Learn how to easily turn your favorite comfort foods into healthy, satisfying recipes. All without sacrificing flavor!
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15 Simple Ways to Make Comfort Food Healthy
There’s nothing more comforting than a nice hot, cheesy meal on a winter’s day. The problem is, what many of us consider to be winter comfort foods aren’t always as healthy as we might think. Let's take a look at Ways to Make Comfort Food Healthy!
FACT: Many comfort foods are high in simple carbohydrates like white flour and sugar, instead of healthier complex carbs like whole wheat flour, legumes, and vegetables. Simple carbohydrates can reduce our serotonin levels and make us tired (and even depressed), which is quite the opposite of what comfort food should do!
According to Health Line, simple carbs equal simplistic nutrition and, therefore, should be limited in your diet in favor of more complex carbs like fruit, nuts, and whole grains.
Also, many traditional comfort food recipes include ingredients high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, so curbing those is only going to help your waistline and keep your family healthy.
Related: Healthy Food Recipes
How to Lighten Up Comfort Food
With all this in mind, let’s look at how the comfort foods we love can really be good for us. Trust us, your family won't know the difference if the flavor is good!
- Macaroni and Cheese, Lasagne, and Other Pasta: Use whole wheat noodles and replace any flour in the recipes with whole wheat flour. Add more vegetables and reduce the cheese and meat content in your casseroles.
- Fried Food: Instead of frying, try baking your chicken, veggies, or fries. And don’t forget to use wheat flour and egg whites instead of a whole egg.
- Soups: Forego the canned varieties that are incredibly high in cholesterol and make your soup fresh where possible. It’s not as complicated as you might think, and it tastes much better. When making your own soup, always skim the fat of your soup stock and use plenty of vegetables. If you don’t have time to make your own stock, choose the low sodium pre-made varieties.
- Chili and stew: Choose leaner cuts of meat. For example, a turkey chili can be just as hearty and delicious as its ground beef counterpart. Of course, don’t forget to load up your chili with vegetables. When making stew, always cut the fat off the meat before cooking and use wheat flour for thickening your delicious meal. If serving bread, use whole wheat, and reduce or forego the butter. A warm whole wheat baguette dipped in homemade chili or stew just doesn’t need the extra added fat and cholesterol.
Practical Swaps for Healthier Comfort Food
It doesn’t matter what your preferred comfort foods are (we’re looking at you Mac & Cheese), you can use this simple guide to prepare many of your favorite meals at little healthier without sacrificing flavor:
- Whole wheat flour replaces white flour.
- Olive oil or coconut oil replaces butter, margarine, and other oils.
- Swap whole eggs for egg whites.
- Use applesauce instead of vegetable oil for baking.
- Skip the butter on bread and vegetables. Use seasoning instead.
- Reduce processed sugar in recipes. Use ingredients like vanilla, cinnamon or other extracts to add a sweet flavor. Or substitute honey or maple syrup.
- Choose leaner cuts of meat and cut off any visible fats before cooking. You can also remove the skin from chicken, or to retain juiciness remove the skin before eating.
- Use skim milk instead of whole milk.
- Swap heavy cream for evaporated skim milk.
- Skip the mayonnaise and opt for non-fat plain yogurt.
- Reduce salt in recipes dramatically. Most recipes don’t actually need salt, excluding ones that include yeast for leavening like bread.
- Cook more meals instead of eating packaged ones.
- Make smart cheese choices. Opt for cheeses that are big on flavor (like tangy goat cheese), so you can use less.
- Try substituting vegetable or chicken stock for cream.
- When in doubt, add more vegetables.
Tip: Screen Shot this guide to keep for reference.
Put Your Slow Cooker to Use for Healthy Recipes
It’s easy to make clean, healthy recipes in your crock pot, so try one of these family favorites:
Eating healthy doesn’t mean avoiding your favorite comfort foods, because life without pizza isn’t doable! But it could mean adjusting things just a little. Keep these tips in mind when preparing your next meal to stay healthy, happy, and trim this winter.