal veggies and all of their health-boosting benefits by adding them to my favorite comfort food,” she tells Yahoo Health. “For example, I add pureed butternut squash to mac and cheese to cut back on fat and calories and turn a head of kale into a delicious pesto for a quick and easy weeknight pasta dish or healthy spread for crackers.”
Start the morning in a warm, hearty way
In the winter, Gans’s go-to breakfast is a hot bowl of oatmeal topped with natural almond butter and chia seeds. “Oats and almonds are good sources of magnesium – a nutrient that promotes a strong immune system, which is crucial during cold and flu season,” she explains. “The chia seeds and oats are also good sources of fiber, which keep me full until lunch.”
Penner is also a fan of oatmeal for breakfast in the colder months. She makes sure substitute one cup of milk for the water in her morning oats, since milk adds an extra 8 grams of protein. It’s “great for keeping those mid-morning hunger pangs away,” she says.
Dr. Frank Lipman, MD, an integrative & functional medicine physician and founder of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City, loves to include bone broth in his winter diet.
“It’s warming and nourishing and provides a rich array of nutrients, which support your immune system,” he tells Yahoo Health. “It also contains gelatin and collagen, which soothe the intestinal tract and help heal leaky gut. You can sip bone broth, incorporate it into soups and stews and use it when cooking lentils and legumes.” (You can find a bone broth recipe here.)
Change up your veggie game
Embrace vegetables that are readily available in the colder months. Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD, adjunct professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University and author of “The Portion Teller Plan,” tells Yahoo Health that “this time of year, I eat more winter squash like butternut and acorn, whereas in the summer I eat more zucchini and summer squash. Winter squash is a healthy starch full of beta carotene and fiber, but isn’t readily available in July and August.”
Meanwhile, Lipman eats more root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, beets, squash and parsnips. “Because they’re incredibly nourishing, grounding and warming, they make a wonderful addition to soups and stews on chilly winter days and nights,” he says. “I also enjoy them roasted, and incorporate them into salads.”
Young also takes winter as an opportunity to fill up more on heart bean soups, like split pea and lentil, which she rarely eats in the summer. “They contain protein and a mix of two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble,” she explains. “Soluble fiber helps stabilize blood sugar and lower cholesterol while insoluble fiber helps keep bowels regular. Plus, fiber, in general, helps us feel full.”
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