Winter Comfort Foods – Great Recipes to Curb Your Carb CravingsJulie Daniluk, R.H.N. December 20, 2022
Winter in Canada can often leave us wondering who shut off our energy supply and replaced it with the urge to load up on carbs. Up to 35% of Canadians report suffering from dwindling energy levels during the long dark months of snow and ice. Low energy in winter is often caused by a lack of sunlight. When your optic nerve senses sunlight your body secretes serotonin – a mood-boosting neurotransmitter. In low light, the production of melatonin (a hormone that lowers body temperature and prompts drowsiness), increases. Simply put, as the sunlight in your environment dwindles, your energy and zest for life can dwindle along with it. [1,2]
One strategy for boosting energy in winter is to eat more strategically. Food is our lover, our friend, our sustainer – but when cravings are out of control, food can feel like the enemy! What follows are my favourite techniques and foods that can empower you to take control of your cravings and begin to trust your own intuition.
When your stomach is empty it produces a hormone called ghrelin that causes hunger. Think of ghrelin like the gremlin that is sabotaging your weight loss efforts. If you let yourself go hungry, your cravings will be too intense to resist. The trick is to maintain a sense of fullness. The way to get rid of the “ghrelin gremlin” is to eat specific foods that suppress your appetite. No gimmicks, no crash diets, just consistent tools to help you stay full and satisfied.
Cholecystokinin (CCK) is a hormone secreted by cells in the small intestine. It stimulates the release of digestive enzymes from the pancreas and helps keep the food in your digestive tract moving along. In animal studies, a rise in CCK is always followed by a reduction in food intake. This effect is usually short-term, with peak effect about 30 minutes after a meal. Sustained high levels of CCK may suppress appetite for extended periods of time.
CCK production can be enhanced by thorough chewing of food and balancing stomach pH. Consumption of sour foods and drinks such as lemon juice and vinegar stimulates proper digestion. The presence of essential fatty acids and amino acids from easily digestible protein such as hemp seeds is an anti-inflammatory stimulator of CCK. Capsaicin from hot peppers appears to stimulate CCK – but if you suffer from arthritis, you may want to test yourself for nightshade sensitivity (avoid nightshades if you have arthritis). Pine nuts may also have powerful CCK-releasing effects. 
Overall, my experience has shown that our bodies work better when we choose a nutrient-dense diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains. What follows is a list of my favourite foods for curbing cravings with high octane fuel.
Beans and Legumes
Phaseolus vulgaris is a Latin term that covers all legumes normally known as common beans. This includes black beans, kidney beans, butter beans, mung beans, string beans, and French beans to name a few! These nutritious seeds originated in Central America and were introduced into Europe over 400 years ago, where they have been traditionally used for their ‘antidiabetic’ properties. [4,5] Legumes are among the richest food sources of proteins, complex carbohydrates, and dietary fibre. Studies have shown that adding these foods to your diet can help you feel fuller longer due to their ability to slow down digestion and increase levels of CCK and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) – hormones that signal you’re full!
Beans are a nutritious source of dietary fibre, folic acid, and molybendum, as well as iron and magnesium. People who incorporate beans into their diet have been found to have lower blood pressure and healthier waistlines. [6,7]
One study conducted by dietitian Tonya Turner in 2013 showed that a diet high in fiber and beans provided satiation and decreased hunger. Diets high in fiber can reduce cravings, and lead to potential weight loss. Another study using Borlotto beans found that consumption of this variety of bean helped control ghrelin – in turn, increasing satietyand fullness. 
Green tea contains an amazing phytonutrient called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) that increases the hormone CCK (cholecystokinin), which is responsible for creating the feeling of satiation. Feeling full between meals is the greatest weapon against the battle of the bulge.
EGCG also stimulates the metabolism by activating thermogenesis, which means your cells are burning energy – including fat! [11,12]
Cautionary Note: Whole leaf green tea contains fluoride which may disrupt thyroid function, so consider taking EGCG extract if you suffer from hypothyroidism.
Red Wine Vinegar and Apple Cider Vinegar
Many have heard about the health benefits of red wine. When you ferment red wine long enough, it becomes vinegar. And while you wouldn’t want to drink a glass of red wine vinegar, it’s still a healthy, appetite-suppressing addition to your meal. Acetic acid, the active ingredient in vinegar, helps keep food in the stomach for a longer period of time, delaying the release of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Vinegar also improves digestion, helping you to feel full faster, and for a longer period of time.
Acetic acid also helps prevent spikes in blood sugar following a meal and will lower the glycemic index of many foods. [13,14] Red wine vinegar contains nutrients such as the antioxidant resveratrol, which has been shown to protect the heart. 
In addition, coconut vinegar and unpasteurized organic apple cider vinegar both have similar properties to red wine vinegar, so use the one that you like the most.
As a beverage, try one tablespoon of red wine vinegar mixed with sparkling water to make a great cocktail. Drink this with meals to support digestion and regulate your blood sugar. As well, a study by White and Johnston in 2007 showed that taking vinegar at bedtime helps regulate blood sugar levels the next morning. 
Many diet books caution that fats are to be avoided because they are high in calories. Yet not all fat is created equal. The omega-6 fatty acid found in pine nuts, called pinolenic acid, has been shown to stimulate the release of satiety hormones. A study in 2008 by Dr. Hughes and her team showed how this type of fat can actually promote weight loss and reduce food intake. Pinolenic acid appears to be particularly effective at stimulating the release of CCK (cholecystokinin), the hormone that works as a hunger suppressant. A study by Dr. Pasman and team showed that pine nuts effectively improved satiety and increased CCK in overweight, post-menopausal women. [17,18]
Pine nuts make a great snack on the go. Here’s a delicious pesto recipe, great for add to cooked vegetables, salads, or whole grain noodles.
Crush Your Cravings Pesto
Here’s a pesto that will please your taste buds while it crushes your cravings! When served with whole grain crackers, this pesto contains all 5 of the suggested appetite suppressants.
- 2 cups fresh basil (or 2/3 cup dried)
- 1 cup kale
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp red wine (or apple cider) vinegar
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 tsp pink rock or grey sea salt
Pesto Sweet Potato Casserole
Just in time for holiday celebrations, here is a vegetarian casserole that is sure to please all of your guests! The combo of sweet potato, lentil, and pesto is so yummy it might become your new family holiday tradition.
- 2 lbs organic sweet potatoes or yams, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 cup dairy- and nut-free pesto (use previous recipe or try Sunflower brand pesto)
- 1/4 tsp grey sea salt, pink rock salt, or potassium salt substitute
- One 15 oz can lentils
Almonds have been traditionally celebrated throughout history as a representation of happiness, romance, good health and fortune; some of you may have received a small bag of sugared almonds as a gift at a wedding. They are packed full of nutrition, with a high content of unsaturated fat and protein, as well as potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and vitamin E. Many studies have shown the benefits of including these nuts in the daily diet due to their anti-cancer properties, and for prevention of heart disease. The longer you chew almonds, the more the appetite-satiating hormone GLP-1 is released, allowing you to curb cravings and feel fuller for longer. [19,20]
Black Kale, Almonds, and Pomegranate Seeds with Garlic Tahini Dressing
by Alex Shires (Serves 4)
- Salad Ingredients:
- 1 bunch black kale, chopped
- 1 large lemon, juiced
- 2 Tbsp flax or olive oil
- 1/2 tsp pink rock or grey sea salt
- 1/4 cup almonds, raw, unsalted
- 2 Tbsp pomegranate seeds
- Dressing Ingredients:
- ½ cup tahini
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 Tbsp coconut aminos (or tamari)
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 cup water
This age old fruit that symbolizes health can crush your cravings because apples contain high amounts of soluble fiber in the form of pectin. This form of fiber, which is found in fruit, has been shown to increase the amounts of adiponectin in the blood. Adiponectin is a protein that improves insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, making it helpful in avoiding spikes in blood sugar.[21,22,23]
Balanced blood sugar curbs the desire to binge-snack on unhealthy foods. On a related note, the pectin in apples has been found to suppress fat absorption which, as noted above, leaves you feeling fuller for longer. My favorite variety is Ambrosia because they taste amazing, they’re Canadian, and they’re naturally non-browning.
Green Bean, Apple, and Ginger Salad
When I made this recipe for my in-laws, my mother-in-law said, “Eating with you is like dining in a restaurant.”
The sweet apple, spicy ginger, and fragrant thyme all combine to make a quick and easy delicious dish that will crush your cravings.
- Salad Ingredients:
- 4 cups green beans, tipped
- 1 organic ambrosia apple, diced
- 1 scallion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh thyme, stem removed
- Dressing Ingredients:
- 3 Tbsp organic olive oil
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 Tbsp ginger root, grated
Ghrelin heightens the appeal of high calorie foods, and is the reason we gravitate toward carbohydrate-rich comfort foods like cereal, bagels, bread, or pasta. When you’re feeling stressed out, opt instead for a creamy avocado sprinkled with sea salt – something that is not going to spike your blood sugar. Not only do the healthy oleic acids (a type of monosaturated fat) in the avocado support healthy hair, skin, and nails, but they will suppress appetite because they take longer to digest. Avocados are also a great source of soluble fiber.
Further, avocados can decrease leptin resistance. It was first believed that leptin should be lowered because high levels of leptin in the bloodstream are associated with obesity, but it turns out that levels increase when the body becomes less sensitive to leptin, requiring it to produce more in order for the signal to be heard. Leptin produces a feeling of fullness after a meal. Certain foods can decrease leptin resistance and help restore the body’s regular function. 
Flax and Chia Seeds
Along with being a great source of appetite-suppressing omega-3s and omega-6s, one tablespoon of flax seeds contains 3 grams of stomach-filling fiber. In 2013, Dr. Kristensen tested to see if diets enriched with flax seeds contributed to satiety. Participants reported fullness and lack of hunger after the meal. An inhibitory effect on ghrelin was seen with those who consumed the flax.  Ground flax seeds taste great when sprinkled on top of a bowl of applesauce or in a nutrient-packed smoothie (find recipe in Slimming Meals That Heal).
Chia seeds also contain omega 3, which helps stabilize blood sugar. The healthy fats in chia seeds decrease the overall glycemic index of whatever it is you’re eating alongside them. As I outline in my books, managing your glycemic index to minimize a blood sugar rollercoaster ride helps to prevent cravings and control inflammatory conditions. Not only is the fat in chia seeds beneficial, the fiber in chia seeds has blood sugar-stabilizing properties. Chia’s fiber helps minimize spikes by slowing down the rate at which food is metabolized into sugar. 
Chocolate Chia Raspberry Pudding
Pudding for breakfast? Sure! This pudding is healthy, nutritious, anti-inflammatory, and a fun way to start the day.
- 4 Tbsp whole chia seeds
- 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or alternative beverage of your choice)
- 1 Tbsp raw cocoa powder
- 2 Tbsp raw honey
- 3 Tbsp hemp hearts
- 1/2 cup raspberries (fresh or thawed frozen)
- Few drops of organic vanilla extract
The shiitake mushroom has been used medicinally by the Chinese for more than 6,000 years and is a symbol of longevity because of its health-promoting properties. Mushrooms contain beta-glucan (b-glucan), a form of soluble fiber that has been shown to improve insulin control in the blood, and increase the appetite satiety hormone, cholecystokinin (CCK) – keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
Further, b-glucans have been shown to activate the immune system, strengthening its ability to fight infection and disease. B-glucans also help maintain normal blood cholesterol and LDL levels, so are helpful in the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Mushrooms are a perfect addition to the daily diet for boosting overall health, curbing cravings, and in the prevention of Type II diabetes. They are also a great source of selenium, iron, protein, and vitamin C. [27,28,29,30]
Julie Daniluk’s bestselling book, Meals that Heal Inflammation, advises on allergy-free eating that tastes great and assists the body in the healing process. Her second book, Slimming Meals That Heal, explores how inflammation causes weight gain and how you can use superfoods to lose weight without dieting. As nutritionist and co-host of reality cooking show Healthy Gourmet (Oprah Winfrey Network), she negotiates the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition. Check out her amazing recipes and nutrition tips at www.juliedaniluk.com. Connect with Julie on Facebook at Julie Daniluk Nutrition and on Instagram and Twitter @juliedaniluk
Nutritionist and TV personality, Julie Daniluk is the award-winning, bestselling author of Meals That Heal Inflammation & Slimming Meals That Heal. Her 3rd book, Hot Detox, was on the Canadian Bestseller’s list for 11 weeks in 2017. Julie’s 4th book, Becoming Sugar-Free, was released on September 7, 2021. Julie has appeared on hundreds of television and radio shows, including The Dr. Oz Show. She is in her 11th season as a resident expert for The Marilyn Denis Show. Check out more information at www.juliedaniluk.com and connect with her on Facebook & Instagram @juliedaniluk