7 winter blues-busting meals for a happier ride

Rotten weather, dark days — it's time for some soul food

When the days are dark, the weather is grim and summer still seems a long, long time away, sometimes all you want to do is curl up under a duvet and comfort eat. And actually, that's not such a bad idea, so long as you choose food that's nutritious as well as satisfying. 

We've partnered with Olive Magazine (also published by Immediate Media) to bring you the very best recipes for cyclists. All the recipes are easy to follow and take you through step-by-step how to create everything from homemade nutrition products to tasty and hearty post-ride meals.

Mood-boosting foods

Many food types will give you that warm and filling sensation that we crave at certain times of year, and of course eating a good variety of fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein and fibre will help ensure you are well fuelled and getting all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need. However, certain foodstuffs can be extra-helpful for boosting mood and well-being. 

Dark leafy green vegetables such as kale have been shown to help reduce the symptoms of depression, as shown in a study by Harvard University. These vegetables contain the B-vitamin folate, which is used in the synthesis of chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. 

Oily fish such as mackerel and salmon have high levels of essential fatty acids, including omega 3. While researchers haven't yet conclusively established a link between these oils and mood, these oils are a beneficial addition to the diet and also an excellent source of protein. 

And of course we have to mention chocolate! Quality chocolate contains flavonoids, a vasodilator, which increases the diameter of arteries and allows blood to flow more easily, with it's efficacy shown in a number of studies.

To get the most benefit and reduce the amount of fat and sugar you're ingesting, you're best going for dark chocolate with a high cocoa content, made with cocoa butter rather than milk solids. 

Sweet potato jackets with smoked mackerel and dill yogurt

Get your oily fish delivered in a delicious way
Get your oily fish delivered in a delicious way

It's hard to beat a jacket potato for satisfaction and simplicity.

Delicious mackerel provides your dose of oily fish and a light dill yoghurt dressing provides a satisfying creaminess with fewer calories than cream or cheese. The sweet potato has a low glycaemic index, releasing its energy slowly over a number of hours. 

Smoked haddock and spinach rye toasts

Quick and simple to make, tasty to eat
Quick and simple to make, tasty to eat

These tasty toasts are super quick to whip up, making them perfect for a weekend brunch or quick weekday lunch or tea… though we'd advise against heating up the haddock if you work in an open plan office!

Not only do you get the mood-boosting benefits of spinach and haddock, but the egg will give you even more protein. We love the slivers of pecorino cheese on top too, providing a tang of savoury goodness. 

Sriracha and lime salmon with avocado cream

Spicy and satisfying
Spicy and satisfying

Could this be THE perfect mid-week meal for the busy cyclist? Low fat, high protein, easy and quick to make, full of essential fatty acids and vitamins, and it's gluten-free… oh, and it tastes delicious too!

Spicy salmon, crunchy vegetables, smooth avocado cream — yum. 

Watercress and avocado salad with pink grapefruit and Campari vinaigrette — vegetarian

Lots of tasty, mood-boosting and nutritious ingredients in this dish
Lots of tasty, mood-boosting and nutritious ingredients in this dish

While the Campari adds a slightly naughty and decadent edge to this dish, everything else about it is pure virtue.

Green, nutritious watercress and avocado with fresh grapefruit and smooth and creamy burrata cheese is a delight for the palate, and looks impressive on the plate too. 

Crispy chickpea and kale Caesar salad — vegetarian with substitutions

Any leftover chickpeas? They make a great snack
Any leftover chickpeas? They make a great snack

We love this surprising twist on the classic Caesar salad, which uses crisp oven-baked chickpeas instead of breadcrumbs, and iron and flavonoid rich kale instead of lettuce.

Switch out the parmesan cheese for a veggie alternative to make this dish suitable for vegetarians. 

Kale and sweet potato hash — vegetarian, vegan with substitutions

A hot contender for our top comfort food dish
A hot contender for our top comfort food dish

Perfect for brunch, lunch or dinner, this tasty hash is spiced up with the addition of zingy chilli, giving it a warming kick that will boost your mood as much as the rich leafy green kale or the tasty poached egg you top it with.

Ditch the egg and you can serve this up as a vegan dish too. 

Dark chocolate fondant with liquid toffee centre — vegetarian

An indulgent dessert
An indulgent dessert

What kind of comfort food list would this be without some chocolate!

Now, while we agree that if you want to minimise the negative aspects of chocolate indulgence, then opting for a couple of squares of the good stuff on its own is your best bet — though we also love it melted and drizzled over fruit, such as mango cubes or strawberries. 

But health be damned! This dark chocolate fondant is good for the soul and so long as you don't plan on eating it every day, a little indulgence now and again does you good. So whip up this rich, sweet dessert with plenty of chocolate, cocoa and butter, relax, and enjoy. 

Check out our other tasty recipes and get yourself fuelled for cycling from sunrise to sunset:

Aoife Glass

Women's Cycling Editor
A mountain biker at heart, also drawn to the open road. Likes big long adventures in the mountains. Usually to be found in the Mendip Hills or the Somerset Levels in the UK. Passionate about women's cycling at all levels.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road
  • Preferred Terrain: Rocky, rough and a long way from anywhere.
  • Current Bikes: Liv Avail Advanced Pro 2015, Juliana Furtado 2013, Canyon Roadlite AL
  • Dream Bike: Juliana Roubion, Liv Avail Advanced SL
  • Beer of Choice: Red wine for the win!
  • Location: Weston Super Mare, Somerset, UK

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