Winter comfort food tips

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

By: Femi Cole

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Winter is here. Given that fact, it’s easy to give in to the temptation to throw healthfulness to the wind, hunker down with a favorite blanket and a bag of chips, and vegetate in front of the TV until the spring thaw.


Even if you just can’t resist snuggling on the couch for a weekend marathon of watching your favorite Netflix series, you can add a bit of healthy eating to the mix. Plus, there are a few other easy-to-incorporate actions that will at least keep you from getting too far behind the eight ball in your overall health and fitness once spring and warmer weather rolls around.


“The key for enjoying hearty winter comfort foods like casseroles, mashed potatoes and meatloaf is to enjoy them in moderation,” says Dr. Daniel T. McKenna, a general and bariatric surgeon with BayCare Clinic. “In addition, simple tips like adding more veggies to your meals, drinking more water and cutting back on red meat and sweets will help get you through the winter and better prepared to get into optimal shape when spring rolls around.”


Dr. McKenna’s winter comfort food tips

Make efforts to eat healthier, don’t give up snacks entirely, just eat more sensibly. Here’s how:


  • Eat more fruits and veggies: A well-rounded, healthy diet means regularly adding fruits and vegetables to your diet. They offer us vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, nutrients and water – all essential to a more healthful being.
  • Drink more water: You’ll improve your body’s circulation of essential nutrients within the body. Water serves as the body’s transportation system and if it’s lacking, things just won’t circulate as well.
  • Cut back on red meat and sugar: Eliminating meat just by one day a week can help decrease the likelihood of dying from heart disease and cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “approximately 13% of adults' total caloric intakes came from added sugars between 2005 and 2010. These results are still relatively high, given that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 recommendation is that no more than 5% to 15% of calories should come from solid fats and added sugars.” Turn this around for a healthier you.
  • All things in moderation: Use common sense and enjoy all foods keeping in mind the need for moderation. As always, consult with your physician if you have questions or concerns about your eating habits.

In the meantime, put down the remote, toss the bag of chips, and try out this winter comfort food recipe from Food & Wine:


Roasted Butternut Squash with Cilantro Cream



  • 1/2 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • 8 pounds butternut squash – peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large red onions, finely diced
  • 4 large scallions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup drained canned whole tomatoes, finely diced, 1/4 cup juices reserved
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice



  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Spread the pumpkin seeds in a pie plate and toast in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Leave the oven on.
  2. Spread the squash on 3 large rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the squash on each sheet, season with salt and pepper, toss to coat and bake the squash for 40 minutes, or until just tender and lightly browned; rotate the baking sheets for even browning.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the garlic and onions and cook over moderately high heat until sizzling, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, reduce the heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft, about 15 minutes. Add the scallions and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 12 minutes. Add the cumin, paprika and cinnamon and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices and simmer for 1 minute. Season with salt. Spoon the sauce over the squash and toss gently.
  4. In a small bowl, blend the sour cream with the milk, cilantro and lime juice and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the cilantro cream over the roasted squash, sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds and serve.

Make ahead


The squash and cilantro cream can be refrigerated separately overnight. The toasted pumpkin seeds can be stored in an airtight container. Bring the squash to room temperature and transfer to 2 oiled baking dishes. Reheat in a 350° oven.

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BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.