6 Mini-Meals to Make You Happy When It's Cold Outside

As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, it’s quite common to feel S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder). No need to reach for over-the-counter antidepressants when Mother Nature has her own pharmacy of over-the-stovetop antidepressants! 

Here are some healthy and tasty ways to beat the winter blues: 
 
1. Banana bliss smoothie

Are you a fan of trypophan? You should be. It helps the body to release serotonin, aka the happiness hormone that relaxes the body and elevates mood. Bananas are a great source of tryptophan and also B vitamins that are great for stress, not to mention potassium that also helps with staying alert. 

Directions 

Just add 1-2 bananas to a blender (or a Vitamix) with almond milk, mesquite powder, cinnamon and vanilla and mix until creamy. Add cacao powder for a chocolate twist or add a handful of spinach or other greens for an extra chlorophyll boost that will give you even more energy to boost your mood.

2. Cheery chai

Almonds, one of the main ingredients in this delicious drink, are rich in magnesium, which is one of the top "good- mood-foods." Almonds are also rich in Vitamin E, so you’ll be glowing on the outside and keep oxygen flowing on the inside. 

The spices in this: ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon, are all anti-inflammatory so can alleviate aches and pains and put that smile back on your face. Mesquite soothes the intestines to ease digestive stress, vanilla is a natural aphrodisiac, and ginger will give you an energy boost. Plus, by heating this a bit over the stove, you’ll be warming your body all over. 

Directions

For one mug full, soak ¼ cup of almonds in water overnight, then drain, rinse and blend with either 1 cup of water or 1 cup of coconut water. (Ideally you can use a high-speed Vitamix for this.) 

Pour through a nut milk bag then add a pinch of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of ginger powder, 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, a pinch of vanilla powder, one medjool date and optional: 1 teaspoon of mesquite powder. Blend again, then add the mixture to a saucepan and warm under low heat until hot, but not boiling.

One sip of this and you’ll be saying, “Chai feel better already!” 

3. Sweet potato soup

Your sweet tooth just looooves when you’re feeling down since you tend to feed it with lots of saccharine junk when things aren’t going so well, don't you? Instead of sugary desserts, try satiating that sweet tooth with nature’s own candy, the sweet potato. High in carbohydrates, sweet potatoes stimulate the brain’s release of serotonin to regulate mood, not to mention appetite and sleep. 

This dish is so easy to make and can be served either as a creamy soup or as a heartier purée, depending on how much liquid you add. 

Directions

Just sautée some coconut oil in a pan, add chopped onions, garlic and some grated fresh ginger, chopped sweet potato, chopped pumpkin or your favorite squash, chopped carrot, some cinnamon, turmeric (fresh or powder) and a pinch of salt, then add enough water to cover the veggies, cover and simmer until soft. Then, place in a blender and mix, adding as much liquid as you like depending on the consistency you prefer. Top with some chopped (preferably soaked) walnuts for an extra protein and omega 3 boost. (Have I mentioned the Vitamix? Using a Vitamix to blend this will make it soooooo creamy and dreamy. ) 

4. Chocolate mousse 

It’s no secret : chocolate makes us happy. Chocolate raises phenylethylamine (you don’t have to learn how to pronounce that, just remember that it makes you HAPPY) and endorphins. It’s Mother Nature’s own natural euphoria. 

Directions 

Blend an avocado with one date, some mesquite powder, cinnamon powder, cayenne pepper, vanilla and 1 tablespoon of cacao powder with some liquid (coconut water or nut milk) until a creamy mousse is formed. Or, blend the date, spices and cacao with nut milk, pour over chia seeds until the liquid is absorbed and it becomes a creamy tapioca-like pudding. This Prozac-free pudding will change your life. I promise.  Warning: consumption of this pudding may lead to feelings of extreme euphoria and uncontrollable smiles. 

5. Quinoa (with a merry magnesium mix)

Magnesium is crucial for relaxation, good sleep and stress management. Magnesium-rich quinoa and spinach both help to produce GABA, a neurotransmitter that naturally calms the nerves. They also happen to be delicious and so easy to make. 

Directions

Whip up a big pot of quinoa, eat one serving, then store the rest in the refrigerator for a few days and add to breakfast (you can substitute the oats in the Peppy porridge for quinoa), lunch (just add some avocado, your favorite Omega 3-rich oil, some lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt, top with Omega 3-rich hemp seeds and, voilà!) or dinner (serve alongside some Smiley Sweet Potato soup or purée). 

For one serving of the Merry Magnesium Mix, soak ¼ cup of dry quinoa overnight with water and a splash of lemon juice, then rinse and cook with around 1/3 cup of water until the water is absorbed. Add 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil and a pinch of salt.  Meanwhile, add ½ tablespoon of coconut oil to a pan, add garlic and onion, sautée then add the spinach and continue to stir until the spinach is wilted. Add the spinach mixture atop the quinoa and, for even more magnesium-power, add some (soaked) pumpkin and sesame seeds.

6. Peppy porridge

Oats are a great source of carbohydrates that also trigger the release of serotonin. Oatmeal is a rich, hearty meal that will keep you full for hours by releasing energy slowly. Oats are also packed with B vitamins, iron and zinc, which are all great brain-boosting foods.

Directions 

Just cook ¼ cup of oats in water until soft and creamy then pour some hot Cheery Chai over the top and stir. Or, you can cook the oats directly in the almond milk for an even creamier porridge. Add some banana and walnuts and breakfast is served! Why do you think Goldilocks ate porridge from the bowls of all three bears? Even she knew that porridge is the ultimate in winter comfort foods.

Are you smiling yet? 

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About the Author
Rebecca Leffler is an American journalist / writer / optimist who recently traded the red carpets of Paris for the green carpet in NYC. The former France Correspondent of The Hollywood Reporter and French TV personality has written a cookbook / healthy lifestyle guide that will be released in France in February. Rebecca is also behind GREEN CHIC By Lafleur, a concept launched at the Cannes Film Festival that brings together "green" brands from the film, fashion, food and art worlds. The GREEN CHIC lifestyle is all about finding beauty inside and out and proves that living green can also be très chic. You can follow Rebecca's green adventures adventures at her blog Lafleurparisny.com, on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram  
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