Comfort Food Cravings

Why is it that the colder it gets outside, the more we crave indulgent comfort foods? According to Joyce McGarry, Michigan State University Extension, in the article Making Comfort Foods Healthier This Winter: eating more in the winter months has evolved from our ancestors who originally needed the extra calories to keep their bodies warm. However, with more heating options for our homes and workplaces, we do not need the extra calories in our diets during the winter months.

With our cravings for more comfort food during the winter months, it is important to keep in mind how much and what we are eating. McGarry mentioned that eating an extra 100 calories throughout the day can lead to around 10 lbs. weight gain over the year. However, you can still enjoy your favorite comfort food throughout winter. McGarry has provided some helpful suggestions to help us enjoy our comfort foods by making some adjustments to them.

Try choosing hearty homemade soups over cream-based soups. Try adding additional vegetables to soups and stews. Choosing sweet potatoes as an alternative helps boost the nutrition of the dish. Having higher protein meals with leaner meats can help you feel fuller longer. If you have a chocolate craving, try looking for chocolate that contains 70% cocoa, and you can make your hot chocolate with low-fat milk. If you’re craving macaroni and cheese, try substituting it with whole-grain pasta and skip the boxed version.

In the article “Comfort Food Cravings”, Vicki Hayman, University of Wyoming Extension, had additional suggestions to help curve our comfort food cravings. For example, try having a small handful of nuts or cottage cheese if you’re craving something salty. Let’s say you are craving fried foods; try air frying or baking chicken breaded in whole-grain panko bread crumbs or sweet potato fries. Maybe you’re craving something sweet; try having a glass of chocolate milk or a homemade yogurt parfait with nonfat plain yogurt. Now let’s say you are craving some

baked goods; try going for something sweet with a touch of protein, such as graham crackers with peanut butter or a handful of trail mix with raw nuts.

Another last note from McGarry is that staying active throughout the winter is important as it can help burn calories and help boost your mood. Next time you’re craving comfort food, try switching it up for a slightly healthier option this winter. Feel free to mix up your recipes and swap an ingredient for a healthier option. You never know; you might discover your new favorite comfort food this winter.

For more information about the Nutrition Coalition, check out the Richland County Nutrition Coalitions Facebook page at, and the Pinterest page at


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