The seasons are changing and with the cooler weather comes an urge to indulge in savory comfort foods. Nostalgic foods that bring about memories of autumn like creamy pastas, cheese-filled casseroles, chicken pot pie and hearty stews are perfect for the chillier days and darker nights ahead. Although they taste wonderful, these aren’t always the healthiest dishes.
With a few small shifts, you can make your favorite comfort foods a little bit better for you and your family.
If you enjoy rich pasta dishes, you may fall victim to the detriments of cream. One of the simplest ways to make a meal lighter is to take the heavy cream out of sauces. There are a handful of replacements out there like coconut milk, Greek yogurt and low fat milk that you can use instead. Keep in mind that these ingredients may alter the taste of the recipe, so be sure to think about the flavor you want before making the swap.
With a cream sauce often comes a pasta. Take your health kick one step further and use whole grain noodles in your dish. You can always add in pulled chicken for a bit of protein or veggies for added nutrients. For example, when you make lasagna be sure to put extra spinach in your ricotta.
With the holidays just around the corner, many of us will be eating more casseroles and stuffing. Instead of loading these sides with carbs and bread crumbs, try another option like quinoa. It’s higher in protein, which will keep you feeling satisfied and full.
Of course a good comfort meal is ended with deserts and for many of us, sweets are our downfall. So, what can you do to still enjoy some sweet treats without going overboard? Start with portion control: Take one cookie instead of two. If you want to try to make a healthier sweet treat, you can always use natural ingredients like dates or avocados to make a delicious desert. Also try natural honey or dark chocolate as a replacement for toppings on yogurts or ice cream. It all depends on the taste you’re going for.
If your comfort indulgence is a festive warm drink at the local coffee shop, there are things you can do to avoid drinking too many calories. Again, start by skipping the cream. You can replace it with skim milk or coconut milk. Also, ask the barista to hold the added syrup and instead sprinkle cinnamon on top.
CANNED AND PACKAGED
No matter what you’re eating, one of the biggest changes to make is to avoid packaged foods and focus on making your comfort food whole. So, if you’re going to make mashed potatoes, avoid an instant option and buy real sweet potatoes. When making your green bean casserole, skip the canned veggies and purchase fresh green beans. Sticking to natural and whole ingredients will help you make sure your meal has as much nutritional value as possible. To help with this, shop the perimeters of the grocery store. Load your cart with produce, meats and dairy products, while avoiding the center of the store where the packaged snacks and canned ingredients live. Take the challenge and purchase only real, natural ingredients to cook your next meal.
Bottom line, comfort foods should still be comforting. Don’t change your meal so much that it’s unrecognizable. Instead, make better choices in areas you feel you can sacrifice while remaining satisfied. Carry this mentality on to the holidays and you’ll be off to a healthier you!