Cosy, warming, comforting and satisfying: that’s the type of food we crave in January, cold and blue. How on earth are we supposed to match that with the desperate desire to lose a couple (ok, honestly now: ten) of pounds of weight that has crept up after Christmas, comme d’habitude? And/or with the resolution to eat healthy?
The last point is easy: anything cooked at home from scratch, even cake, is usually much healthier than ready meals and takeaways. Unless you deep fry everything and don’t eat any vegetables, of course.
My advice is to cook what you fancy and exercise a bit of discipline when you eat it. Plus, balance meals out: if you plan to have pasta for dinner, don’t have a filled focaccia sandwich for lunch but rather a bowl of soup. A heart-warming pie one night – make it a skinny stir fry without rice the next. And try to skip sweets: chocolate is not comforting but only gratifying.
Above all though try to eliminate snacking. I do get exasperated at all the diet advice that promise you won’t be hungry when following it. They all come from the wrong assumption that we sneak and snack because we’re feeling hungry. What nonsense: we so obviously hardly ever feel truly hungry in the obese first world! It is cravings, boredom, stress and habitual munching that are responsible for the extra weight.
Easier said than done, I know since I’ve been there before and am there again this January, oof! But I find it is the hardest to make a start: after the first couple of days the initial weight drop is fiercely motivating.
How to start? How to stop snacking and munching? Well, for me this time yoga has been hugely useful, with lovely Adrienne who has been my personal yoga teacher for four years now. Some mantras she suggests have resonated with me, with ‘I am in control’ in particular. I am in control of what I eat. That is not only true but very effective as well.
And so for the recipes: warming and satisfying, and safe as long as we remember balance and moderation. I am in control of how much I eat, too, remember! Soup actually fulfils all three of my title criteria: it’s comforting, healthy and good for the waistline. And if you cook a big vat and freeze it in portions, it’s time efficient too. Broccoli and Stilton, chicken with noodles, potato and mushroom – whatever you fancy. NB: I’m a staunch opponent of blended, creamed soups: the fibre element, so important in nutrition is obliterated with a stick blender. Chunky is better!
Lasagne, but with a cabbage filling; ricotta meatballs in a rich tomato-onion sauce; root vegetables with bulgur – comfort and satisfaction guaranteed but top marks nutritionwise too. Cheesy lentils, mushroom spelt risotto, or venison casserole with winter rainbow salad: there is a pattern there of balancing just one ‘heavy’ ingredient, like cheese, pasta or meat, with the rest of the meal plant-ish and lighter. And repeat the mantra!
At the same time keep it seasonal with root vegetables, cabbage and game meat. Happy cooking!