Healthy Comfort Foods for Snow Season


Winter Warmers

Chilly winter months spent adventuring outdoors call out for hearty, rib-sticking fare like soups, stews, and classic casseroles. But all too often, these traditional dishes are laden with empty calories and light on the nutrients your body craves.

These five dishes offer the best of both worlds: wholesome comfort food that doesn’t skimp on nutrition. As a bonus, each features ingredients that have been shown to help promote good health all season long, assisting your body in fighting off pesky seasonal afflictions from the common cold to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Chicken Soup

Serves 4
Centuries of folklore have held up chicken soup as “good for what ails you.” Now, recent studies suggest it may have anti-inflammatory effects that can help relieve the symptoms of colds and other respiratory ailments. Grandma knew what she was talking about! Use bone broth if you have it on hand, or start with packaged chicken broth. (Pressed for time? Look for ready-to-use mirepoix —mixed chopped onion, celery, and carrot—in the produce section, and sub 2 cups for the diced vegetables.)

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken breast, skin removed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • Optional: 4 ounces whole-grain egg noodles, cooked or 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Add onion, celery, and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Add broth and chicken. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat and cook, uncovered, until chicken is just cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Remove chicken from pot and allow to cool slightly. Shred meat from bones and return to pot along with peas and noodles or rice. Heat through; season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each bowlful with chopped parsley.

Roasted Salmon with Citrus and Herbs

Serves 4
Vitamin D (the “sunshine vitamin”) helps combat low mood and other symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and fatty fish like salmon and citrus fruits are among the best natural sources. Pair this simple dish with steamed brown rice and sautéed or roasted kale for a flavorful, super-nutritious dinner.

  • 2 blood oranges or mandarin oranges
  • 2 pounds skin-on salmon fillet
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 300°. Juice one orange and grate 1 Tbsp of zest from its rind; thinly slice the other orange. Season both sides of salmon with salt and pepper; pour oil into a shallow baking dish and add salmon.
Whisk together orange juice, zest, mint, pepper flakes, and honey; spread mixture over salmon. Top with orange slices and additional whole herb leaves, if desired. Roast until fish is opaque around edges flakes when tested with fork, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Root Vegetable Gratin

Serves 4
Asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses occur more often in the winter. Foods high in Vitamin A and magnesium can help reduce their frequency and severity. Hearty, nutrient-rich root vegetables pair deliciously with indulgent cheese and cream in this satisfying gratin, based on a recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 1 celery root, scrubbed
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Rub a 2-quart baking dish with garlic, then butter. Heat oven to 375° while preparing vegetables.
Peel celery root and place parings in a saucepan with 3 cups water. Quarter celery root and slice thinly. Heat water to boiling; place celery root in a steamer insert and steam over water for 5 minutes or until tender. Remove celery root from steamer and set aside. Steam sweet potatoes for 5 minutes or until tender. Strain steaming liquid and reserve 1-1/2 cups.

Whisk together reserved cooking liquid, cream, and mustard. Layer celery root and sweet potato in baking dish, sprinkling each layer with salt and pepper. Pour liquid over all. Sprinkle cheese over top.

Bake for 30 minutes, until browned and bubbling.

White Beans and Greens with Egg

Serves 2
Crunched for time but still craving something savory and nourishing? This vegetarian main dish for two cooks up in less than 10 minutes, yet packs a nutritional punch with Vitamin D, Vitamin A, and plenty of meat-free protein.

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 can white beans, rinsed and well drained (or 2 cups white beans cooked from dried)
  • 12 ounces spinach, washed and trimmed (or one bag baby spinach)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • Salt and pepper

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant, stirring constantly. Add beans and cook, stirring frequently, until heated through, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat butter in a nonstick skillet. Gently crack eggs into skillet and fry, spooning butter over top, until white is set but yolk is still runny. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

To serve, divide beans and greens between two plates; top each serving with two fried eggs.


About Author

Molly writes about fitness and nutrition from her home in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not at her desk, you can find her teaching history, hiking the Gorge, or hitting the archery range.

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