Guilt-Free Comfort Food

6 healthy twists on favourites

Guilt-Free Comfort Food

Comfort food is generally defined as any food that creates a sense of well-being. The foods that individuals consider comforting can vary greatly. But with a few tweaks, any comfort food can be enjoyed guilt free.

If mashed potatoes make you smile and chocolate cake melts away a stressful day, you’re not alone. Researchers at McGill and Cornell universities have found that traditional comfort foods not only lift our spirits when we feel down but also intensify the positive emotions we feel when we’re happy.

Comfort food is generally defined as any food that creates a sense of well-being. The foods that individuals consider comforting can vary greatly.

Unfortunately, for those who look to high-fat and sugary foods for solace, a study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior (2005), found that the feel-good effects associated with comfort foods are often diminished (especially in women) by accompanying guilt.

But with a few tweaks, any comfort food can be enjoyed guilt free, says Zannat Reza, a registered dietician and nutrition consultant.

By adding antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, substituting high-fat ingredients for low-fat alternatives, and cutting back on portion size, Reza puts a healthy spin on five feel-good favourites.

Mac ’n’ cheese

Reza gives this classic comfort food a healthy makeover by using cancer-fighting broccoli or cauliflower soup as the sauce base, adding tuna or salmon for a dose of heart-healthy omega-3, and upping the fibre content by opting for whole wheat macaroni over its refined white counterpart.

French fries

Replace regular potatoes with sweet potatoes. Low in fat, high in dietary fibre, and packed full of vitamin A, baked sweet potato wedges are a perfect alternative to trans fat-laden french fries. For added flavour, season the wedges with a little salt, pepper, and rosemary.

Mashed potatoes

Eliminate the fat associated with mashed potatoes by using low-fat, skim, or soy milk or vegetable broth when mashing; season with a clove of minced garlic and/or 1 tsp (5 mL) of dried rosemary. A medium-sized potato contains almost 80 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C along with B6, zinc, iron, and magnesium.

Pot pies

If you find yourself craving the familiar warmth of chicken pot pie this winter, you can significantly reduce the amount of calories this comforting dish contains by simply cutting the crust off the sides.

Ice cream

The key to enjoying this feel-good staple is controlling portion size. Don’t eat more than half a cup. If you’re counting calories, you might want to skip the ice cream altogether and opt for sorbet topped with antioxidant-rich berries instead.

Chocolate

Eating a square of dark chocolate a day is a resolution almost anyone can keep. Rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, studies have shown that when consumed daily, small amounts of dark chocolate (containing at least 70 percent cacao) can lower high blood pressure and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

When indulging in this calorie-rich treat, splurge on the best quality chocolate. If you really taste every bite, you’ll find that a little goes a long way.

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