With an historic snowstorm blowing our way, you’re probably thinking about getting cozy at home this weekend and cooking some warm, hearty comfort food. Comfort food serves us well emotionally, but oftentimes is loaded with cheese, grease, salt or sugar. So how can you stick to your health and wellness goals while also indulging in your favorite comfort foods? Here are 6 ways you can make your favorite comfort food a little healthier:
- Add vegetables – One of my favorite meals is macaroni and cheese; I make a batch of white cheddar mac from scratch during the holidays. But it’s basically a delicious pile of fat, salt and carbs. Adding a cup or two of fresh or frozen vegetables to the mix is a great way to enjoy yourself but still get your daily dose of healthy vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Broccoli is the classic choice for macaroni and cheese, but you could also try cauliflower, cooked edamame (remove them from their pods first), or zucchini. Actually – swapping lasagna noodles for zucchini is one of my favorite ways to add veggies to comfort food.
- Swap out for a leaner protein – The recipe I’m obsessed with right now is shepherd’s pie. (Yes, I get weird about recipes) but I’m also trying to reduce the amount of red meat I eat. So, I’ve started swapping out the ground beef in my shepherd’s pie for ground turkey. Once you mix in tomato paste and herbs, you can hardly tell it’s not beef. This is the shepherd’s pie recipe I love right now, which as you’ll see calls for ground beef, but just substitute the same quantity of ground turkey.
- Half your serving of meat – there’s nothing nutritionally wrong with animal proteins, but many people are looking for ways to increase their daily servings of vegetables and reduce their meat intake. Try swapping half the meat in a recipe for beans or mushrooms – both of these foods are filling and can absorb the flavor of the meat – you might not even notice the difference while you’re eating.
- Add fruits – Oatmeal is so delicious on a chilly day, but many times its served swimming in butter or milk and brown sugar. A little bit of these tasty add-ins is fine, but if you’d really like to punch up the flavor of oatmeal, try adding dried or fresh fruits and a handful of nuts.
- Sweeten with honey – Honey is a sugar, there’s no getting around that just because it’s “natural” but, honey has a much more complex flavor than white sugar, and you can use less of it as a result.
- Reduce the sodium – These days most people buy broth for their recipes from the store, packaged in a can or a carton. Look around for a variety that says “less sodium” or “no added sodium” on the label. This will let you control the amount of sodium in the final result. Some types of canned vegetables and beans also come in a reduced sodium variety. If you’d really like to make your own broth, here’s a recipe for homemade chicken broth with no added salt (which I find much tastier than store bought).
Ultimately, life is meant to be enjoyed, and we’d never expect you to give up your favorite comfort foods. But, by making a few swaps, additions or changes, you can both eat your cake and enjoy it too!