One of the toughest challenges many people face while trying to stay healthy is cravings for their favorite foods. Everyone has a variety of favorite comfort foods that they like to turn to at certain times, whether it’s when they are feeling down, getting together with family and friends or just wanting to taste something that reminds them of home. Fortunately, not all comfort foods are necessarily bad for you. By making smart choices when it comes to your favorite foods, like incorporating healthy ingredients, you can create comfort foods that you won’t feel guilty about eating. The following is a list of some healthy comfort foods and tips for making them more nutritious.
1. Macaroni and Cheese
This is one of the most common comfort foods, but it can definitely be unhealthy depending on how it is prepared. Rather than making your mac and cheese with butter, full-fat cheese and whole milk, make it with healthier substitutes like butter, light cream cheese and skim milk. Additionally, you can add in some ingredients which make mac and cheese more nutritious, like tomatoes, spinach, peppers or beans.
Many types of chili that you’ll come across have way too much sodium and fat to be considered healthy. However, if you make your own with some healthy ingredients it can be a guilt-free comfort food. Use ground turkey instead of beef for lower fat content, and make sure to include lots of healthy ingredients such as corn, tomatoes and beans. Skip the cheese and sour cream and go easy on the salt.
There are dozens of types of soup that people consider to be comfort foods, but the healthiest type of soup that you can choose is a stew or broth. When making this soup, you can be sure to include healthy ingredients like navy beans, kidney beans, black beans, lean meats and vegetables. These add lots of protein and nutrients and make the soup more filling without adding too many calories or grams of fat.
Like soup, there are many types of casseroles that people love to eat as a comfort food. Also like soup, casseroles can be much healthier when made with lots of healthy proteins and vegetables. You can also substitute certain ingredients, like using skim milk instead of whole milk or light cream cheese instead of butter. Finally, make sure you’re preparing meats in the healthiest way possible. Always remove the skin and as much fat as you can from meats, and grill or bake it instead of frying it.
5. Spaghetti and Meatballs
This is a classic dish that reminds many people of dinners at home when they were growing up. Get a taste of your childhood without the guilt by using whole wheat spaghetti in your recipe. When making the meatballs, substitute ground beef for ground turkey or low-fat turkey sausage. It tastes just as great without all the fat.
6. Mashed Potatoes
In addition to being a comfort food, mashed potatoes are one of the most common side dishes for dinner. You can cut a huge amount of fat when making mashed potatoes by substituting buttermilk for cream. While you’re at it, add in some healthy ingredients to make your mashed potatoes more flavorful. Garlic, squash, zucchini and green onion all taste delicious when mixed in with mashed potatoes.
7. French Fries
French fries are another potato comfort food, and one that is almost always unhealthy. However, you can make your own French fries at home to enjoy this salty snack with less guilt afterwards. Simply season and bake some freshly cut potatoes right in the oven. Without the oils involved in frying, your baked French fries will have a fraction of the fat.
This pasta dish holds a special place in many people’s hearts, and the good thing is that it’s easy to make a healthy version of this classic meal. Many people are accustomed to having lasagna with meat, but it’s actually just as tasty when made with vegetables. Skip the beef and include hearty, flavorful veggies like zucchini, spinach and eggplant, all of which go perfectly with the antioxidant-rich tomato sauce and fiber-rich pasta. You can make this dish even healthier by using whole wheat pasta and choosing a low-sodium sauce or making fresh sauce at home.
Whatever comfort foods you decide to eat, it’s important to keep in mind that portions are just as important as ingredients when it comes to making a healthy meal. Since we tend to love comfort foods so much, it’s easy to overeat when having them. Even if you make a nutrient-rich, low-fat soup, casserole or pasta dish, it’s important o keep your portions under control in order to keep your calorie and fat intake under control.