When the days are short and the nights are long it’s only natural you start craving certain comfort foods. Those stick to your ribs meals that help keep you warm inside when it’s cold outside.
When the temperature plummets visions of thick hearty stews, steaming cheesy pastas, and crusty warm baked goods start to dance through your head.
They’re delicious, all right. But few of our favorite carb–heavy, stick to your HIPS comfort foods could be considered healthy.
Until now, that is. Because we’re going to show you how to make healthier versions of your favorite comfort foods that still taste delicious, but are better for you.
Yes, you can still indulge in some of your cold-weather favorites while avoiding gaining the dreaded “winter 15.”
Blame those comfort food cravings on the science
If you find yourself eating more – and heavier – in the winter months, you’re not alone. The good news—AND the bad news—is it’s not in your head.
You really are craving different foods now that it’s cold.
It works like this – when the temperature outside drops, your body temperature drops. That’s when a genetic survival instinct kicks in and you start craving the kinds of foods that will raise your temperature and raise it quickly.
In other words, carbohydrates, starches and sugars.
Unfortunately, eating them also sets up a cycle. You eat a big, heavy meal that warms you up by raising your blood sugar – but then makes you hungry again not soon after when your blood sugar goes back down.
Your body is setting you up to want comfort foods, and want a lot of them, often.
So, your cravings are real. Now, the question becomes how to handle them. It can feel like you either have to deprive yourself, or give up on your health goals.
But there’s a third option: make comfort foods healthier!
Find the food swaps that work for you
You’ve been there before, trying to make a healthier choice swapping out one food for another because a friend or coworker swears it tastes just as good. Only to discover it really doesn’t.
Or finding a substitute that really does work, only to realize you’ve swapped one unhealthy choice for another.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We’re going to look at ways to make comfort foods healthier and still delicious.
Let’s start with real ingredients. Even in winter, it’s possible to get fresh vegetables and herbs for your healthier comfort foods. If you need to, hit the frozen aisle. There are plenty of fruits and vegetables that are frozen without preservatives, or added salt or sugar. And that’s the key.
When you start with fresh, real ingredients, instead of prepackaged products, you can add the flavors you want.
A sprinkle of sea salt here or a pinch of stevia there can really help a recipe shine. And it isn’t going to be harmful like the hundreds and thousands of milligrams of junk salt, white sugar, preservatives and additives such as monosodium glutamate that are hidden in most processed pre-packaged foods.
Even better, you may discover you don’t need nearly as much salt or sweetener when you can actually taste the fresh food!
6 simple food swaps you can make starting TODAY
Following are six simple swaps you can do to make any comfort food a bit healthier…
Speaking of salt, let’s start there. In most recipes, you can reduce the salt by at least 25%. Measure out all the salt called for and then take ¼ of it away. And while you’re at it why not switch out the typical table salt for a mineral-rich Celtic or French grey sea salt or a pink Himalayan version instead?
2. Vegetable oil:
For an added bonus, replace half your vegetable oil with unsweetened apple sauce. Note – this doesn’t work well for cookies. If you’re going to make cookies, don’t swap out oil for applesauce. It’s great for cakes and fruit breads, though!
Or swap the veggie oil for the same amount of organic coconut oil your recipe calls for. Since coconut oil I solid at room temperature you can heat the oil a bit first for easier measuring.
3. Enriched white and refined flour:
Instead of reaching for refined flour or enriched white flour products, find organic whole wheat flour alternatives. Or get more adventurous with flour made from almond meal, oat, millet or barley.
And remember, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Your favorite comfort foods are automatically healthier if you use half white flour and half whole wheat flour. But why not make the full switch? It’s painless, we promise.
4. Sour cream:
And who doesn’t love sour cream? Don’t give it up – reach for plain Greek yogurt instead. Once it’s in a recipe, you’ll be hard pressed to tell the difference.
In beef soups and stews, make sure you’re using grass fed, organic beef. Start using half the amount of red meat you were using and make up the volume with fresh vegetables. You’ll get the same taste and more delicious nutritious vegetables.
Finally, try new herbs and spices. Flavor doesn’t have to come from fat, salt, and sugar. Experiment with garlic and rosemary. Sage and thyme. Curry and cumin.
Two delicious & healthier comfort food recipes to try
All of this is great in theory, but when it comes time to cook, theory only goes so far. We understand.
This is why we’ve compiled these healthier comfort food recipes you’re going to love.
|Chickpea Crusted Chicken|
|Fried chicken is a year-round comfort food and while baking helps make it healthier, the white flour coating doesn’t help. Try this version instead.
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
• Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over each piece of chicken. Let rest for 10 minutes.
• Lightly oil a small pan with the olive oil, so the chicken won’t stick.
• Combine yogurt, olive oil, tandoori spice and lemon juice. The mixture should be pasty. Thicker is fine as it will form a thicker crust as it cooks.
• Roll your chicken around in the yogurt mixture and pat the coating all over the chicken pieces. Let the coated chicken pieces rest in the oiled pan for 5 minutes.
• Then bake for 8-10 minutes. Finish the chicken under the broiler, letting the yogurt mixture dry out and brown slightly. It’s ready when the crust is brown and the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees.
|There’s very little more satisfying than sitting down to a big bowl of spaghetti on a cold winter night. Now you don’t have to give that up just because you want healthier comfort foods!
• Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
• Slice squash in half, lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Rub with a light layer of olive oil and place cut-side down on a roasting pan. Bake for 45-60 minutes. The squash is done when you can pierce it easily with a fork.
• Remove from oven and let cool just enough to be safe to handle. Scrape squash strands into a bowl or onto plates. Top with your favorite pasta toppings and enjoy!
Your body wants comfort foods. You want to stay healthy. Now, you can do both!
Go ahead, indulge this winter and still meet your health goals come spring. It really IS possible to avoid gaining the dreaded “winter 15” with delicious, healthier comfort foods!