Comforting winter meals – with a healthy twist

As temperatures are dropping off, you are probably naturally more inclined to eat warming foods instead of salads. You may crave comfort foods and find it easier and more convenient to order takeaways or buy supermarket ready meals, rather than cooking from scratch, after a busy day. Unfortunately, from a nutrition point of view, neither of these are great choices if you have health goals. These foods are not your friends: they are laden with sugar (to make them more moreish) and/or starchy carbs, causing energy dips during the day, and cravings for more of the same, eventually leading to weight gain. Often, some of the perceived barriers to eating healthily are that it either takes a lot of time and/or that you must compromise on taste. This could not be further from the truth. Why not put my two recipes to the test? They can be prepared in a flash but are healthy, delicious, comforting and great alternatives to takeaways or ready meals.

Mixed bean chilli (serves two)

Mixed bean chilli

1 tsp coconut oil; 1 onion; 1 red pepper, diced; 1 tsp ground cumin; 1 tsp crushed chilli; ½ tsp chilli powder; 150g mushrooms, sliced; ½ can chopped tomatoes; 2 tbsp tomato puree; 1 can mixed beans; 1 veg stock cube.

Heat the oil and fry the onion and garlic for 2 mins. Add the pepper and spices and sweat for 5 mins. Add the mushrooms and cook for 1 min. Tip in the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 510 mins. Serve with sliced avocado, slices of lime, quinoa or *cauliflower rice.

Healthy butter chicken (serves four)

Butter chicken

1 tsp olive oil; 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into cubes; 1 onion, finely chopped; 3 garlic cloves, minced; 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated; 2 tsp garam masala; 1 tsp turmeric; 1 tsp paprika; 1 tsp ground coriander; ¼ tsp cinnamon; 680ml jar tomato passata; 2 tbsp almond butter; pinch salt and pepper; chopped fresh coriander.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and brown the chicken for 3 to 5 mins. Remove and transfer to a plate. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and spices to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until the onion starts to soften, about 3 mins. Return the chicken and juices to the pan. Stir in the passata. Scrape up and stir in any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer until slightly thickened for about 5 mins. Add the almond butter, season with salt and pepper and stir well. Sprinkle with coriander. Serve with *cauliflower rice or some green vegetables.

*Cauliflower rice (1 portion = 100g):

Cauliflower rice

Take a head of cauliflower and remove the outer leaves. Quarter and then blitz in a blender for 1020 seconds – in batches – or you can grate it with a regular cheese grater. Tip into a heatproof bowl, cover with cling film, then pierce and microwave for seven minutess on high (no need to add any water).

Christelle Page is a registered nutritionist, specialising in energy, weight loss and blood sugar management. Visit Keep Calm Nutrition to find out more and to book your complimentary call.

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