Nutrition wisdom from our nutrition coach and blogger, Michelle Cartmel

Grey skies and cold temperatures got you down? Feel like grabbing for a bowl of mac and cheese to warm your soul and beat those blues? Makes total sense!

craving comfort foods?

Habitually, many of us gravitate to comfort foods when temperatures outside drop because our own body temperature drops and eating this way feels like a natural way to warm up.

Also, studies show that there is a correlation between hormone levels and emotions, and conditions like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) do impact our food cravings. According to Colleen Pierre, RD, in some people, shrinking sunlight can depress dopamine, a brain activator. Dopamine is the “search” chemical that makes you joyful, hungry for knowledge, and dauntless in seeking out something good to eat.

But before you reach for that bowl of mac and cheese, I️ encourage you to stop and smell the sweet potatoes! That’s right, I want you to begin to shift your thinking around winter eating and elevate your mood with whole, seasonal foods in lieu of some of the less healthy choices that you may have grown up eating.

I’ll give you two good reasons why:

  1. Calorie-dense, carb-heavy comfort foods might satisfy us in the short term, but they often leave us feeling lethargic, unmotivated and surprisingly hungry again within a few hours. Processed foods like white bread/pasta/bagels, baked goods and cereals are digested quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar, which can make us feel like we’re on a roller coaster ride of hunger and emotions.
  2. Eating comfort foods often can quickly add up to more pounds on the scale. Indulging every once in a while is OK, but it’s important to be mindful about your choices. So, decide when you’re going to indulge and enjoy it, but avoid making comfort eating a habit. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing worse than trying on your warm weather clothes come spring time and having to struggle to close a button!

choose seasonal foods instead

We can enhance our moods and maintain our waistline with seasonal foods that are delicious and satiate our quest for warmth and flavor. Marry your favorite seasonal food (Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, spinach) with a whole grain or legume, lean protein and healthy fat, and you will feel energized and in-balance throughout the day.

I’ve included some of my favorite seasonal recipe go-to’s here because they’re rich in nutrients, and you can easily double or triple the recipes and enjoy throughout the week.

Other energizing meal ideas: Oatmeal served with sliced pears or apples, sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds. Roasted Brussels sprouts, tossed with avocado slices, toasted pecans and a light vinaigrette;  Frittata made with broccoli, chicken sausage and feta. Roasted butternut squash tossed into a bed of greens like spinach or arugula and olive oil and lemon juice with toasted slivered almonds.

This winter, convert your comfort food fantasies into more purist desires that come from the earth. Swap out the white pasta for a spiralized zucchini noodle, or make a sweet potato the new hero on your plate. You’ll feel cozy but light and will delight in every bite!

Cheers to your health,


What are your favorite fall recipes? Share with us in the comments or on the Gennev Facebook page, or share your most delicious pictures on Instagram and tag @myGennev.

Want more wisdom from Michelle? You got it: check out nutrition to help you beat the heat from hot flashes or, even better for this time of year, learn how to avoid stress eating during the holidays.



Shannon Perry

December 5, 2017
Director of Programming & Media

Medically Reviewed By

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