It’s cold outside; all you want is to stay indoors on the couch, enjoying vetkoek and mince, or something steamy and cheesy. Do you understand why we crave such foods more in winter? In this post, we take a closer look at “comfort foods” and discuss healthier options or alternatives that will have the same effect without compromising our health.

In an article by Dr Maria Jampolis, published on, she cites research showing that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is linked to increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings, which many people would most probably consume in the form of “comfort foods”. This is likely due to changes in brain chemistry as a result of the change in seasons.

Eating food that is high in carbohydrates causes the brain to release serotonin, which enhances calmness, improves mood, and lessens feelings of depression, thus the term “comfort foods”.

Now that we understand why we crave comfort foods more in winter let us look at the foods you can add to your diet to boost serotonin levels and stay happier without overindulging on comfort foods.

• Eggs
• Fish
• Seafood of all kinds
• Cheese
• Meat of all kinds
• Poultry of all kinds
• Seeds
• Nuts
• Soy
• Oats
• Chickpeas
• Bananas
• Pineapples
• Beets

Try these simple recipes to boost that “comfort food” effect

  1. Healthy homemade granola bars to substitute cookies. Enjoy with some hot cocoa, coffee or tea.
  2. Buckwheat pancakes to substitute traditional pancakes. Serve with blueberries or bananas and a drizzle of honey.
  3. Banana-almond-flax smoothie
  4. Poached eggs and asparagus
  5. Seared lamb chops with anchovies

You might also want to try these guilt-free hot chocolate alternatives.