It’s certainly getting much colder and as winter approaches, it brings with it the desire to wrap up warm in our snuggliest clothes and indulge in the kind of warming food that will fill our hungry tummies nicely.

But with the need for contentment and warmth, comes the suggestion that the kind of food we eat over the winter months might have us upping the portions and piling on the pounds under our woollen knits.

Summers are all about salads and winter is all about lardy stodge, right? Well no, not, unless you want it to be. Comfort food can be just as nutritious as lighter bites, yet super satisfying, depending on what kind of food you conjure up in the kitchen.

Superb Italian comfort food

When the weather gets colder, there’s nothing better than a steaming hot bowl of soup with crusty bread or a delicious bowl of pasta.

We all find ourselves craving the carbs in wintertime as the body’s way of improving our sunshine-deprived mood, enabling us to keep warm from the inside and protect from the cold. A great source of carbs is of course, Italian food – think pasta, pizza and minestrone soup made with fresh seasonal vegetables – delicious, but yet, not always detrimental to the waistline…

For some healthy options, check out this Kale Pesto Pizza recipe from Cookie + Kate – we love how the kale pesto can be used in different ways, such as mixed into cheesy wholemeal pasta, or on top of a thin crust pizza.  Another amazing recipe is the Italian Kalettes® with Spinach and Ricotta Tortelloni with Smoky Bacon Butter.

When looking for healthy options, the substitution of refined white flour products in favour of wholewheat pasta and wholegrain alternatives, can mean masses of difference, not only to improve healthy eating, but in contributing to other factors, such as raised energy levels and an increased source of vitamins and minerals.

Saintly sweet treats!

Recently, we discovered that sweet treats, such as chocolate can even be healthy too. An article in The Guardian about the latest craze to hit Los Angeles – vegan kale chocolate – seemed to shatter the myth that eating chocolate is always conducive to waistline expansion.

The vegan kale dark chocolate bar, created by Los Angeles chocolatier, Compartes is made up of delicious dark chocolate (73% cocoa solids), overlaid with a superfood vitamin explosion of kale crisps, spirulina, sea salt and pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds. What better way to get a good hit of nutrients while indulging the sweet tooth at the same time!

Healthy stews and casseroles

Whoever said that healthy food meant a sacrifice on flavour, clearly wasn’t cooking it right. Stews and casseroles are a fabulous way to stave off the hunger pangs over the winter months too – and surprisingly enough (not), the perfect types of vegetables to put in them are right in season. Mother Nature certainly gets it right with what time of year is best for certain vegetables.

Take a look at these amazing slow-cooked casseroles and super healthy stews from BBC Good Food which are packed with nutritious ingredients – we’re sure you’ll agree, it’s the ultimate feel-good comfort food.