7 Tips for making your favorite comfort foods healthier
After a particularly stressful day, a big bowl of steamed kale isn't likely what you're craving. But a loaded grilled cheese sandwich and chicken soup like mom used to make? That always makes you feel a whole lot better.
Comfort foods are generally high-calorie, high-fat foods that we often associate with special people or moments in our lives, according to a 2015 study published in Appetite magazine. When we're feeling stressed, mad, sad, tired or any combination of those emotions, we tend to gravitate to these foods because they make us feel temporarily better.
From a momentary prospective, indulging in comfort food is fine; but in the long run, healthier eating is a better choice. There's no reason to give up these flavors entirely, though. Here are seven simple tweaks to make go-to comfort foods a bit healthier:
1. Enjoy "fried" food minus the grease: Skip deep-frying and opt instead for oven-baked "fried" chicken. Dip the chicken in egg, dredge in seasoned flour or breadcrumbs and coat with a canola or olive oil cooking spray. Baking at 425˚ to 450˚ helps cut the calories almost in half.
2. Use whole grains in baked goods: Replacing half the all-purpose flour in baked goods with whole-wheat flour adds fiber (12 more grams per cup) and boosts essential B vitamins, zinc and magnesium.
3. Use egg whites in place of whole eggs: An egg white has only 16 calories and 0 grams of fat, compared to an egg yolk's 54 calories and 5 grams of fat. Try using two egg whites in place of one whole egg in almost any recipe.
4. Swap good fats for bad: Butter makes everything taste better, and it can't always be replaced completely - especially when it comes to baked goods. But to cut down on saturated fat, try using canola or olive oil as much as possible. Tablespoon for tablespoon, butter has a whopping seven times more saturated fat than oil. Experiment with some of your favorite recipes by replacing half the butter with oil.
5. Creamy dishes without the cream: Creamy sauces, while delicious, are loaded with butter, heavy cream and/or cheese. Try substituting low-fat milk thickened with flour in recipes that call for heavy cream. One cup of flour-thickened low-fat milk saves 680 calories and 53 grams of saturated fat.
6. "Slimmed down" homemade ice cream: Low-fat milk thickened with gelatin mimics the smooth texture of full-fat ice cream, but it cuts nearly 100 calories and ten grams of saturated fat.
7. Reduce the cheese: Using boldly flavored cheeses like extra-sharp cheddar, goat cheese or Parmigiano-Reggiano allows you to use less cheese, cutting fat and calories without skimping on flavor.