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Comfort food the healthy way

By Tasha McRae

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As the weather turns chilly, many of us start to find salads and smoothies less appealing. We seem to naturally gravitate to heavier, richer foods in preparation for our rainy winter. Here are some tips and ideas for healthy fall eating.

1) Spice up your life to create comfort without the calories by including more spice to your foods in the fall:

Flavours such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cardamon and cloves can bring a sense of warmth and comfort to your cooking and they don’t just belong in pumpkin pies and gingerbread cookies. These spices are also excellent with fruit and veggies.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Cinnamon: Combine the sweet heat of cinnamon with tart fall fruits like apples and pears. Just cut up the fruit and sprinkle with cinnamon for a healthy snack idea., or stew it slowly over the stove to make a compote.
  • Allspice: Roast veggies with allspice. Try squash or sweet potatoes.
  • Ginger: Steep it with boiling water to make a warming tea or mince and add to vegetable stir fries.
  • You can also bring the heat to your foods with chili powder, smoked paprika and curry powders.

2) Soups are Fall’s salad:

Salads are often a vegetable go-to in spring and summer but in the fall they often lose their appeal. Consider substituting your salad fix with veggie-filled soups once autumn hits. Soup’s volume fills us up for fewer calories and a warm soup is easy to make ahead so it is ready to reheat on a cold day.

  • To make soup more of a meal, lentils and beans can be great addition and a good source of protein.
  • To give soups a rich creamy consistency without adding high-fat cream, blend half of the soup in a blende and the add it back to the soup.
  • Adding some winter spices will also help satisfy you.
  • For an easy make-head fall dinner try a vegetarian chili. Use lots of vegetables to increase its fibre and nutrition. Add shredded zucchini, carrots, celery and bell peppers for a nutrient-packed meal.
  • If you want to add meat to your chili try ground turkey for a low-fat alternative.

3) When you are craving carbs:

At this time of year many of us find ourselves craving more carbohydrate-heavy foods. Pasta is a common meal in the fall and winter. To get the pasta feel without the accompanying carbs and calories try:

  • Zucchini noodles. You can buy a simple spiralizer tool at most kitchen and hardware stores that turns zucchini into noodles.
  • Spaghetti squash is another great substitute for noodles!
  • Mashed cauliflower can also be a great tasty ow-carb substitute for mashed potatoes. Give it a it! You’ll be surprised how delicious it is!

Roasted vegetables are also a satisfying substitute when you are craving carbs:

  • Use yummy fall veggies such as carrots, leeks, celery, zucchini, eggplant, fennel, peppers and beets to fill half your plate at dinner with with a lean protein like chicken, turkey or fish.
  • The caramelization of the natural sugars in the veggies gives them a richer taste. Try separating the vegetables into two or three baking dishes so they are not crowded and have a chance to become crispy and brown in the oven.

We hope you will try some of these options for healthy fall comfort foods! Please share your recipes and tips with us.

Tasha McRae, BHK, ACSM, CES/CET, is a certified exercise physiologist and Director of Programs and Training at LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic