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How to avoid comfort eating?

Q I TEND to get the winter blues and so comfort eat when the weather gets cold. I always put on weight over the winter but I really don't want to let that happen this year, any suggestions?

AIt's very common to find yourself tucking into stodgier meals and reaching for the chocolate as the winter draws in. One reason for this is that shorter days and scarce sunshine reduce our body's production of serotonin, which is known as the 'happy hormone'. A natural reaction to this is that we start to eat more of the carbohydrates that help raise serotonin levels such as biscuits, potatoes and pasta, which makes it easy to pile on the pounds as the weather cools.

One way of combating this is to focus on seasonal cooking. Soups and stews make for seriously nutritious winter warmers. They'll fill you up without piling on the pounds as their high water content means that the number of calories per gram is usually pretty low. Some great seasonal options include sweet potato, carrots and pumpkins. These bright orange vegetables are packed with disease-fighting antioxidants and are great in soups.

For a sweet treat, tuck into stewed or dried fruit. Try apples or pears stewed with a little cinnamon and served with natural yogurt for a satisfying snack or dessert. For handy treats on the run, try dried fruit such as figs, which are a source of fibre and calcium as well as being wonderfully sweet.

QI decorate the house with several pumpkins for Hallowe'en but always end up throwing them out, which makes me feel very guilty! Any ideas on easy ways to cook with them?

AI'm glad you won't be throwing out your pumpkins this year or else you'd be missing out on all the disease-fighting antioxidants that they have to offer. The easiest and tastiest option is probably to make a soup out of them. Below is a guide on how to make a simple, spicy pumpkin soup.

Place 600g of roughly chopped pumpkin on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 220°C for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a large pan and fry one chopped onion and two chopped carrots for five minutes. Then add 2tsp of ground coriander, 1tsp of ground cumin and a pinch of chilli flakes and cook for a further minute or so.

Add the roasted squash to the pan along with 150g of rinsed red lentils and 900mls of vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes then blend with a hand blender until smooth. Should serve at least four people, enjoy!

Elsa Jones is a nutritional therapist and presenter of How Healthy Are You? on TV3. Elsa offers one to one consultations to meet your individual health requirements. www.elsajones nutrition.ie