Scratch the winter blues

Find some fun things to do during the long winter months that test your balance or tempt your tummy with healthy options.

Now that the holiday season is past, life goes back to normal. But, the weather can bring challenges with making healthy choices related to food and physical activity. The winter months can bring the “winter blues” with the very cold weather, snow storms and lack of sunshine. The cold weather can make someone want to hibernate until spring. But, there is also something very special about winter that can provide wonderful memories to cherish. The wintery weather brings many opportunities for outdoor fun and healthy eating. Now that the holiday season is past, life goes back to normal but the weather can bring challenges with making healthy food and physical activity choices.

Winter brings a new set of outdoor activities that would not be available during the warmer months. If you dress appropriately, you can have fun with friends and family while fulfilling recommended physical activity. Try these physical outdoor activities suggested by Michigan State University Extension:

  1. Make a plan to go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or ice skating.
  2. Take a trip to the ski slopes to learn how to snowboard or ski.
  3. Enjoy sledding at a nearby hill or at a resort.
  4. A walk or run in the snow is always a good workout. Don’t forget to take your dog if it isn’t too cold.

Winter can also allow for some creative cooking. Take your favorite comfort foods and make them lower in fat by exchanging some of the ingredients, trying a new recipe for dinner or incorporating new snack ideas into your day.

Make your favorite comfort foods lower in fat and calories but still rich with flavor by substituting ingredients. For example, substitute ground turkey in place of ground chuck in your favorite meatloaf. Use skim milk and whole wheat pasta for macaroni and cheese. Fried chicken can be breaded with crushed corn flakes, spices and baked instead of fried.

Try a new recipe that is prepared by broiling, grilling or steaming. Look for recipes that list low fat ingredients such as sour cream or use half of an ingredient, like cheese. Add vegetables to recipes to increase the nutritional value, flavor and color to the dish. For example, if you are trying a new whole wheat pizza crust recipe, top it with a variety of vegetables like spinach, tomatoes, onions, peppers and even fruit, such as pineapple.

Baked goods can be prepared with a healthy flare also. If you like chocolate brownies, there are ways to make them low fat, higher in fiber and still have them taste delicious. Cut the amount of fat called for in a recipe in half and decrease the amount of sugar by 1/3 if the recipe is homemade. Add dried cherries, zucchini or blueberries for a boost of nutrients and a fun taste.

Keep in mind that when you make changes, make them in baby steps. Big changes create a possibility for failure. Have fun trying new physical activities and recipes. Before you know it, you will have created new healthier habits. For more information on healthy lifestyles, please visit

Here is a healthy version brownie recipe to try.

Triple Chocolate Black Bean Brownie

Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food

Serves nine to 12 brownies


1/4 cup (half a stick) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan

3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped (about 1/3 cup)

1/4 cup black beans, rinsed, drained and pureed until smooth, using a food processor

1 1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Walnut chunks and coarse sea salt for topping (optional)

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9 inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving 2 inches of overhang on all sides. Butter and flour the parchment paper as well.

Fill a medium sauce pan with 2 inches of water. Bring the water to a simmer. Place butter, semi-sweet and unsweetened chocolate in the bowl. Place the bowl over simmering water and stir until chocolate and butter are melted and combined. Remove the bowl from the simmering saucepan (caution: the bowl will be hot).

Allow the melted chocolate mixture to cool for a few moments. Whisk in the eggs and white, one at a time, until mixture is glossy. Whisk in the sugar. Whisk in the bean puree and vanilla extract.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and sea salt. Add the dry ingredients, all at once to the chocolate mixture. Use a spatula and fold to incorporate. Once thoroughly combined, pour the batter into the prepared pan. Top with walnuts and sea salt, if using.

Bake brownies for 25-28 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with just a few chocolate crumbs on it. The center may seem undercooked, but it will cook further as it cools. Brownies are better slightly underdone than overdone.

Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Use the overhanging parchment paper to remove the brownies from the pan and slice.

Cut brownies into nine or 12 generous pieces. Store brownies, wrapped individually, at room temperature for up to four days.

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