Reinvent your recipes with mood-boosting foods that fight the winter blues

BY SANDRA GUY

Why not make a holiday resolution to stay upbeat — even in the most frustrating, patience-taxing pandemic lockdown time imaginable — with a healthy foods regimen?

Let go of the traditional gluttony and focus on self-care: Abusing your body isn’t the answer.

Instead, focus on seasonal foods that can boost your mood as you look in the mirror, proudly, with a smile on your face. You are healthy, grateful and rich in spirit and conscientiousness.

Just being mindful is the first step. That could be as simple as stuffing acorn squash — rather than yourself — with spices, cranberries and whole grains.

“There are a lot more kinds of whole grains than most people realize,” said Dr. Stephen Devries, executive director of the Gaples Institute, a non-profit that educates the public, healthcare professionals and medical residents about nutrition’s importance.

“Barley, farro and bulgur can be terrific side dishes with added spices and herbs,” he said. “You can buy them pre-cooked, and many require only 10 minutes of prep time.”

Avoid salt-laden dips, gravy and dressings. Bring or choose hummus instead, especially as a go-to with apple or pumpkin slices.

You can even make traditional favorites with no refined sugars, flours or rice such as chemical-free and additive-free cornbread, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin soup or pumpkin hummus. Put apple slices in your spinach or fresh-lettuce salad.

Mark off your shopping list ham and other processed meats. They’re packed with sodium. Pot roast and fresh turkey free of salt and brine injections are better alternatives.

Even Tofurkey (faux turkey made of vegetarian protein, often from tofu or wheat protein) can be chockful of sodium if it’s manufactured.

Avoid canned vegetables because they’re loaded with sodium and preservatives.

Think of healthy sources of the ‘good’ sugars that our bodies use for energy: fruits, milk and unprocessed yogurt.

Another solution is to swap out meat for healthier entrees, like those centered on fish or beans and whole grains. Entrees such as seared tuna or blackened salmon pummel ham and red meat in “good-for-you” comparisons.

Refocus on these alternatives, too:

• Replace white potatoes with sweet potatoes, whole grains or cauliflower mash.

* Get rid of salt-filled side dishes, and choose instead fresh edamame, tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans and brussels sprouts.

• Start experimenting with salads and appetizers. What about pear slices with peanut butter? Cucumber and tomato slices with avocado or crab meat? Apple slices with small servings of cheese and blackened salmon? Red quinoa with apples? Quinoa, oats and roasted apples with cinnamon? Pickled collard greens with tomato salad? Steel-cut oats with berries and a sprinkling of chocolate-flavored collagen powder?

Let the mirror keep you motivated. Buy an outfit (it doesn’t have to be expensive; online retailers are already offering holiday deals) that accentuates your tight waist and muscular arms — the results of your disciplined COVID-lockdown exercise regime. Try it on in front of a mirror and keep your goal reflection in mind when you make and eat meals.

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