It’s the fall season, the holiday season, and the eating season. We dig into lots of comfort food this time of year – here are some tips to make your favorite comfort foods healthier.
1. Mac & cheese
Some hot and gooey mac and cheese can be just the thing to warm you up on a cold day. To make it healthy, try adding pureed butternut squash or pumpkin into your cheese sauce, so you can dial back on the milk and cheese. Not only does that cut back on the fat and calories, it adds fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C.
2. Pumpkin frappe
Pumpkin season doesn’t need to end at Halloween. Instead of going to Starbucks, save the money and make a no-sugar-added version at home. Blend unsweetened almond milk with a frozen banana, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla extract.
3. Meat loaf
Mom’s meat loaf can taste great, but it isn’t necessarily that good for you. Try decreasing calories and saturated fat by using turkey, lean grass-fed ground beef, or a combination of the two. Mix in low-cal sources of flavors such as chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, canned green chilies, lentils, or sugar-free canned corn. Try swapping out empty-calorie breadcrumbs for healthy oatmeal. Using more veggies and less meat will help you save money, too.
4. Tomato soup
Tomato soup is a classic, but it is also classically heavy in calories with ingredients such as butter and heavy cream. Try pureeing canned Roma tomatoes, a jar of roasted bell peppers, low-sodium veggie broth, and fresh basil.
If you prefer a creamier texture, use unsweetened cashew milk instead. It has rich texture, mild flavor and includes healthy fats, protein, fiber, and minerals such as magnesium and potassium, which help regulate blood sugar.
5. Apple crisp
Just because it has fruit doesn’t mean it’s healthier for you. There’s fiber and vitamin C in those apples – but there’s also butter and sugar in that crisp, which are wads of calories.
Try roasting apples with some cinnamon, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. And instead of ice cream, try adding some Greek yogurt, which is lower in sugar and calories.
6. Mashed potatoes
What holiday meal doesn’t include mashed potatoes? And all the high-calorie cream and butter that goes with them? Instead, use cauliflower or a blend of turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, and carrots.
Steam the veggies and mash them up with fat-free half-and-half, light cream cheese, low-sodium chicken broth, and a tablespoon of grass-fed butter. You can also add Parmesan or goat cheese for flavor. Don’t forget to add garlic, chives and thyme, to reap the benefits of their inflammation-fighting and flavor-boosting superpowers.
Saturdays and Sunday during football season – great days to eat and watch TV, but not the healthiest days on the calendar. Cut fat from your go-to game-day chili recipe by using a lean protein such as chicken, turkey, or bison. To cut back on salt, select lower-sodium beans and canned tomatoes. Instead of rice, opt for steamed greens or cauliflower rice, which can be made by grating or processing cauliflower and heating it with a touch of oil in a pan.
8. Pumpkin bread
If baking with pumpkin is your autumn delight, there are some excellent recipes out there for vegan pumpkin bread (look for one that swaps out eggs for heart-healthy ground flaxseed.) Even if you want to keep the eggs, add a cup of shredded zucchini, which tastes great with pumpkin and adds protein, potassium and vitamin C.
I can hear it now – how DARE you touch my pizza! I’m right there with you – there are few things as comforting as a good pie.
The good news is, you don’t have to make it with a tofu crust to make a healthier substitute. Use chickpea flour to make farinata – an unleavened flat cake. Bake it, and serve with pizza toppings. You can bite into that loaded slice a little more sensibly.
10. Roasted vegetables
Wait – roasted vegetables? How can they get any healthier? It all depends on the sauce you cook them in. If you’re using sugary sauces with brown sugar and maple syrup, then you can do better. Try roasting veggies in pomegranate juice, which is filled with antioxidants. For a more savory touch, try using olive oil, sea salt and herbs such as rosemary and oregano.