pork roast with rosemary sprigs

Comfort Food

A pork roast simmers in my slow cooker as I write. The delicious aroma of rosemary and garlic permeates my condo and tantalizes my taste buds. Concentration becomes more and more difficult as my stomach rumbles and my mouth waters. How will I ever finish this post, or more importantly, wait three hours until dinner?

Winter’s cold, dark days wreak havoc on my waistline. Give me a hot, hearty meal and my willpower crumbles. I can’t resist a savory stew, steaming bowl of soup, cheesy-gooey casserole, or any type of potato. I may also round out the meal with an extra muffin, piece of bread, or fruit crumble. Yum!

I know I’m not the only one who indulges now and regrets it during swimsuit season. Why do we do it? I found some answers on the CookingLight website in this article by Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD.

To put it simply, food and drinks can warm us up. Coming in from frigid outside temps makes anything warm seem more appealing, so it can be easy to find yourself reaching for food to provide comfort and warmth. Some speculate this urge may also be part of an instinctive reaction for survival left over from when food could be scarce in winter months. Regardless of the underlying reason, these warm foods and drink are often richer and heavier in fat, carbs, and/or added sugars than we’d typically consume.

Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD,
Why Do People Crave More Carbs in the Winter?
Pastry case
Give me one…of each!

Another whiff and my stomach emits a loud growl. I drink a glass of water, but it only irritates the beast. During the summer, I seldom face this issue. When the temperature ramps up, our west-facing windows concentrate the heat. I have NO desire to slow-roast or bake ANYTHING. Dinner might be a salad, sandwich, or anything light, chilled, and simple. However, summer is months away and I’m hungry!

baked pasta
I’ll eat salad-next month.

I salivate and suffer until, FINALLY, the timer rings. After dinner is served and consumed, I stagger to the couch. Should I bundle up and head outside for a brisk, calorie-burning walk? YES.

Do I? NO.

What activity do I choose? I cuddle under a blanket and ponder the winter’s eve eternal question. Should I read or binge watch a cooking competition?

So many delicious carbs…

I try to moderate my comfort food cravings by substituting health-conscious choices. In this article from Everyday Health, Annie Hauser suggests some options: broth based soups, citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, and-a Pacific Northwest favorite-salmon. All choices I’m happy to add to my menu.

If you’re going to give in to a craving — and most experts agree you occasionally should give in — watch your portions and, whenever you can, make healthful swaps. If you’re dying for a bowl of pasta and cheese, for instance, switch out regular enriched pasta for a whole-grain option and add lean protein to the mix, along with a few vegetables for vitamins and fiber.

Annie Hauser
How Winter Affects Our Eating
lentil soup
This lentil soup looks warm, tasty, and filling. Get me a spoon!

Whenever possible I also incorporate the helpful tips included in Carolyn Williams post:

  • Choose “slow” carbs such as beans, peas, vegetables, barley, oats, quinoa, and other whole grains.
  • Make soups and stews with extra vegetables, beans, legumes or other proteins.
  • Load plates up with high-fiber, low-calorie vegetables and make sure each meal includes some lean protein and healthy fat.
  • Watch portion sizes.
  • Drink water. “Water and fluids don’t have to be cold to count,” writes Williams. “A warm beverage with little to no added sugar (like hot tea) is an easy way to warm up and hydrate.”
  • Don’t Skip Workouts.

Although I may not go for a walk after dinner, I aim for a daily afternoon stroll. I also do a morning indoor workout followed by a breakfast of warm oatmeal and berries. At best, I hope to minimize the damage and still enjoy the comfort!

What’s your favorite comfort dish? Share in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “Comfort Food”

  1. Chocolate cake is my biggest weakness. I’ve been trying to swap this for hot cocoa and for the most part I’m succeeding, especially because I’m gluten intolerant!

    1. I LOVE chocolate! Hot cocoa sounds like an excellent swap. It’s not only chocolatey and sweet, but also warm and toasty. Plus, I could savor a mug much longer than it would take me to eat a piece of cake.

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