Enjoy some healthy and tasty comfort food over the festive period

Don’t let the festive holidays lead to a wider waistband.

by Susan Morgan, Public Health dietitian

As we head into the binge-fest of Christmas and New Year, it’s a great time to take stock and remember it doesn’t need to result in an expanding waistline. Over autumn and winter warm, filling, satisfying and comforting foods are where it’s at.

With the launch of the updated Eatwell Guide earlier this year, it’s time to get back to basics and treat ourselves to the foods that will nourish us through the colder months. Aiming for a quarter of the plate starchy foods at main meals will ensure steady energy levels. Piling your plate with lots of lovely vegetables is also a winner. The most satiating of all foods are proteins, including pulses, meat, fish, tofu, nuts and seeds. Milk, cheese and yoghurt also contain protein so can be great accompaniments to meals.

If we’re thinking about satisfying balanced meals, salads don’t need just to be for summer.  What about a warm salad with hot shredded chicken, freshly cooked fish or grilled halloumi and warm sliced potatoes or fluffy warm couscous?

It’s the perfect season for soups to enjoy at any time of day as a starter, snack or meal – any mix of vegetables makes a great base. Rice or pasta will make it more substantial. My personal favourite is spicy tomato with chickpeas. If you love something sweet turn this to your favour by roasting a butternut squash to intensify its sweetness then blitz with some herbs, spices and stock and top with lightly toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds for extra fullness factor and some fresh or dried coriander for an additional flavour kick.

Our team also love to add a few dark leafy greens for an intense nutrient burst or top your favourite soup with watercress or rocket to add a deep peppery note. Or try the incredibly quick classic pea and mint. Dice and gently fry an onion, add stock and frozen peas and a good handful of fresh mint leaves. Blitz and return to the pan adding more peas for texture and if you like top with a little cheese, ham or natural yoghurt.

Try satisfyingly low fat, high fibre and high protein lentils to accompany your fillet of fish or to bulk out a casserole.

There’s the humble jacket potato that can be topped in a huge array of ways and now its increasingly popular sweet potato side-kick to enjoy for a change

Top a stir-fry or pasta dish with a few chopped and lightly toasted nuts – walnuts, pine nuts and cashews can all work well.

Whatever new flavours you try this season, follow the recipes to guide you to perfect portion control – except for oil where you can usually challenge the amount and get away with a little less.  Our handy slider at the top of each of our recipes allows you to make the perfect amount for the number of people you plan to serve. If you’ve taken the time to cook something new, treat yourself to a little more time to really enjoy and savour your new dishes. What new filling satisfying recipe will you try next?

On another note, in the words of Caroline one of our Shape Up activity leaders, there is never bad weather, only bad clothing. So move with the seasons, get some colour in your cheeks and enjoy all countryside has to offer as the colours turn through the seasons.

If you or anyone you know want to know more about our healthy lifestyle programmes or you’ve attended one of our programmes in the past year and are wondering what to do next to keep up the momentum, call our team on 01273 431 703.

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