Winter is traditionally the time to indulge in comfort food and drinks. According to studies and experts, cold weather triggers an evolutionary instinct in humans to eat more to prepare for the period when there is less food available. The cold weather triggers changes in the production of hormones controlling cravings, appetite, and hunger.
Shorter days in winter also mean less sunlight. This results in less production of serotonin in the body. Since this is the hormone that boosts mood, lack of serotonin leads people to consume more carbohydrates to compensate. This is because carbohydrates release insulin which also boosts mood but only temporarily and ends in a crash.
Emotional health problems also trigger the need for comfort food and drinks. Studies show that the Covid-19 pandemic is causing widespread high levels of stress, frustration, depression, anxiety, and fear.
Unfortunately, most comfort food and drinks are high in calories, sugar, and saturated fat. A study shows that in autumn, people consume 86 calories more on average compared to spring. In winter, people consume more saturated fat.
Drink to Your Health
One of the most popular comfort drinks throughout the year is coffee. As the weather gets colder, people tend to drink more of it to keep warm. According to research, half of the adult U.S. population, or 150 million people, drink coffee daily at an average of three cups a day. Among coffee drinkers, 65 percent add sugar alone or sugar and cream, and 30 million prefer espresso, cappuccino, latte, iced coffee, and other specialty coffee drinks.
Studies show that drinking up to three cups of coffee a day is healthy and can even lower the risk of developing heart failure, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and some types of cancer. It can also boost alertness, concentration, and energy. This pertains to black coffee, though.
Adding sugar and full-fat cream or milk makes the drink unhealthy. You can instead replace sugar with natural Stevia and use non-fat or plant-based milk. There are various types of nut milk made from almonds, hazelnut, macadamia, walnut, and cashew. For people who are allergic to nuts, there is soya milk or rice milk. You can also use this sweetener and these milk options for hot cocoa and milk tea.
Just as people drink hot coffee even in summer, some enjoy iced drinks even in winter. Coffee shops attest to this. According to World Coffee Portal research published in June 2021, 41 percent of American consumers bought iced coffee outside their homes, even during the winter.
If you are like these people, you may also prefer cold cocoa and cold milk tea. Make sure that your ice machine is working and that you have access to Scotsman machine parts and a professional repairman if it breaks down. This way, you can make your own iced drinks at home and ensure that they are made with healthier ingredients.
Turning Comfort Food Healthy
Soup is comfort food for everyone. To make it healthy, make sure that you make the broth base out of lean meat. Remove the skin from chicken and trim away the fat from beef meat and bones before boiling. Allow the broth to cool, strain it, and put it into the refrigerator until the remaining fat solidifies on the surface. You can then spoon this off easily. Return the chicken meat or beef when you reheat the broth and add chunky vegetables for a hearty soup.
To make cream of vegetable soup, use the same broth base. Quickly sauté garlic and onions in a little olive oil. Add carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, and any other vegetable you like. You can choose a combination of vegetables or have one type. Season with salt and pepper to taste. After the vegetables are cooked through, transfer them in batches with some broth into a blender and blend until smooth. Not adding flour, milk, or cream makes the soup healthier.
Hearty stews are also cold-weather favorites. To make these healthy, use skinned chicken and lean meat and only put in half of the amount you usually do. Use any beans or even mixed beans as protein fillers. Add a lot of chunky vegetables.
If pasta is your comfort food, use whole grain pasta and a sauce made from fresh tomatoes. Pick from parmesan, cottage cheese, goat cheese, feta, or ricotta since these are the leanest cheeses. If you crave jambalaya or risotto, use brown rice. It is not just healthier than white rice but also has a nutty taste that enhances any dish.
With only a few twists, you can still enjoy comfort food and drinks in chilly weather. Indulge in these healthy palate pleasures.