healthy comfort food for you

Healthy comfort food could be an oxymoron to some. Can you really eat warm, yummy fall dishes and still stay healthy? The answer is, yes!

In fall, the weather gets colder and many crave warm foods that are filling and make us feel cozy. This may be the body’s way of getting ready for winter when historically there was less food and people lived on stores: root cellar stores and their own fat reserves. Now, we have grocery stores and there is no shortage of food, but our body still says, “Cold weather! Time to stock up!”

Even though we do not need to eat more in the fall, there is something to be said about warm, savory, starchy foods. They just make us happy. Keep in mind that you can eat anything, yes anything, occasionally. Even chicken fried in lard or the double chocolate cake will not make you fat or cause you to die of coronary artery disease if only eaten a few times a year. It’s the cumulative effect of lousy eating that makes us fat, not the one-time treats.

However, there are ways to indulge in healthy foods that are still yummy and satisfying.

Pasta is probably the ultimate comfort food. Quick and easy to make, it is enjoyed by many, and there are a million ways to eat it. However, it is usually made with white flour, which is processed by the body in a similar manner to table sugar and has very little nutritional value. Pasta sauces can be high in sugar and sodium as well. And loading the whole thing down with cheese only makes it worse.

The solution? Whole grain pasta! It has a slightly different texture, but is still delicious, and is about 20 calories less per serving than regular pasta. (Hint: don’t tell the kids it’s different. Often it’s a mental block that keeps kids from eating new foods.) Buy plain tomato sauce instead of pasta sauce, and season it yourself with fresh or dried herbs. Check the ingredients for sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and sodium. Don’t buy meat sauce; it is higher in fat, and as far as cheese goes, buy strongly-flavored cheeses, like extra-sharp cheddar. You will end up using less.

whole grain pasta recipe

The solution? Whole grain pasta! It has a slightly different texture, but is still delicious, and is about 20 calories less per serving than regular pasta. (Hint: don’t tell the kids it’s different. Often it’s a mental block that keeps kids from eating new foods.) Buy plain tomato sauce instead of pasta sauce, and season it yourself with fresh or dried herbs. Check the ingredients for sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and sodium. Don’t buy meat sauce; it is higher in fat, and as far as cheese goes, buy strongly-flavored cheeses, like extra-sharp cheddar. You will end up using less.

Another common fall comfort food is sweet potatoes. They’re delicious and can be fixed a number of ways. However, they often have 100 or more calories per half-cup serving, without any butter, sugar, or other additives. The solution? Eat squash. Squash comes in numerous varieties and is far lower in calories than that of sweet potatoes.

One half-cup serving of baked winter squash has only 38 calories, with nothing added. The advantage is obvious, squash comes in varieties that can be mashed, baked, cooked (like spaghetti), added to soup, and fried. Substitute squash for regular potatoes, pasta, rice, or any other starchy dish.

One half-cup serving of baked winter squash has only 38 calories, with nothing added. The advantage is obvious, squash comes in varieties that can be mashed, baked, cooked (like spaghetti), added to soup, and fried. Substitute squash for regular potatoes, pasta, rice, or any other starchy dish.

A third classic autumn food is the apple pie. It is one of my personal favorites, especially if it is homemade with a  flaky crust. There is a way to have that yummy hot apple flavor without all the calories too! If you buy store-made apple pies more frequently, a great option is a warm baked apple.

One can cook them in the microwave. Simply core the apple, put sugar, seasonings, and a bit (perhaps a teaspoon) of butter in the middle of the apple, and cook until the apple is hot and soft. The length of time depends on your microwave but start with two minutes. While a slice of apple pie runs around 350 calories even without ice cream, a sweetened baked apple is about 160, even with the sugar!

One can cook them in the microwave. Simply core the apple, put sugar, seasonings, and a bit (perhaps a teaspoon) of butter in the middle of the apple, and cook until the apple is hot and soft. The length of time depends on your microwave but start with two minutes. While a slice of apple pie runs around 350 calories even without ice cream, a sweetened baked apple is about 160, even with the sugar!

 Here’s how to bake a healthy apple pie ( for all the fitness freaks)

 

Enjoying delicious fall foods does not necessarily mean destroying your diet. It just means eating in moderation and making a few substitutions; ones that are still delicious. If we take these simple steps, we won’t spend New Years Day guilt-ridden, resolving once again to lose those holiday pounds. We will instead be able to focus on other things and enjoy those family dinners knowing that we can get back on track the very next day, and enjoy doing it!