Say the words "comfort food" and what comes to mind? Maybe it's piping-hot macaroni and cheese with a crunchy, golden-brown crust, or chewy, gooey chocolate chip cookies warm from the oven. What about a big mound of fluffy white mashed potatoes with a pool of melted butter dripping down the side?
Comfort foods are "feel good" foods. They soothe and nurture us, and encourage that secure, "filled-up" feeling in our stomachs. Just biting into a favorite food takes you back to a time when you felt happy and nourished, loved and cared for. It's hard to argue with the kind of power, especially considering the world events we've experienced lately. We shouldn't deny ourselves foods with emotional attachments. If we do deprive ourselves, we'll just want to eat more and more.
Keep the Comfort, Lose the Calories
We want our comfort foods, but we also want to keep calories and fat grams in check. If you can modify comfort foods for fat and calories and still have them taste delicious, then you can enjoy them even more. But can we truly satisfy our desire for comfort foods without going way over budget in the calorie and fat columns? You bet. With a few tried-and-true kitchen tricks, most comfort foods can successfully survive a major calorie renovation and still keep our taste buds and tummies happy.
Lightening up your favorite comfort foods is all about the three R's:
- Reduce the amount of high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie ingredients used in the recipe (don't forget to reduce portion sizes, too!);
- Replace the high-fat and high-sugar ingredients with reduced-fat or reduced-sugar ingredients;
- Remove some unnecessary high-fat or high-sugar ingredients completely.
Lighten up Top 10 Comfort Foods
- If you know you'll want that pat of butter melting atop mashed potatoes, reduce or eliminate the butter you use in making them.
- To lighten packaged macaroni and cheese, make it with 2 Tbsp of butter instead of 4.
- If you cut the fat too much in your chocolate chip cookie, it isn't a cookie anymore, it's a chocolate chip muffin. You can substitute 1/3 to 1/2 of the butter or shortening with light or fat-free cream cheese.
- There are some really creamy and flavorful light ice creams in the market. Look for brands that contain 4 grams fat per 1/2 cup serving. This way, it's lower in fat and calories, but still satisfies.
- Clear broth and tomato-based soups are usually low in fat. But if you're buying canned soups, check the calories and grams of fat on the nutrition label to make sure.
- If you're ordering pizza, your best bet is to forgo the extra cheese, and top your pizza with veggies rather than meat
- Trim pot roast of any visible fat before you cook it and try not to add too much fat while preparing it.
- Fried chicken fans can still get the crispy browned breading on the outside and the moist, juicy chicken on the inside by oven-frying breaded chicken sprayed with a thin layer of canola oil cooking spray. Remove the skin from the chicken breast before coating.
- Pasta noodles themselves aren't high in fat; it's what we pour on them that gets us into trouble. You can make low-fat and -calorie creamy sauces by using less butter and switching to low-fat milk or fat-free half & half instead of cream or whole milk.
- A grilled cheese sandwich lower in fat and calories is a non-stick frying pan away. Coat the bread with a spray of canola cooking spray and use your favorite reduced-fat cheese.