5 Healthy Winter Comfort Foods from Around the World4 min read

As the weather cools down, people start craving warm, comforting meals. The desire to indulge in hearty dishes that soothe the soul is universal. However, when it comes to winter dishes, calorie-laden options overshadow healthier ones. To satisfy the craving for comfort food without compromising health, here are some healthy winter dishes from around the world:

1. Miso soup (Japan)

In Japan, winter comfort food often includes a steaming bowl of miso soup. Miso is a fermented soybean paste used as a flavoring and base condiment for various dishes. There are different types of miso, from mild to intense, with very different flavor profiles. 

To make the soup, boil a spoonful of the flavorful paste with dashi or fish broth and various ingredients such as tofu, seaweed and green onions. Miso soup is a rich source of probiotics, which can boost gut health and strengthen the immune system during the cold season. It’s relatively low in calories and fat while high in essential nutrients, making it a perfect choice for a healthy winter meal. 

Cooking tip: Start with a mild miso paste—usually lighter in color—if this is your first time making miso soup. As you become accustomed to the flavor of the fermented soybean, you can try more aged varieties. Pair this soup with savory scallion pancakes for a light but filling lunch.

2. Minestrone soup (Italy)

Italy’s contribution to healthy winter comfort food is the classic minestrone. This hearty soup is a medley of seasonal vegetables like carrots, celery, beans and tomatoes, often enriched with pasta or rice. Minestrone is a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Its versatility allows for customization with various vegetables, grains and legumes, making it a satisfying and nourishing option to warm up the winter days.

Cooking tip: Make a big batch of minestrone for quick lunches and easy midweek dinners. Like most western winter soups and stews, minestrone freezes well. You can “transform” it by adding cheese, cream and meat for a heartier meal. 

3. Lentil stew (India)

The fragrant and spicy lentil stew is a popular winter comfort food in India. Lentils are an excellent protein and fiber source, helping to provide a sense of fullness and sustained energy. Spices like turmeric, cumin and coriander give the dish depth of flavor and potential anti-inflammatory benefits, usually served with whole-grain rice or bread. 

Make a Moroccan spiced red lentil dip for a healthy mid-afternoon snack if you cooked more lentils than you need for the soup.

Cooking tip: Turmeric is one of the best foods for joint pain or arthritis because of its active compound, curcumin. Adding a bit of it to your dishes may minimize flare-ups during the winter months. Don’t forget to dose up on black pepper, too. Its active compound, piperine, enhances the bioavailability of curcumin by 2,000%. 

4. Roasted root vegetables (United Kingdom)

The United Kingdom offers a simple yet satisfying winter comfort food: roasted root vegetables. A medley of carrots, parsnips, potatoes and beets is roasted with olive oil, herbs and seasonings until they soften and caramelize. This dish is low in fat and calories but high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The earthy sweetness of the vegetables pairs wonderfully with meat or fish, providing warmth and comfort in each bite.

Cooking tip: Customize this dish with other non-root vegetables like green beans, corn, cauliflower and broccoli. You can have this as a side dish or toss it with your favorite salad greens, cheese, meat or eggs for a healthy, filling lunch. You can also blend the roasted vegetables to make a soup. 

5. Goulash (Hungary)

Goulash, a traditional Hungarian stew, is a flavorful winter favorite that combines tender chunks of beef with various vegetables, spices and paprika. From its humble beginnings as a scratch meal cowherds made to sustain themselves during their travels, goulash is now a well-known, nutritious dish with lean protein and plenty of vegetables. The paprika imparts a unique taste and may offer health benefits, including improved digestion and cardiovascular health. Served with whole grains or noodles, goulash is a hassle-free, one-pot dinner for hectic days.

Cooking Tip: For the ultimate easy, ready-for-you dinner, cook goulash in a crock pot set on low for eight to 10 hours. Just throw in all the ingredients before you leave in the morning, and you’ll be welcomed with a piping-hot meal when you return after work. 

Healthier ways to indulge

When the days are shorter and the cold is unforgiving, comfort food offers solace and warmth to the body and the soul. Whether it’s the umami-rich miso soup from Japan, the nutritious minestrone from Italy, the protein-packed lentil stew from India, the roasted root vegetables from the UK or the flavorful goulash from Hungary, these dishes are excellent and good for you.


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