Eat hot to stay hot!

Have your cravings for juicy fruit, crisp salad and frozen yoghurt turned to yearnings for warm, comforting dishes? Is that plate of pineapple just not as tempting when it’s pouring outside? As the weather gets colder and the nights get longer, many of us get a hankering for heavier, hot foods – thick, creamy soup, stodgy stew, all finished off with apple pie or rice pudding.

Now, you might be thinking that you actually need more calories at this time of the year to stay warm. That’s just not true. With our centrally heated homes and offices, we really don’t use the same amount of energy in just keeping warm as our ancestors did long ago . But with our cravings for comfort food, many of us gain at least 5 pounds over the autumn and winter months, making our weight loss journey that little bit longer.

Fortunately, you can still have your winter warmers and avoid that extra layer of insulation! There is a more sensible, diet-friendlier fix for whatever you happen to be craving this autumn:

Steamy Soups It’s soup season again. But if that means ladling out cream of tomato, cream of mushroom or cream of chicken, it’s time to expand your soup repertoire. Choose stock-based soups and broths and you’ll avoid fat from added cream or whole milk. When it comes to canned versions, look for brands with the word “healthy” on the label to ensure that you’re getting little fat and less sodium, and avoid those with ‘cream of…’ or ‘creamy’ in the name. Also try to steer clear of soups with fatty meats such as sausage and bacon. Some smart choices include classic tomato (look for Tomato & Basil instead of Cream of…), split pea, lentil, vegetable, chicken or turkey broth and minestrone.

Traditional Stews One pot wonders are perfect this time of year for a warming and satisfying meal. But they can also hide colossal calories! When making stews and casseroles, choose only lean meat or poultry and avoid adding extra fat in the form of oil, butter or fatty meat like bacon or sausage. Use minced turkey instead of minced beef (or use half and half) and fill stews with satisfying root veggies.

Creamy Casseroles Comfort food at its heaviest, many casseroles are made with cream, whole milk, eggs, butter or cheese - none of which really help our weight lossalong! But some substitutions make it possible to continue enjoying them throughout the autumn months: replace cream or whole milk with skimmed milk, use two egg whites for every whole egg and try reduced fat cheese or even low fat condensed soups for extra flavour in place of full-fat ingredients.

Fall Flavours When they’re eaten as nature intended, autumn fruits are generally low in fat and calories and rich in valuable nutrients. But that’s not the case when they’re used to flavour muffins, pie or cake! As comforting as they may sound, beware of these fruit-themed goodies, such as apple pie, plum crumble or fruit sponge. These can be loaded with fat and calories. Lower fat and lower calorie versions of these goodies are available and may be fine as part of your healthy diet, but do pay attention to portion sizes. For a simple, light autumn dessert, bake apples with dried fruit, cinnamon and honey.

Heavy Hot Drinks On a cold, rainy evening, there’s nothing like a big mug of hot chocolate to warm you up. But if you remember that said big mug of chocolate could have around 300 calories - and that’s not counting the cream on top – you may just want to think twice about that! Choose low fat or light hot chocolate for 40 calories a pop, tea or coffee with skimmed milk or even try adding warm water instead of cold to sugar-free cordials.

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