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Last spring, I wrote about how some small changes made to my eating habits had made an unexpected difference in my weight.  Without trying, I had dropped 5 pounds and my clothes were fitting looser than normal.  Those changes were simply adding more fruits and vegetables to my diet, basically substituting other snack items with them.  I wasn’t eating any less, just eating smarter.

Here I am, almost a year later and guess what–I’ve dropped another 7 pounds!  I should also mention that this is after going through the holiday season and as much as I’m ashamed to admit it, not visiting the gym as much as I’d like to in recent months.  The best part is that I can honestly say that I never feel like I’m depriving myself of anything.  Of course I have a treat here and there when I want one, but on a regular basis I’m eating healthfully and I’m enjoying it!  In fact, on the rare occasion when I forget my fruit snack for lunch (typically a clementine this time of year), I’m really missing it.

It’s kind of funny when I think of the time I spent with personal trainers or trying the latest diet to drop the 5-10 extra pounds I had put on with little or no success.  All I really had to do was start snacking on some real food and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into my meals.  I will say it’s not magic and the weight loss didn’t happen overnight, but then again I didn’t put it on overnight so it makes sense it would take some time to come off.

If you’re like me and you’ve been struggling to get a few pounds off, give it a shot.  I’m including a 100-calorie comparison chart for fun.  It’s kind of interesting when you see exactly what you get for 100 calories and really makes the decision easy as far as what you should be snacking on!

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Typically each week I’m sharing my own tips or advice on a wide range of topics.  This week, I’d like to turn the tables and ask you to share your ideas on something I think probably affects many of us this time of year–the winter “blahs.”

You probably know what I’m talking about, that hum-drum, lack of energy feeling you get mid-winter.  I’ve heard some people refer to it as “cabin fever” because they feel cooped up indoors all the time due to the cold weather.  I’m not sure if it’s the cold, the reduction of daylight or maybe a combination of both, but I certainly feel the effects of it.

I have a few strategies to cope–I try to get outside as much as I can when th weather cooperates.  Just the other week, I wrote a blog about how this year I’m growing my own herb garden so we can enjoy some fresh herbs like we do during spring and summer.  I also try to make myself stay active despite feeling like all I want to do on some days is hide under a blanket on my sofa.

So, I want to know–how do you cope with the cold weather, the reduced amount of daylight and the lack of other perks that come along with the warmer season (I’m thinking fragrant flowers, warm breezes …)?  It could be an exercise routine that boosts your mood, maybe a nutrition tip or a specific activity you feel is beneficial.  Please share your own tips with us using the comment feature below.  I, for one, will be very appreciative of any suggestions!

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When I think of “comfort food” the first thing that comes to mind are one-pot or one-dish meals like soups, stews and casseroles.  And, there is no better time to enjoy these foods than during the winter season when we’re looking for any way possible to keep warm and cozy.  I’d also like to mention that comfort food doesn’t have to be unhealthy–at least not in my book.  All of these dishes can be both hearty and filled with lots of vegetables that will not only fill you up, but also provide loads of nutrition.

As you may know from an earlier blog entry, one of my favorite things to cook during cooler weather is soup.  Chicken soup and minestrone are two of my favorites, but bean soups are especially satisfying this time of year.  Two healthy recipes I’ve found are Governor’s Black Bean Soup and Macaroni Chickpea Soup.

I personally consider chili to be a type of stew and it’s one of my favorite meals.  There are so many variations of chili–you can use lean beef, turkey or go completely meatless.  I typically make it using ground chicken breast and I do use beans in my recipe.  The recipe I’m sharing with you is 3-Bean Chili with Chunky Tomatoes.  I like that it’s vegetarian and that it uses three different kinds of beans to give it more variety and extra fiber.

Finally, any one-dish meal can be considered a casserole–even lasagna.  Skillet Lasagna is a veggie version that takes only 40 minutes to prepare and adds in some tasty vegetables like zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes and onion.  Another quick option is Cabbage Roll Casserole, which uses lean, ground turkey, cabbage, crushed tomatoes, garlic, onion and brown rice.  Both recipes are perfect for busy weeknight suppers.

So this winter stay warm with these recipe ideas.  They’ll not only keep your family feeling satisfied, but you’ll know they’re good for them too!

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