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Donuts, spaghetti and meatballs, mac and cheese, fried chicken or hot chocolate are the things that comfort food dreams are made of. But these treats can sometimes lead to a lethargic evening on the couch — or possibly even a stomach ache.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Foods can be comforting yet leave you feeling light, energetic and even serve a double duty as immune-boosting tools.
This winter, let’s eat foods that will satisfy our cravings for warm, hearty dishes, and kick that nagging cold in the tush. Here are my healthier bets for your most indulgent cravings.
1. Craving: Chocolate mocha latte
A sugary latte may temporarily do the trick on a cold winter morning, but if you trade it for a turmeric latte you’ll help your immune system battle the cold weather.
The star ingredient, turmeric contains an important compound called curcumin that has both anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Turmeric lattes can be made in a variety of ways, but all you need is turmeric, warm almond milk (or other milk alternative), a little coconut oil and black pepper. Give this all a quick blend and you have a perfectly frothy latte that will have you feeling like you’re doing your body good with every sip.
2. Craving: Chocolate chip muffin
While the croissants, donuts and scones to accompany your latte may be tempting, a grain-free, veggie-heavy muffin can be the perfect substitute. Up your nutrient intake and bulk your batter by using shredded vegetables (like carrots, pumpkin or zucchini) with almond or chickpea flour.
Just like that, a sugary indulgence quickly turns into a yummy cold-fighting tool. These morning glory muffins contain pumpkin and carrots, two foods that are high in beta-carotene (yes, that’s why they’re orange) which is a precursor to vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant that works to help regulate your immune system by neutralizing free radicals.
3. Craving: Mashed potatoes
Creamy, decadent comfort dishes don’t have to leave you feeling like there’s a brick in your stomach. Swap your coveted mashed potatoes for a cauliflower mash, made with coconut milk, or your traditional mac and cheese with whole grain pasta (or even chickpea pasta) and a butternut squash-based sauce.
Kick the immune-boosting power up even further with a healthy twist on creamed spinach. One cup of spinach provides you with 8.4 milligrams of vitamin C, which is known to help fight the length and severity of a cold. It’s also a powerful antioxidant and will put your immune system in a better place to fend off unwanted bacteria and invading microbes. Sauté fresh baby spinach with chopped leeks before adding low-fat milk and a little goat cheese for a perfectly cheesy, comforting (and cold fighting!) fix.
4. Craving: Creamy chowder
There’s no need for chowder and creamy bisques when you can have a hearty veggie or bean soup. Simmer chopped celery, onion and carrots (along with any other vegetables you like) to create a flavorful base before adding in chicken or vegetable broth.
If it’s the creamy texture you need, add butternut squash or pumpkin before pureeing for a vitamin-dense soup, sans the heavy milk and cream. This kale, white bean, and chorizo soup will leave you feeling as cozy as sitting by the fire, while also giving your immune system a helping hand.
Include leafy greens like kale for the perfect dose of virus-fighting vitamin C, and just 1 cup of white beans will provide you with a healthy dose of your daily zinc needs. Zinc works directly in assisting the production of the antibodies that work to fight the cold and flu.
For more tips on how to live a nutritious life, follow Keri on Instagram @nutritiouslifeofficial.