THINK HEARTYDropping temperatures can contribute to cravings for comfort foods like mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. These winter favorites don't have to be high in empty calories if you prepare them with healthier ingredients.
Whole Grains -- Brown rice, oat bran, steel-cut oats, quinoa and barley are all high-fiber, filling grains. By cooking with whole-wheat pasta and whole grains versus their processed alternatives (white pasta or white rice), you increase the nutritional value. Complement grains by mixing them with bite-sized veggies.
You can also fold a squash or cauliflower puree into your favorite pasta sauce to amp up both the health benefits and the heartiness of the dish. For a delicious take on a comforting favorite, try Macaroni and Cheese with Butternut Squash.
Sweet Potatoes -- Warm mashed potatoes are the ultimate American side dish. Although white potatoes are high in vitamin C and potassium, they raise blood sugar quickly, which can lead to further cravings. For a healthier alternative, switch to sweet potatoes, which contain beta-carotene and have a lower glycemic index.
Leave some of the skin on before mashing to increase the fiber content, and skip the cream and butter to minimize calories and allow the potato's natural sweetness to shine.
PICK THE PERFECT PRODUCEAlthough fresh berries and melons are hard to come by in the winter, there are a host of fruits and veggies available if you know where to look. Staples like apples, bananas, carrots, celery and onions are always in the produce department. And winter is the perfect time to enjoy fresh oranges, winter squash and rutabaga. Additional fruit and vegetable options can be found throughout the grocery store. Look for the following:
Packaged Fruit -- Fruit packed in juice is a delicious and quick snack. Seek out varieties with no added sugar, and stock up on fruit cups to serve as a healthy, portable treat any time of year. Keep a jar of applesauce on hand for a quick dessert option. Simply scoop the applesauce into a ramekin, warm in the microwave and top with a pinch of cinnamon or a sprinkle of granola.
Frozen Vegetables and Fruit -- It is a common misconception that fresh fruits and vegetables are always the healthiest options. Since frozen produce is typically packaged shortly after harvest, its nutrients are more likely to be preserved. Additionally, frozen veggies and fruit are often pre-washed and cut. Eliminating troublesome prep work can make it easier to fill up on the recommended nine servings per day.