Nourishing Comfort Foods This Holiday Season
The smell of onions, carrots and celery sautéing on the stovetop with butter. The first taste of chocolate chip cookie dough right out of the mixing bowl. The aroma of my mom’s cranberry meatballs wafting from the oven. These are a few of my favorite comfort foods.
These smells and tastes evoke a flood of nostalgic memories about childhood, holidays and happy times of uniting people over a meal.
Food has a powerful way of bringing people together and stirring up emotions that are as special to each of us as the recipes themselves.
Comfort food. What makes those foods so comforting to you?
As the undeniable colder months creep in (sigh), I often find ourselves craving warm, hearty, creamy, cozier meals.
Can you relate?
Healthy and Soothing
You may assume meals like this automatically translate to being less healthy or over-indulgent but that doesn’t need to be the case.
Denying ourselves of these foods because we deem them as “unhealthy” often backfires, and we feel deprived, like we are missing something.
We need these comfort foods to nourish our physical bodies and our “mindbodies” as they fill up our bellies and our hearts.
Look at me getting all sappy here…But it’s true!
As we move from summer into our fall routines and then into the holiday season, it can be easy to let nutrition take a backseat. I am very aware of this as a working mom, dietitian and business owner myself.
I want to share some strategies and ways to incorporate comfort foods into our cooking routines during the busyness of the season, all while putting our overall health on the forefront:
Break Out that Slow Cooker
There’s nothing better than walking through the door at the end of a busy day, smelling your dinner and knowing it’s already done! Instant Pot (the brand name that’s become synonymous with pressure cookers) can also be a game changer if you didn’t get that slow cooker started in time. Here are a few of my favorite slow cooker/instant pot recipes:
Slow Cooker Korean Beef from “Damn Delicious” food blog – Eat this over rice or cauliflower rice and add some steamed or roasted veggies for a balanced meal! So flavorful and comforting, and great for leftovers.
Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup from “Damn Delicious” –
This freezes well if you make a double batch or eat smaller portions. It’s also the most comforting soup if you’re feeling under the weather this time of year.
Slow Cooker Lentil and Quinoa Sloppy Joes from “Simply Quinoa” food blog: – This recipe is a hearty, plant-based option that satisfies everyone, and is a family favorite around my house. Throw everything in the slow cooker, grab some yummy bread buns and tangy coleslaw, and you’re all set. The lentil and quinoa sloppy joes make a great game-day meal, too!
Whip Up Some Freezer Meals
Freezer meals are a cinch to prepare on a busy weeknight between holiday parties and hosting get-togethers.
Family-friendly freezer meals are my jam. These save us during the school year when it’s nonstop activities after school and we want to avoid the “hangry witching hour.”
Freezer meals also contain plenty of nutrition – I promise frozen produce is just as healthy as fresh, but easier and sometimes less expensive during winter months.
Cooking up some freezer meals can save you money, too. When you’re planning ahead and being a smart shopper, you’re less likely to rely on takeout or more expensive convenience meals that may not be as nutritious or comforting either.
Here are a few of my favorite freezer meal recipes:
Chicken Freezer Burritos from “Simply Recipes” food blog – These work great for weeknight dinners or even lunches. Just thaw them out in the fridge the day before and add your favorite salsa and side salad. Super yummy!
Spinach Mushroom Vegetarian Lasagna from “Jar of Lemons” food blog –
This veggie packed meal is so cozy and comforting. If you prefer a meatier option, add some ground Italian sausage or turkey. The quickest way to warm up frozen lasagna is to thaw it a day or two before in the fridge.
Black Bean Sweet Potato Enchiladas from “Cookie and Kate” food blog – Hands down, this my absolute favorite freezer meal; I’ve cooked these countless times. It’s often my go-to when bringing a meal to someone who’s sick, just had a baby or is feeling down. This is another plant-based, healthy freezer meal and a fabulous way to use up leftover (cooked) sweet potatoes during the holidays.
Food shapes who we are and we all have a unique history with food and the level of comfort it can bring.
Beyond memories, comfort foods can be loaded with nutrition and still hit all the sweet spots that warm up your belly and soul!
What recipe and cooking method do you think you’ll try? We’d love to hear what your favorite comfort food is!
Check out all of our October 2022 articles below
After growing up in the Inland Northwest, Monika Jacobson earned her Bachelor’s degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics at Washington State University. She moved to the west side and worked as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in a myriad of settings–from luxury health clubs, to coaching athletes with sports nutrition, to home health clinical nutrition and various start-ups in Seattle-focused scientific wellness and genetics. After moving to Spokane with her family, she created Eat Move Thrive-Spokane because she wanted to transform people’s lives by teaching them how to make healthy food taste good. At Eat Move Thrive-Spokane, Monika teaches adult and kid cooking classes (online and in-person) and coaches clients one-on-one with their wellness goals centered on nutrition. She discusses how stress, sleep, hormones, and overall mental health affect the decisions we make about food.