Baby it’s cold outside. And I just can’t seem to get warm. I’ve been stuck in my house for four days due to the recent ice storm that rolled through Dallas last Thursday night. At first, I was excited to have a few days to snuggle up with the kids and to have an excuse to take some time off and do pretty much nothing. But I found that in addition to doing pretty much nothing, I did a whole lot of eating. All I’ve wanted to do is curl up under a mountain of blankets with something warm to eat. When it’s cold and dreary outside, I could literally eat (or drink) soup for every meal.
Years ago, I asked a holistic nutritionist to give me a set of recommendations specific for me, and he listed having warm foods and drinks to balance my cold and high strung nature near the top of his list. Heat is a natural relaxer for muscles and the mind, which is why a hot bath and warm mug of something without caffeine does a great job calming you down and preparing your body for sleep. In fact, heat is the best natural muscle relaxer and one I use regularly for tight muscles in my back and shoulders.
Speaking of sleep, our bodies want more of it during winter months. More sleep and more calories. (Yep, that just about wraps up my cravings at the moment.) The cool thing about the human body is that it’s a lot smarter than we give it credit for – it innately knows exactly what it needs. When we have cravings, it’s important to listen and meet those needs with the healthiest choices possible.
Reasons we crave warm foods during winter:
- Warm foods heat up our body temperature from the inside out. When it’s freezing outside, our bodies need all the help they can get to maintain the optimal temperature.
- Warming our bodies takes a lot of energy! So we need some extra calories and nutrition in the form of hearty and nutritious root veggies, greens, meats, healthy fats, and probiotic foods during the winter.
- Our bodies specifically crave carbs not only to meet the extra calorie requirement but to also give us a boost of natural endorphins and the happy neurotransmitter serotonin to battle the winter blues.
- Warm foods are grounding for our bodies. They give us the support we need during the ups and downs of winter weather.
- Our immune systems need that extra boost from warm bone broths and cooked foods packed with vitamin C and zinc like garlic, onions, and leafy greens such as Brussels sprouts and cabbage.
Healthy winter foods to serve warm and satisfy your cravings:
- Starchy (carb) vegetables: pumpkin, acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, and beets
- Non-starchy vegetables: garlic, onion, celery, cauliflower, artichokes, and leeks
- Greens: Brussels sprouts, beet greens, broccoli, cabbage, kale, Belgian endive, fennel, radicchio, escarole, and frisee
- Healthy fats: olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, coconut milk and cream, coconut, nuts, seeds, avocados, eggs, and meats
- Protein: eggs, meats, nuts, and seeds
- Homemade bone broth
- Herbs and spices
- Creamy probiotic foods like kefir and yogurt or cultured vegetables like sauerkraut
A few tips for preparing healthy warm foods this winter:
- Spice it up! The temperature of food is not the only thing that warms your body. Warming spices like cayenne, chili pepper, chipotle chili, cumin, curry blend, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, mustard, and anise also heat your body form the inside out.
- Make your own bone broths for soups and stews to give your body an extra immune system boost and to benefit for your gut health. Place bones in a large stock pot and cover with water. Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and simmer over low heat for at least a day.
- Add a small amount of healthy fat in the form of olive, coconut, or sesame oil to your soups and stews, roasted and stir-fried veggies, sauces, and dressings. Or add an avocado or coconut milk or cream for a creamy texture. Fat is a slow-burning fuel for steady energy.
- Incorporate probiotics into your cooking in the form of kefir, yogurt, and cultured vegetables like sauerkraut to further promote a healthy intestine and immune system. A healthy gut is the first step to a healthy immune system and body. If you avoid dairy, try dairy free alternatives to kefir and yogurt made with coconut milk. I like to substitute kefir for cream or buttermilk and yogurt for sour cream in dips, spreads, sauces, and dressings. Just note that heating probiotic foods kills the good bacteria you’re seeking for your digestive health.
- Throw in something green with every meal for the added vitamin C and zinc, which are both immune system boosters.
- Drink warm beverages like warm lemon water or teas. Many decaffeinated tea varieties contain warming spices like cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. I have a tea kettle constantly warming on my stove. I also like the Cuisinart tea kettle for a convenient cup of tea.
- Essential oils are a wonderful and healthy winter warming tool also. Diffusing winter oils and adding them to baths and body creams can help with body chills, chapped lips, indoor germs, joint stiffness, and depressed moods. Try these winter essential oils: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, black pepper, citrus oils like tangerine, orange, lemon, and grapefruit, pine, cedarwood, spruce, rosemary, peppermint, spearmint, myrrh, sandalwood, rosewood, and frankincense.
Last Thursday evening, on the night of the winter storm that covered Dallas with ice, my family enjoyed this creamy sun-dried tomato basil soup. It hit the spot. We all licked our bowls. I served the soup with a few rolled up slices of roast beef prepared fresh at Whole Foods.
To start, I soaked a 2-ounce package of sun-dried tomatoes in a half cup of water (or enough to cover the tomatoes) for at least 30 minutes. Sun-dried tomatoes provide tons of vitamins A, C, and K plus a healthy dose of potassium and iron.
Next, I chopped a small purple onion and three cloves of garlic. I added two tablespoons of olive oil to a medium saucepan, and cooked the diced onion and garlic in the oil for about five minutes or until translucent.
I added 2 ½ cups of chicken broth, the soaked sun-dried tomatoes with soaking water, sliced teardrop tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper to the saucepan. After bringing all the ingredients to a boil, I reduced the heat to medium-low, covered the saucepan, and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes.
I poured one 5.4-ounce can of Native Forest coconut cream into the large Vitamix container. Then I added the contents of the saucepan into the Vitamix as well. I covered the Vitamix with the lid and then a towel to prevent injury before turning it on low and working up to high speed. I blended the soup in the Vitamix on high for about a minute. I served this creamy sun-dried tomato basil soup garnished with pine nuts.
- 2-ounce package of sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in ½ cup water
- 1 purple onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2½ cups chicken broth
- large handful of teardrop tomatoes, sliced
- 2 tablespoons basil or handful of fresh chopped basil leaves
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 5.4 ounce can coconut cream
- optional: garnish with pine nuts
- Soak sun-dried tomatoes in ½ cup water for at least 30 minutes.
- Chop the purple onion and cloves of garlic.
- In a medium saucepan, saute chopped onion and garlic in olive oil for five minutes.
- Add chicken broth, sun-dried tomatoes with the soaking water, teardrop tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper to the saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
- Pour coconut cream into the large Vitamix container.
- Add contents of the saucepan, cover, and blend until smooth for at least a minute.
- Serve warm with optional pine nuts as a garnish.