By Dr. Janet Brill
It’s finally September, time to start the slow transition from summer heat to the cooler weather of autumn. As the weather gets chillier, our cravings for light and healthy summer fare tend to diminish and are oftentimes replaced with urges to eat those warm, gooey and heartier foods of the season. Whether it’s fall soups and stews, breakfast pancakes, mashed potatoes or mac ‘n cheese, treat yourself but be sure to lighten up those foods so you stay comforted without compromising your health! With a few simple substitutions in the kitchen, you can easily enjoy your favorite comfort foods, without sacrificing one ounce of good taste. Here are 4 classic comfort foods made healthier:
1. Steak and mashed potatoes:
If you are a steak and potatoes person, you can easily treat yourself to this classic comfort food meal on special occasions—without forfeiting your healthy lifestyle. Here’s how: Grill up as small portion (3.5 ounces or about the size of a deck of cards) of a very lean cut of beef such as sirloin tip side steak (taken from the sirloin tip or the top of the round. Very lean, but still holds a lot of flavor). This portion size contains just 206 calories, 5.4 g fat, 2.06 g saturated fat and 39 g protein. Serve with mashed potatoes (made with light margarine, fat-free half and half and topped with a low-fat gravy). Be sure to round out your plate with a large serving of a steamed or roasted green veggie such as broccoli.
2. Pot pies:
Switch to a leaner but still delicious chicken breast pot pie. Use just a touch of butter (or better yet a light margarine) for a flaky yet lower calorie crust. Proceed to create the creamy sauce with low-fat milk and Greek yogurt (in lieu of cream and butter). And…don’t forget to add lots of veggies as a filler.
3. Fried chicken:
Start with skinless white meat chicken and use buttermilk and crushed corn flakes for the coating (to keep the meat tender). Bake the chicken in a hot oven for that crispy fried chicken taste without all the fat and calories of frying.
Use ground turkey breast instead of red meat and add in a healthy filler such as quick-cooking oatmeal and fat-free milk plus an egg substitute to bind it. Flavor with peppers, onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup or tomato sauce.
Who says you have to give up classic comfort foods for your health? It’s okay to indulge in your favorite comfort food recipes without the guilt when you take a few easy steps in the kitchen to lighten them up.
Why not try my delicious, nutritious and lightened up version of the king of comfort foods: creamy mac and cheese? (See recipe below.)
I urge all of you to cave into those seasonal comfort food cravings without guilt by making a few simple swaps in your favorite recipes and be happy and healthy!
Best of health,
Recipe: Dr. Janet’s Creamy Whole Grain Mac ‘N Cheese
• 12 ounces whole grain elbow pasta
• ½ cup fat-free sour cream
• 12 oz. can evaporated fat-free milk
• 2 cups shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 2 tablespoons whole wheat unseasoned bread crumbs
• 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray. Cook the macaroni according to directions on box, drain. Transfer to a large bowl and add the sour cream. In a saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until just simmering. Turn heat to low and whisk in the cheese, continuing to whisk until the cheese is melted. Remove from the heat and blend in the mustard, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir the milk mixture into the macaroni mixture. Transfer to a baking dish. In a small bowl, blend the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese and sprinkle evenly over casserole. Bake the casserole for about 30 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.
Nutrition per 1 cup serving:
• Calories: 300 kcal
• Sodium: 220 mg
• Calcium: 378 mg
• Fat: 8 g
• Saturated Fat: 5 g
• Cholesterol: 24 mg
• Carbohydrate: 42 mg
• Dietary fiber: 3 g
• Protein: 18 g