Capetonians would have noticed that the winter chill has set in far earlier and more abruptly than expected, putting a sudden stop to sun-kissed meals on the balcony accompanied by a bottle of crisp white. Instead, we find ourselves retreating indoors, craving carb-heavy foods followed by a chocolate snack (thanks to the Easter Bunny). There’s no doubt that the winter season changes our diets and rightfully so; cooler weather has very real physical and psychological effects. To help you stay happy and healthy this season, we’ve listed three home cooked foods and ingredients to include in your winter diet to keep the blues at bay, to avoid excessive snacking and to avoid picking up those dreaded winter pounds.
Sip on Soup and Avoid Unhealthy Snacking
Although winter is not the highlight of our year, we always look forward to homemade soup. Warm, delicious and effortless to make, it’s the ultimate winter food. Studies show that cold weather triggers hunger and because eating raises our body temperature, our brain sends out messages encouraging us to eat. This often leads to comfort food snacking; we reach for chips, the chocolates and cookies. However, soup is a low calories, high density alternative that will fill you up faster and keep you satisfied for longer. We suggest making a large batch of soup and freezing it in single portion containers. This way when snack time strikes, you can simply heat a warm bowl of soup instead of speed dialling the local pizza joint.
Omega 3: Your Dose of Sunshine
On a cold, grey day it’s often difficult not to feel miserable. Fortunately, there are many delicious and healthy foods that are packed with nutrients that can actually brighten up your day. Omega 3 fatty acids have long been praised for their health qualities. These essential fatty acids are not only great for the heart, but also help reduce inflammation, which is a common flu symptom. Another great benefit of this winter food is that it helps reduce depression and the relevant symptoms, making it an excellent winter helper. Salmon, anchovies and sardines are high in omega 3, as well as nuts, seeds (particularly walnuts, flax seeds and hemp seeds) and spinach as vegetarian alternatives.
Polenta does not usually appear in our weekly meal plan, even though it is an extremely versatile and healthy food. Made from corn, polenta is a low carbohydrate, low calorie food that can easily replace the usual pasta, potato and bread laden dishes that are commonly enjoyed in winter (and that sneak on a few extra pounds). It is also an excellent source of vitamin A and C and rich in caroteinoids, lutein and zeaxanthin; important for cancer and heart disease prevention. However, because the majority of the corn on the market today is genetically modified, keep an eye out for polenta from an organic source.