As seasons change, so do moods – here’s a fast and fabulous way to boost yours

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Chilly temps, shorter days and being cooped up inside can zap our energy and have us feeling a bit blue. And that steady diet of doomscrolling – a new variant spreading, another pandemic winter – is messing with our brain.


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Dr. Haley Perlus.
Dr. Haley Perlus. Photo by supplied /Dr. Haley Perlus

“The cold, dark days of winter have the potential to add negative stress and create unpleasant moods such as sadness, worry, frustration, lethargy and irritability,” says wellness expert Dr. Haley Perlus, of . Your sleep, appetite, physical movement and overall energy levels can all be impacted, and take a toll on all aspects of your life.

If bottomless bowls of chili or loads of loaded nachos bring you comfort and joy, you’re not alone. “People have evolved to have subconscious urges to over-eat, and limited ability to avoid becoming obese, especially in winter,” reports a study by University of Exeter in the U.K.

Big yikes. Obviously, mindful eating is tough, especially as we’re parked close to the fridge, but taking stock now – of what goes into your mouth – may help keep your spirits up in the toughest season of the year.


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“Eating light and often is a great way to boost your mood. It’s good practice to eat every two to three hours, never going four hours without food,” says Perlus, who specializes in sport and performance. “Just think, when is the last time you went more than four hours without eating and all you craved was kale? Never.”

It’ll help eliminate bouts of being hangry – being so hungry you get angry. Going hours without eating can have us craving unhealthy foods because our bodies crave quick glucose. “Although we do get a quick boost in energy, we feel worse in the long-term,” Perlus adds. “Eating light and often will steady your mood with the added benefits of consistent brain energy, decrease unhealthy cravings, maintain muscle mass, and prevent excessive fat storage.”


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Chef Michael Stevens-Hughes is witness to the power of food and its health-boosting benefits. Stevens-Hughes is a Chef de Cuisine at Ste. Anne’s Spain Ontario, where healthy dishes are the primary ingredient in nourishing overall wellbeing. He sees firsthand how good food makes people feel good.

“A nostalgic dish can trigger fond memories of family or comfort and really help people relax, while exciting new flavours can help people forget about some of their troubles,” says Stevens-Hughs.

Times are troubled and food can soothe the soul, but not so many fats and sugars. While “our bodies crave comfort and the solace of a good show, a cozy couch and potato chips,” everything in moderation, says Stevens-Hughes.


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Snacking has soared in the pandemic – 60% of families surveyed reported increased snacking, according to a University of Guelph study. But cookies and crackers and candy crash moods and more. What will boost your mood, energy and immunity are nutrient-dense foods, says Stevens-Hughes, including lots of dark leafy greens, beans and legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, dark berries, and sustainably-caught fish like salmon and trout.

Add in grass-fed beef, oats, bananas, and fermented foods, says Perlus. And dark chocolate, hot cocoa and coffee too – just regulate amounts.

Soup’s On!

Meanwhile, delicious hot soup is especially soothing for the soul in the cold months and a great way to incorporate lots of good-for-you ingredients. Enjoy these health-boosting soup recipes from the cookbook Everyday Recipes from Ste. Anne’s Spa ( ).


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Herbed Tomato Soup.
Herbed Tomato Soup. Photo by supplied /Ste. Anne’s Spa

Herbed Tomato Soup

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small carrot, finely diced

1 small onion, finely diced

1 stalk celery, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped fine

2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped fine

1 Tbsp. brown or yellow sugar

2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 can (5.5 oz.) tomato paste

2 cans (28 oz.) diced tomatoes

2 cups vegetable stock or water

1 bay leaf salt & pepper – to taste

Heat oil over medium heat and sauté carrot, onion and celery for about 2 minutes.  Add garlic and spices and then add sugar; let cook for 1 minute, add vinegar and simmer for 2 more minutes.Add tomato paste and stir until blended, then add diced tomatoes, vegetable stock and bay leaf. Bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Skim impurities from top.  Add salt and pepper to taste and remove bay leaf. Yields 6 portions.


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Maple Sweet Potato Soup

1 large sweet potato (yam) – halved

2 tsp. vegetable oil

1/2 medium onion – chopped

6 cups vegetable stock

2 Tbsp. maple syrup

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Salt & pepper – to taste

Heat oven to 350ºF. Roast unpeeled sweet potato, flesh-side down, until brown and soft (about 20 minutes); this can be done a day or two ahead of time while roasting something else. When cool, peel off the potato skin, which should now be quite loose.

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and softened sweet potato; sauté until onion is transparent (about 4 minutes). Add remaining ingredients and let simmer for 15 minutes. Purée for a smooth soup; mash if you prefer a chunkier texture. Yields 6-8 servings.


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NOTE: For a different flavour, try pumpkin instead of sweet potato and honey instead of maple syrup.

Carrot, ginger and rosemary soup.
Carrot, ginger and rosemary soup. Photo by supplied /Ste. Anne’s Spa

Pureed Carrot, Ginger & Rosemary Soup

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

1/2 large cooking onion – finely diced

3 large carrots – grated

1 stick celery – finely diced

1 Tbsp. fresh ginger – minced

1/2 sprig fresh rosemary – finely chopped

8 ½ cups vegetable stock

1 medium Yukon Gold potato – peeled and grated

Salt & pepper – to taste

Heat oil in large saucepan on medium heat and add onion; cook about 3 minutes until transparent. Add carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes. Add ginger and rosemary and stock. Bring to a boil and add potato; bring back to a boil, then simmer 15-20 minutes. Purée the soup and add salt and pepper to taste.

Apple & Parsnip Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 small shallots, minced

1 bag parsnips, peeled and diced (about 4)

2 ripe apples, peeled, cored & diced

6 cups vegetable stock

4 Tbsp. honey

Salt & pepper – to taste

Fresh ground nutmeg, to taste

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat; add shallots and cook for 1 minute. Add parsnips and cook for 5 minutes; add apples and vegetable stock. Cook about 20 minutes on medium until parsnips are tender. Purée soup if desired; add honey and seasonings. Serves 6.

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