Comfort foods

Winter is a time when many of us experience weight gain due to the temptation of unhealthy comfort foods, but this doesn’t have to be the case.

In the colder months we are more tempted to reach for a warm hot chocolate and unwholesome comfort foods rather than a cold glass of water and a crisp apple. While it might seem appealing to opt for an unhealthy food option, this is likely to result in weight gain and feelings of sluggishness which could in turn affect your physical fitness and overall energy levels. Winter is also a time when we are more susceptible to colds and flus, and unhealthy foods which do not contain vital vitamins and nutrients will weaken the immune system. However, the winter chill doesn’t have to mean unhealthy food options – you can indulge in some delicious winter meals, which will keep you feeling full and satisfied, without compromising your wellbeing.

These helpful winter food tips are worth considering:

  • Cook up a hearty winter soup – Soup is not only a great way to warm you up, but is a meal that is jam-packed with vitamins and minerals. Avoid processed pre-made soups which are often full of sodium and instead make a batch of soup at home with fresh ingredients.
  • Kick start your day – Start the day with some warm rolled-oat porridge. Porridge is high in soluble fibre and when topped off with some fresh or stewed fruit is full of nutritious vitamins.
  • Switch it up – Warm drinks like hot chocolate are especially tempting in the colder months, but are often high in sugar. Why not switch the hot chocolate for a green tea which is high in antioxidants and has been linked to many other health benefits.
  • Remember your H2O – Dehydration will often make you tired and more prone to snacking. In the colder months we often drink less water, even though our bodies still need at least 6–8 glasses daily. So keep a bottle of water with you and drink regularly.
  • Ask for ideas – YMCA fitness professionals are knowledgeable in healthy food options. Ask them for some healthy ideas to get you started.

You will find yourself with more energy if you switch the sugar and comfort foods for healthy alternatives, which will in turn leave you with more energy and motivation to stick to your physical exercise routines. Healthy winter food options will also help to strengthen your immune system and will help keep winter colds at bay, and by sticking to healthy food options you can avoid winter weight gain and general feelings of sluggishness.

Staying healthy in the winter months doesn’t have to mean abstaining from delicious foods. It is easier to eat healthily in winter than you might imagine – it just takes some alternative food ideas and some creativity!

So avoid the winter food traps and stay on top of your health by choosing nutritious (and delicious) food options.

Lentil soup with chickpeas and quinoa



  • 1/2 a red onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tblspn of sunflower oil
  • ½ tspn grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, coriander, chilli and turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • 2–3 cups of chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 cup of cooked quinoa
  • thick yogurt and chopped coriander to garnish
  • squeeze of lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a thick saucepan and fry the onions on a medium heat until transparent.

Add the ground spices and stir until it becomes aromatic.

Add the garlic and ginger and stir again for a few minutes.

Toss the lentils through the spice mixture for one minute.

Add the chicken or vegie stock and bring to a rapid boil.

Simmer for about 10–15 minutes and season to taste.

Remove from the heat and blend with a hand-held blender.

Add the drained and rinsed chickpeas and let the soup simmer for another 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir through the cooked quinoa.

Add a squeeze a little lime juice and garnish with a dollop of thick yogurt and chopped coriander.