Comfort Foods Worth Craving

Aloha friends!

Does a bowl of ice cream make you feel better after a really bad day? Do you turn to carbs for comfort? It’s common to use food as a way to make yourself feel better when you are sad, angry, stressed or tired, especially around this time of year when you might be feeling the winter blues. Lately I have been feeling this way with the cold and gloom, and since I am more sedentary compared to the warmer months. All I want to do is come home after work and eat comfort food while wrapped up in my blanket on the couch binge watching my favourite shows. I feel less motivated to make healthy meals, and I find myself craving my comfort foods, such as extra cheesy mac and cheese or fresh bread slathered in butter! But there are better ways to deal with those emotions (although mac and cheese every once in awhile isn't so bad - everything in moderation). Whether you are dealing with stress eating, mindless snacking, using food as comfort after a long day at work, this year’s Nutrition Month 2017 campaign has a solution to Take the Fight out of Food:

Spot the problem: Take a moment to reflect about your go-to comfort foods when you are feeling sad, angry, stressed or tired. For myself, sitting at a computer screen all day and dealing with commuting decreases my motivation to cook a healthy meal when I get home from work. I either come home and find myself craving foods that are typically lacking in nutrients, or I have a bad habit of snacking while I procrastinate making dinner.

Get the facts: Kathryn discussed in our previous post different types of hunger, including HEART hunger, where eating makes us feel good or fills an emotion. For example, if you are feeling that you are craving certain foods when you are feeling stressed, this is referred to as emotional eating. Emotional eating can lead an individual to: crave foods that are high in calories, fat and sugar (this is me spot on after a long or stressful day at work); eat too much without realizing it (I will literally hoover snack foods as soon as I walk in the door); or, feel even more stress and anxiety after eating too much (I feel guilty once I realize I'm full from the snacks and that my appetite for dinner is gone, particularly if I did actually make a healthy meal).  

Mindful eating is a way to manage emotional eating habits. Mindful eating habits involves paying attention to eating using all senses: really seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling and feeling food. For example, instead of eating a whole bag of chips, perhaps eat a smaller portion and enjoy every bite, or choose a more nutritious snack. Mindful eating can help you become more aware of the reason why you are eating, and teach you to eat when you are STOMACH hungry (i.e., the actual physical hunger that indicates your body needs food for nourishment), and stop when you feel full. Once you become more aware of your emotional and physical responses to food, you can manage your HEART hunger and pay more attention in the present moment when making food choices.

In my case, I am trying to be more mindful of the snacks I eat when I get home from work. I have come to acknowledge that if unhealthy snacks are in my house, I will eat them. It doesn't matter what other kinds of tricks I use to limit how much I reach for those items, I will still go for those items first. Therefore, I have started to limit the amount of unhealthy snacks I bring into the house. If they aren't sitting in any of my cupboards, then I simply cannot eat them and I am more likely to grab healthier options, such as fruit, as a snack while I make dinner. I have also started eating an apple on my drive home from work, which I find helps to satisfy my cravings.

Since I have started the commuting life, I am also being more conscious about making efforts to prep meals ahead of time. Meal prepping saves me the time of stressing about what to make when I get home from work and there isn't time for me to snack since I can just heat up my food and eat. Meal prepping also gives me more time in the evening to do things I enjoy, such as going for a walk, reading a book (I just recently got a library card) or catching up with a friend. After getting back from vacation I noticed there were some veggies I had left in the fridge that were nearing their shelf life, which was perfect to use for one of my favourite comfort foods this time of year - leek and potato soup! I skipped making the creamy version. and instead stuck with using veggies, veggie stock and spices. Check out the recipe below:

Leek and Potato Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 3 leeks, chopped finely
  • 2 large russet potatoes, cubed
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes + 1 L water (or you can use use homemade stock if you have some available)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme (or a fresh sprig)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Chives

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil, garlic and shallot in a stock pot. After a few minutes add in the chopped veggies (carrots, celery, and leeks) and cook until soft.
  2. While the veggies are cooking, peel and chop the potatoes (or if you like you can leave the skin on as I did). In a bowl add two cubes of the veggie stock and add 1 L of boiling water to dissolve. Add the stock and the potatoes to the stock pot, bay leaves and spices (thyme, salt and pepper) and bring the soup to a boil.
  3. Once the soup has boiled lower the heat and simmer for ~20 minutes.
  4. Top with chives and serve. Makes ~4-6 servings.

Want more ideas for meals you can make ahead? Check out our previous posts for comfort food ideas: http://www.domesticphd.com/blog?category=Comfort+Foods

Seek support: Take the fight out of food. If you feel that you are struggling to manage your eating habits in times of anger, sadness, or stress, there are many dietitians who can coach you with regards to mindful eating principles during individual or group counselling sessions. If you feel that you would like some help with the battle, you can locate a dietitian through www.dietitians.ca/find

Happy Nutrition Month!

xo Michelle


Adapted from the Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month campaign materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month at: www.nutritionmonth2017.ca

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