During cold winter months, it’s hard not to crave cozy comfort foods to get rid of those cold-weather blues. The problem is that these comforting foods tend to lean toward the cheesy, creamy side and aren’t so great when you’re trying to shed holiday pounds.
As a compromise, we found some quick tips for cutting down on calories and fat so that you can still enjoy your favorite foods without feeling guilty, because eating should always be an enjoyable and delicious task. This way, you eat what you want and feel good, too.
To come up with these tips, we needed to turn to a pro — someone who could make comfort foods taste good without packing in the calories. And who did we find? Missy Chase Lapine, author of the New York Times best-seller, The Sneaky Chef.
She recently released a new book titled The Speedy Sneaky Chef that’s aimed at helping families eat better and faster. Using everything from vegetable purées to baby food in comfort food recipes, she shares easy-to-follow tips, plus a few recipes to help you get started.
1. Replace high-fat dairy with lower fat versions. This may seem obvious, but you'll be surprised at how much of a difference it can make. Click here to see the BBQ Chicken Mac and Cheese recipe.
2. Mix wheat germ and/or flax into any breading or breadcrumbs to add more nutritional value and help you fill up faster.
3. Thicken stews and soups with vegetable purées because they work great and replace the need for cream (and it helps to up the nutrient value while lowering the fat and calorie content). This trick also works for mac ‘n’ cheese, like in this recipe.
4. Replace up to half the fat and sugar in baked goods with fruit or bean purées.
5. Try adding a few chocolate chips or a quick squirt of whipped cream to real-fruit sorbets or low-fat desserts to trick yourself into thinking you’re eating fattening food.
6. Halve the amount of cheese or, of course, use a low-fat cheese for a casserole or baked ziti and put it all on top. Why? Because that’s what you see and taste first. By piling the cheese on top, you can slim down the inner layers. Also, try using smarter ingredients like whole-grain flour that is finely milled for great texture and taste, and still retains all of the whole-grain nutrients.
7. Have some of these staples in your kitchen at all times: jarred tomato sauce, boneless and skinless chicken breast, frozen fruits and vegetables, baby food (can be used like the vegetable purées), oats, low-sodium chicken broth, a pair of kitchen scissors, whole-grain pizza crust, canned beans, turkey bacon (adds great flavor to soups, omelettes, etc.), ground turkey, and frozen shrimp and scallops.