Re-think winter plans

Don't use cold weather as an excuse

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  • | 8:40 a.m. January 14, 2016
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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Cold weather may seem like a good excuse to stay inside, avoid workouts and overindulge in comfort foods. However, many health experts have found that these tendencies leave most people feeling less content during the winter months. Researchers say people should establish new traditions to increase happiness and avoid wintertime woes. In other words, now is a great time to change the way you think about winter.

Instead of resolving to make drastic new year changes, establish healthy traditions. Incorporate activities and habits that promote health and can be shared with spouses, friends and family members. Here are a few suggestions to re-think your health this winter.

• A good first step is creating a vision for the future by picturing yourself happy and healthy. Identify positive and negative aspects of your health and the health of others, including friends, family members, spouses and children. This provides a starting point for establishing new behaviors, avoiding negative habits and seeking help from others.

• Set realistic goals with measurable results, because small changes are easier than big changes and can add up over time. Focus on changing one or two behaviors. Once these are mastered, set new goals.

• Establish traditions to accommodate cold weather. Try new things, such as dance classes, indoor pools for swimming or water aerobics, or check out exercise videos from the library. Invest in home fitness equipment, such as jump ropes, DVDs, treadmills and stationary bikes. Having equipment at home makes it easier to stay physically active. Search for bargains on gently used equipment, and try different things to find what works best.

• Think of things that are enjoyable, and incorporate physical activity to enhance them. Plan activity breaks, set a timer and have 5 to 10 minute relays inside or outside, take a walk around the block during commercials or try games that get everyone moving.

• Practice ways to improve your mood each day, even if they seem silly or unnecessary. Try wearing bright colors, reading or watching something funny and laughing out loud – laughing reduces stress hormones and increases endorphins. Socialize and spend time with family, old and new friends and those in need. Creating social ties can boost happiness, improve self-worth and increase your sense of purpose.

• One of the easiest ways to socialize is over a great meal. Try this crowd-pleasing recipe for Chili With Winter Vegetables. Make it a potluck and invite family and friends over for dinner and game night. Just because it's cold outside doesn't mean you can't have fun inside!


This is a great "make-ahead" recipe that's perfect for impromptu dinner parties. The chili can be refrigerated for up to two days and tastes even better after the flavors meld.

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

4 medium garlic cloves, very finely chopped

2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 bunch (about 10 leaves) kale, chopped

1/2 pound carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 (14-ounce) cans peeled Italian tomatoes

2 canned chipotles in adobo, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons adobo sauce

3 cups water, vegetable, chicken or beef broth

2 cups canned hominy, drained

2 cups canned red kidney beans, drained

Brown rice, chopped red onions, cilantro, sour cream, tortilla chips or cornbread, for serving

  1. In a medium, heavy stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over high heat, stirring, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the bell pepper, sweet potatoes, kale and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder and cumin and season with salt. Cook for 1 minute.

  2. In a blender, puree the tomatoes and their juices with the chipotle, adobo sauce and water or broth until very smooth. Add the mixture to the casserole along with the hominy and beans and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer the chili over moderate heat until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Season with additional salt, as needed. Serve with rice, red onions, cilantro, sour cream and chips. Makes eight servings.

Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children's author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is "The Kitchen Diva's Diabetic Cookbook." Her website is To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis. (c) 2016 King Features Synd., Inc., and Angela Shelf Medearis