Eating healthily is important regardless of your weight. You want to give your body all the vitamins and minerals it needs so you can feel good and stay protected from illness and chronic disease. While there is no shortage of healthy meals for you to incorporate into your diet to keep your body nourished, when winter rolls around and the temperatures drop, it’s easy to reach for hearty (but less-than-healthy) comfort foods.

That being said, winter doesn’t have to put a damper on your healthy eating routine. For those who are trying to lose weight, healthy eating in the winter is especially important because we tend to exercise less and become more sedentary during the colder months. Luckily, there are plenty of great meal ideas for you to try this winter that are low in calories as well as satisfying and comforting.

Weight loss and nutrient levels

Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint. That’s why it’s important to think about long-term sustainability when it comes to losing those excess pounds. If you want to lose weight in a healthy way, you have to address some key issues: nutrient depletion, sleep habits, and hydration. Hydration and sleep may not be highly affected in the winter because it’s easy to keep up with your patterns even when the seasons change, but nutrient depletion can affect you without you even realizing it.

Take vitamin D, for example – otherwise known as the sunshine vitamin. In the wintertime, most people get less sun exposure. When that happens, vitamin D levels may plummet. Research has shown that there may even be a connection between low levels of vitamin D and weight gain. This is only one example, of course, but eating healthily in the winter is vital to make sure that your nutrient levels are where they need to be for your body to work for you and not against you on your weight loss journey.

winter stew
Image by W on Unsplash: What are some good dinner ideas for winter nights? A hearty stew is always a good option.

Low-calorie winter meals

A calorie deficit means you expend more energy than you consume, which is what leads to weight loss. To do this, you’ll have to make sure you’re adding some healthy, low-calorie, nutrient-dense meals into your diet. Below are some healthy winter recipes for weight loss that are bound to help you shed those extra pounds.

Vegetarian chili

Nothing says comfort food quite like a loaded bowl of vegetarian chili. It’s that warm, delicious mix of flavors that satisfies both your waistline and your tastebuds. To make vegetarian chili, you can choose your own variation of vegetables: sweet potato and black bean, butternut squash and red kidney beans, or even just your favorite bean mixed with carrots, celery and anything else you have on hand. Most vegetarian chilis can come in well under 450 calories per serving, and they’re so filling that you won’t even think about needing another bowl.

Slow cooker meatballs with zoodles

There’s nothing quite spending a winter’s day relaxing while your slow cooker does all the heavy lifting for you! A good slow cooker meatball recipe is just the trick to have a healthy meal without having to put a lot of work in. Use ground turkey instead of beef to make this meal even leaner and combine it with a pinch of paprika, a clove of garlic, and your low-calorie breadcrumbs of choice.

In the meantime, chop some onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and parsley, combine with tomato paste, and gently fry for about a minute before putting them into the slow cooker. Top the vegetables with your meatballs, set it on low, and spend the next five hours living your life! Once the meatballs are done, serve them over some zucchini noodles and voila: a healthy and hearty winter meal under 400 calories.

making zucchini noodles
Image by Igor Miske on Unsplash: What are some good healthy winter meals on a budget? Top zucchini noodles with meatballs for a tasty low-calorie dinner!

Good old-fashioned stew

Would it even be winter if you didn’t make a stew at least once? Similar to chili, the great thing about stew is that you can really make it your own. You can use any type of protein mixed with your favorite vegetables to create a low-calorie yet hearty meal.

To keep things simple and lean, try a chicken barley stew. You’ll need some boneless, skinless chicken, barley, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, potatoes, chicken broth, white wine or white wine vinegar, and the herbs of your choosing (typically, thyme, rosemary, and sage add a nice winter flavor).

Cook the chicken, then shred it with forks and set aside. Then sauté your vegetables, deglaze the pan with your white wine or vinegar, and add everything together to simmer for a good half hour to an hour. While this recipe may take some time, it’s high in protein and is less than 350 calories per serving.

These are just a few dinner ideas for winter nights that you’ll love to add into your rotation after you try them. Eating healthy, low-calorie meals doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice the heartiness you enjoy when the temperature drops! Losing weight in the winter is entirely possible, and with the right meals, you’ll be that much closer to your goal by the time the last frost melts.

Featured image by American Heritage Chocolate on Unsplash