Can Comfort Food Ever Be Healthy?
Tis the season for comfort food! Now that things have got a lot colder outside, there is nothing better than getting home from work and snuggling up on the sofa in front of a box set and enjoying your favorite comfort food. This hibernating-like behavior is one of the best things about winter!
Unfortunately, though, all of that comfort eating isn’t very good for our waistband or overall health. It’s ever so easy to eat too many calories and sugar, as most comfort foods have lots of hidden bad ingredients. After all, it’s all those calories and sugar that make them taste so good!
But don’t worry if you are worried that all this vegging on the sofa is going to make you put on some extra pounds. You just need to ensure that you make some healthy comfort meals and dishes. Don’t think that’s possible? Think again! Here are some super-healthy versions of everyone’s favorite comfort foods.
Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Mac ‘n’ cheese is one of the most popular comfort dishes out there. I mean, who doesn’t love pasta and cheese?! Unfortunately, all that pasta and cheese comes with a lot of calories. Plus, if you use one of the box mixes that are available in the supermarkets, you will find that you end up consuming a lot of hidden sugar, salt, and fat. So, it’s always best to make your mac ‘n’ cheese from scratch – just like grandma used to! You should also mix in lots of fresh veggies so that you don’t end up eating too much pasta. That way, you are lowering your calorie intake and also getting lots of healthy nutrients.
Here’s a great recipe when you fancy some good ol’ mac ‘n’ cheese but want to keep things healthy.
- 8 oz macaroni
- A small knob of butter
- 2 oz plain flour
- 1 pint of milk
- 8 oz grated cheddar cheese
- 1 cup chopped broccoli
- 1 cup garden peas
- Cook the macaroni according to the instructions on the packet. Once cooked, set to one side.
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 356 Fahrenheit.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan. Once fully melted, add the flour and combine well to make a thick paste.
- Slowly add the milk while stirring. This should eventually create a creamy sauce. Stir in the cheese until it is melted.
- Once the cheese is melted in the sauce, put the macaroni in an oven-proof dish and cover with the sauce.
- Mix in the chopped broccoli and peas until everything is covered in the cheesy sauce.
- Cook in the oven for thirty minutes or until the top of the pasta is golden brown.
If you want to keep this dish even lower in fat, you could reduce the amount of cheese you add to it.
On the face of it, shepherd’s pie seems like a really healthy dish. After all, it’s got all the food groups in it – meat, carbohydrates (potatoes), and vegetables. However, it’s easy to go over the top when you make this pie and end up adding too many unhealthy ingredients. For instance, I know that a lot of people like to make indulgent mashed potato for the topping by adding lots of cream and butter, and then sprinkle lots of cheese on top. Sure, it tastes great, but you need to replace some of those ingredients with healthier substitutes. This recipe has some great ideas.
- 2 large potatoes
- 1 medium-sized head of cauliflower
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1 lb minced beef
- 1 tablespoon of moringa leaf powder (you can find this online or at most health-food stores)
- 1 onion
- 1 liter beef stock
- Frozen veggies of your choice
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
- First of all, make the potato topping. Boil the potatoes until soft and then mash them well.
- Chop and boil the cauliflower until very soft. Then drain and mash this as well. You might find it easier to use a food processor for this.
- Once you’ve mashed the potatoes and cauliflower, mix this all together into a smooth consistency. Add the butter for flavor.
- Next, it’s time to focus on the filling. Fry the beef until cooked, and then add the onion until it softens.
- Sprinkle in the moringa leaf powder – this will add a slightly spinachy flavor to the dish as well as lots of important nutrients and antioxidants. Great to help you stay healthy through winter!
- Mix in your frozen vegetables to the pan and wait for them to defrost.
- Add the stock, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce, and mix well until you get a smooth consistency. Allow all of this to simmer for around twenty minutes.
- Once the filling is cooked through and the sauce has slightly reduced, you can then add this to an ovenproof dish. Spoon the cauliflower and potato topping and smooth over. Add grated cheese if you like.
- This whole dish should then be cooked for around half an hour at 180 Celsius or 365 Fahrenheit.
Alternatively, you might prefer not to add the frozen vegetables to the dish and instead cook some fresh vegetables as a side. That’s entirely up to you!
Meat lovers absolutely adore meatloaf. All of that meat in there tastes fantastic, and it is such a diverse dish that can be eaten warm or cold. However, it is often made with lots of beef and pork; meats that aren’t exactly the healthiest that there is! But as long as you switch your meats to turkey and add in some sneaky veggies, you can actually make a pretty mean meatloaf. And one that you don’t have to worry about when it comes to the calories!
- 1 lb of ground turkey
- 1 diced zucchini
- 1 yellow and 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, diced
- 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes
- 1 beaten egg
- 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped thyme
- 1 of cup breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons of ketchup
- 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
- Preheat your oven to 425 Fahrenheit or 200 Celsius.
- Fry the diced zucchini, peppers, and garlic all together in a heavy bottomed pan. After a few minutes, add the chilli flakes. Keep on cooking until all of the vegetables are cooked and then set the pan to one side.
- Once the vegetables have cooled down, pour them into a large bowl. Add the turkey, breadcrumbs, balsamic vinegar, and ketchup to the bowl and mix well. Don’t be scared to use your hands and get them a bit messy – this will help ensure that all the ingredients are combined together well.
- Take the beaten egg and whisk in the chopped thyme. Pour this egg mixture to the meat mixture and, again, combine using your hands.
- Take your mixture and press it into a large loaf tin. It’s a good idea to take a bit of extra ketchup and spread this on top, as it will keep the mixture moist.
- Bake in the oven for around an hour and then leave it to rest for about ten minutes before you slice into it.
Think brownies have to be packed full of chocolate, sugar, and carbs? Not always! Use this recipe if you want some healthy brownies to snack on.
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 1 cup of sliced Medjool dates
- ½ cup of coconut flour
- ¼ cup of raw cocoa powder
- ½ cup of maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 egg
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius or 356 Fahrenheit.
- Peel and dice your sweet potatoes and boil them until they are soft.
- Use a food processor to blend together the dates and sweet potatoes until they make a smooth consistency.
- Add this mixture to a bowl and stir in the coconut flour, raw cocoa powder, baking powder, and maple syrup. Add the egg to help combine everything together.
- Once the mixture is well-mixed and is quite dense, you need to add it to a baking tray. Don’t forget to cover the tray with some baking parchment so that the finished brownies don’t stick once they come out of the oven!
- Place the tray in the oven and cook for around half an hour. The brownies should still be quite soft once you take them out.
- Leave the brownies to cool before you cut into them.
Once you’ve cut up the brownies, make sure that you store them in the fridge as they can go off quicker than other types because of all the sweet potato in them! If you want, you can add some chopped nuts to the mixture as well for an extra crunch!
As you can see, comfort food doesn’t always have to be unhealthy! Hopefully, all of the above recipes can help you enjoy all of your favorite dishes and meals without worrying about their calorie content! And it’s easy to make all of these recipes even more healthy – you just need to add as many vegetables as you can while you are cooking! The more you squeeze in, the more vitamins and minerals you will be getting!