It’s bitterly cold outside, baby, and if you’re eschewing the gym in favour of comfort food and more doona time, you’re not alone. Guilty, as charged!
So, is there a way we can somehow enjoy our favourite winter comfort foods without stacking on the kilos? Rejoice, dear readers, for the answer is yes, according to leading Sydney dietitian, nutritionist and author Susie Burrell (pictured) – but there’s a catch. Here, Susie – who recently launched her new program: Shape Me, The 30 Day Plan – advises us to carefully watch our carb intake; eat plenty of nutrient-rich veggies and use low-fat options.
What’s more, Susie has even helpfully provided SHESAID readers with one of her awesome recipes for Low-Fat Burgers (see below) in order to help us do just that – winning!
“Traditionally it is the months that follow the Easter holiday period which see many of us go off track when it comes to our diet and lifestyle resolutions,” Susie says. “Too much chocolate, training sessions skipped in favour of more doona time and plenty of comfort food can mean one thing – winter weight gain.”
Here are Susie’s top diet and nutrition tips for these popular, delicious and comforting winter warmers – without the extra kilos to match:
Love this winter superfood? Studies show that adding a soup to our evening meal can help us consume up to 100 fewer calories in a single meal. The diet trick here is to avoid the creamy soups in favour of clear broth and vegetable-based soups. And, to keep it uber healthy, we also have to substitute the thick, carb-heavy slices of toast and butter for a few tasty croutons or wholegrain crackers for the crunch.
Interestingly, Susie says the beloved burger can actually be a relatively good option when dining out, or when we want to prepare a tasty, treat-style meal at home. The trick is to choose lean beef or chicken breast as our burger base along with plenty of salad. The catch? We have to ditch the yummy, calorie-laden extras such as cheese, mayo, bacon and egg and – gasp – the chips. Another great option is a low-carb burger, whereby we use a mushroom or lettuce leaves as a bun for a tasty, filling meal with significantly less carbs.
The main problem with yummy curries is that the coconut cream, rice, potatoes and fatty meats all combine to give a complete calorie and fat overload, Susie says. Sad face! However, we can lighten our curries by choosing vegetarian options; ditching the rice in favour of extra vegetables; and if making a curry at home, we should all be using a light evaporated milk with a little coconut essence as a lower fat alternative to coconut milk and cream.
Twenty years ago, toast slices were small and carbs were far less of a focus in our diets, Susie says. Nowadays, we regularly smash down massive slabs of sourdough or Turkish slices which also means that our carb and calorie intake have skyrocketed. The key to enjoying our breakfast toast is to choose small slices – a slice of sourdough served at bakeries is often the equivalent of two regular slices of bread! Opt for multigrain or rye bread and look for nutrient-rich toppings such as avocado, cottage cheese, smoked salmon or eggs for a nutritionally balanced meal.
I love me a roast; the trick to enjoying this hearty, winter favourite is the more vegetables we can add in, the better. The extra calories from a roast generally come from fatty serves of meat and the gravy. So, if preparing a roast at home, Susie says to choose the leaner cuts of meat; load up with plenty of the lighter, nutrient-rich vegetables, including pumpkin, carrots and greens; and ask for our gravy to be served on the side so we can control your portions.
If you’re anything like me, you can devour bowls and bowls of this glorious comfort dish. And, add some fresh parmesan to the equation and it’s food porn, baby! But alas, pasta is the undoing of many a lass at winter, not to mention today’s popular low-carb diets. Susie advises us Italiano-lovers to control our portion size by enjoying just an entrée-size bowl of good quality pasta and/or swapping traditional pasta for a spiralizer to make zucchini pasta.. With next to no calories, and chock-full of nutrients and fibre, zucchini pasta can be freely enjoyed with our favourite pasta sauces, without the weight gain.
One of my favourite things to do in winter is to make the family-favourite Carrington Pie, with chicken, mushrooms and red wine – yum! What’s more, pies are popular everywhere we look – you’ll be hard-pressed to find a pub which does not offer a winter pie on its menu. Unfortunately, pies made with plenty of high-fat puff pastry can contain as much as 50g of fat per serve, much of which is saturated. A much better option nutritionally is to swap to a pie made with filo pastry which contains just 5-10g of fat per 5-10 slices, Susie says. Another option is to make our pies with just a single sheet of puff pastry on top.
While nachos, burritos and quesadillas can be packed with fat and calories from rice, flat bread, corn chips and cheese, the humble taco can be a relatively good choice, Susie advises. Hurray! With a single taco shell containing just 6g of carbs and 2g of fat, a couple of tacos filled with lean meat and plenty of salad can be a great choice nutritionally, she says.
Winter is synonymous with calorie-rich puddings, pastries and pies, oh the sweet, delicious agony! The key thing to remember here is that a single cream or pastry-based dessert will usually contain more calories than a meal, so sharing or tasting is always the best option, Susie says. You’ve been warned, sob. Baked fruit; small individual puddings with just a spoon or two per serving; or a hot drink can be just as satisfying low-cal options, she advises.
Low-Carb Burgers from Shape Me, The 30 Day Plan
- 500g pack of lean beef burgers such as peppercorn extra
- Lean beef burgers
- 1 large tomato, sliced
- 1 small avocado, thinly sliced
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise
- 2 tsp sweet chilli or Dijon mustard
- 8 large romaine lettuce leaves
- Grill or pan fry burgers with a little oil. Allow to cook, turning for 15-20 minutes on medium heat until cooked through.
- Mix mayo with sweet chilli or mustard. Set aside.
- Assemble burgers inside each lettuce leaf. Top with salad and avo. Drizzle with sauce then serve.
Susie Burrell’s new e-book Change Your Mindset And Lose Weight Fast: The Motivation You Need To Lose Weight is out now.
Images via srjohannes.com, beanafoodie.com