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November 8, 2016

Fattening Fall Foods

As the temperatures drop, it’s easy to find things that will keep us warm and cozy. A thick quilt. Slippers. A cup of hot chocolate. A pot roast filling the house with delicious comforting smells.

Health Coach offers Tips to Make Foods Healthier

As the temperatures drop, it’s easy to find things that will keep us warm and cozy. A thick quilt. Slippers. A cup of hot chocolate. A pot roast filling the house with delicious comforting smells.

“However, those comfort foods can make for an uncomfortable waistline,” said Gerry Hamm, a certified health coach in Waupaca, New London and Wild Rose ThedaCare locations. “Here are some comfort foods that can pack on the pounds and some healthy tips.”

  • Potpie: Creamy chicken pie from the grocery freezer can have more than 1,000 calories. Instead, opt for a flavorful roast chicken and a warm, whole wheat roll.
  • Game Day: “Nothing says fall like weekend football games and the spreads to enjoy,” said Hamm, noting that nachos, chips, pizza, burgers and more can easily spoil a diet. “If you are a die-hard sports fan, chances are you are glued to the couch for the weekend and not burning off those extra calories.” Serve veggies and low-fat dip as part of the spread. Eat from a plate, which can help keep track of how much you are eating.
  • Chili: Nothing says fall like a pot of chili. However, you could get 500 calories in a bowl, depending on the recipe. The same goes for other meaty stews, which are often loaded with fatty beef or sausage and topped with gobs of cheese. “Chili and stew can be good choices when made right,” said Hamm.

Use small portions of lean meat or forgo meat all together and use plenty of beans, vegetables, and spices with just a sprinkle of low-fat cheese. In restaurants, check the calorie count before ordering.  

  • Warm soups and stews: These also tend to be loaded with cream, cheese, or meat. If you serve them in a bread bowl or on top of rice or noodles, you add even more calories. Choose broth-based and vegetable-based soups and stews to fill you up for fewer calories.
  • Fall drinks: The options of a delicious hot drink are endless — hot chocolate, pumpkin-spice lattes, eggnog, apple cider, and hot toddies. “They are also an easy way to add extra calories,” said Hamm. “Try a hot cup of green or flavored tea, rich with antioxidants and calorie-free.
  • Candy: Who can resist the candy that comes at the end of October? “And those little candy bars can’t hurt, right,” said Hamm. “But few of us can have just one.”

Stash sweets out of sight. Get it out of the house by donating it to the military or a local dental office, which might trade your candy for cash. Satisfy midday hunger pangs with something nutritious, like fruit. If you crave something sweet, grab a piece of fruit; “it’s nature’s candy.”  

  • Mac and cheese: Young and old love this classic with its melty cheese. But it can pack 300 to 400 calories, depending on the brand. Add sausage or ham, and it's even more fattening. Use low-fat cheese and milk. Substitute veggies for meat to get more nutrition.  

The list of fattening fall foods could go on from gravies and casseroles to pies and treats. “All it takes is an extra 100 calories per day to pack on 10 pounds per year,” said Hamm. “Moderation is the key to success. It is OK to enjoy a treat once in a while but follow these tips.”

  • Check your portion sizes.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Eat plenty of veggies prepared without added fat, sugar or salt.
  • Use low-fat cooking techniques and substitutions.
  • Put candy bowls out of sight.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Sweet potatoes are classified as a Nutritional All-Star by the Center for Science and the Public Interest. To gain the maximum benefits, avoid discarding their skins. Choose firm, dark and smooth sweet potatoes.

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloved garlic, minced
2 Tsbp chili powder
1 medium-large sweet potato, peeled and diced 4 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground chipotle chili
2 ½ cups water
2 15-oz cans low-sodium black beans, rinsed
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, unsalted
4tsp lime juice
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions: Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sweet potato and onion and cook, stirring often, until the onion is beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, chipotle, and salt and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add water and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the sweet potato is tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, and lime juice; increase heat to high and return to a simmer, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in cilantro and serve.

For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 7,000 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 34 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.  ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton opened in February. For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.