Healthy comfort food for chilly days

27th May 2021 | Eativity editors

If the colder weather always seems to make you crave more comfort foods, we hear you. But it’s not about being greedy. Recent Australian research has found that eating delicious, cheesy, creamy and carb-heavy foods makes your gut produce the “happy hormones” serotonin and dopamine. These same hormones are produced when you’re exposed to sunlight or when you exercise – both of which tend to decline over winter.

So what to do if it’s cold, grey and rainy and you just can’t face a trip to the gym? Don’t stress. You don’t have to resort to unhealthy foods to get that lovely feel-good buzz. Instead, try the recipes below from Australian Macadamias and dietitian and nutritionist Lyndi Cohen, and you’ll get comfort food contentment and nail those healthy-eating goals at the same time, as they deliver on both flavour and nutrition. It’s a winter win-win.

Good mood food: nuts like macadamias are delicious little bundles of goodness.

But aren’t nuts bad for you?

Macadamias offer a huge range of nutritional benefits that can help you stay healthy without sacrificing flavour. Their high levels of monounsaturated fats help with essential nutrient absorption and healthy weight maintenance. That’s right – nuts don’t make you fat.

“If the ’90s taught us anything, it’s that there’s no need to cut fat from our diets if you’re looking to lose weight,” Cohen says. “Including healthy fats in your diet, like those found in a handful of nuts like macadamias, can help you feel full and avoid feeling deprived.”

A recent Spanish study found that eating nuts as part of a balanced diet resulted in a reduction in people’s waist circumference. One reason for this could be that eating nuts curbs hunger – they’re energy-dense, nutrient-dense and full of protein, healthy fats and dietary fibre, all of which help to fill you up and keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Research has also found that eating nuts like macadamias could help to protect the brain from the effects of ageing and improve memory function. What’s more, the fibre found in macadamias can boost gut health, and the fibre and healthy fats in our native nut can improve blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Quick & crunchy macadamia & vegie fritters

This is the perfect quick and easy go-to weeknight dinner recipe, with the addition of macadamias adding extra nutrients and a more-ish crunch.

Serves 4

You’ll need:

2 cups zucchini, coarsely grated, drained and excess juice squeezed out
2 cups carrot, coarsely grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 spring onions, white part only, finely chopped
1/3 cup macadamias, coarsely chopped
Pinch of salt, to taste
1/4 cup plain flour
2 eggs
1 cup water
2 tbsp oil for frying

Method:

1. Place carrot, zucchini, garlic, spring onions and macadamias in a bowl. Season with salt.
2. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, eggs and water until smooth. Add to the vegetable mixture and stir thoroughly to combine. Allow to stand for 15 minutes.
3. Working in batches, heat enough oil to cover the base of a frying pan and add 2 heaped tablespoons of mixture per fritter. Cook until crisp on one side and the fritter turns easily. Flip and cook the remaining side. Transfer to a plate to keep warm while cooking the rest.
4. Serve immediately with natural yoghurt to dip and sprinkle with extra macadamias and chilli. As a dairy-free option, serve with hummus or other dairy-free dip of your choice.

Macadamia chicken flexitarian burgers

These delicious burger patties are a little bit meat and a little bit nut, making them the ideal choice for flexitarians. The addition of macadamias boosts flavour, texture and nutrients.

Serves 4

You’ll need:

500g chicken mince
1/2 cup macadamias, chopped
1/2 cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Method:

1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and, using your hands, form 4 patties. Heat oil in a large frypan over medium heat and cook patties for 4-5 minutes each side, until cooked through.
2. Serve on a toasted bun with aioli and sauce, tomato, lettuce, rocket, sprouts, gherkin and pickled red onion. For more of a nutrient kick, add a side of sweet potato fries.

Want more healthy winter inspiration? Try this macadamia cauliflower schnitzel, this creamy chicken and mushroom pie, these sweet potato recipes and this dietitian’s guide to winter superfoods. For more on Australian Macadamias, head to australian-macadamias.org