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Plan ahead for winter eating, exercise regimen

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 1:15 a.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 3:24 p.m. CST

I apologize for talking about winter already, but now is the time to start planning your winter eating and exercise regimen. The more thought you put into your eating plan in advance, the more likely you will adhere to it throughout the winter season.

One of the great things about living in the Midwest is the changing seasons. Different seasons bring different food dishes. For example, a cool refreshing salad is perfect in the warmth of summer, while a bowl of hot, flavorful soup is soothing and satisfying in the cold, blustery winter. Get out your recipe books and plan ways to keep your health and weight in check during the winter.

Make use of garden goodness

Freezing and canning fresh vegetables is a great way to preserve the nutrients for winter meals when great-tasting fresh vegetables are difficult to find. Nothing beats the taste of a summer tomato year round. If you do not have your own garden produce, stop by your local farmers market and stock up on vegetables for future meals.

Super soups and stews

The fall/winter season is a great time to experiment with soups. Make and freeze healthy soups for a warm and healthy meal on those cold, “I don’t feel like cooking” nights. Most soups freeze well except for those that contain potatoes and some types of noodles. Linguine noodles seem to hold up well to freezing.

Freeze soup following these simple steps:

Cool: Place the pot of hot soup in a bath of ice water in the sink. Stir soup often to help release the heat.

Package: Label and date gallon- or quart-size zip-top plastic freezer bags, place in a bowl, and cuff the bag over the edge. Ladle soup into each bag, then let out any excess air and seal.

Freeze: Lay bags flat in a single layer in the freezer; when frozen, stack bags to save space.

Reheat: Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat soups on medium to low heat, stirring occasionally until warm.

Winter breakfast options

Plan ahead to enjoy slow cooker oatmeal, frozen whole-grain pancakes or waffles, egg casserole, or healthy breakfast bars warmed and paired with sliced peaches. Cold cereal such as Grape-Nuts can be heated with milk.

Warm beverages

Stock up on a variety of flavored teas and low-calorie coffees for those winter days you may be fighting boredom and be tempted to eat. Sugar-free varieties of hot chocolate and apple cider are also available.

Along with winter eating, plan your winter exercise. Movement not only burns calories, but keeps you warm. Keep your activity high during the winter months by setting up a small space inside your house or garage for exercise, joining a gym, or bundling up for a walk when it’s not too cold or slippery outside.

Healthy bean soup with kale

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 to 6 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cups raw kale, chopped

4 cups chicken broth

2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, undrained, split

3 large sliced carrots

1( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning

Pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat olive oil. Add garlic and onion; saute until soft and the onion is transparent. Wash the kale, leaving small droplets of water. Saute, stirring until wilted and emerald green in color, about 15 minutes. Add 3 cups of the broth while reserving 1 cup, 2 cups of the beans reserving 1 cup, all of the carrots, tomatoes, herbs and pepper. Simmer 15 more minutes. Serve or freeze for future use. You may substitute vegetarian broth for the chicken broth and you may add chicken or turkey if desired. Makes 10 servings.

Per serving: 347 calories, 2.8 g fat, 1 mg cholesterol, 273 mg sodium, 60.9 g carbohydrate, 23.4 g fiber, 5.8 g sugar, 23.2 g protein, 157 percent vitamin A, 81 percent vitamin C, 18 percent calcium, 43 percent iron.

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