Comfort foods that won’t derail your diet
Comfort foods have many benefits: making you feel warm and cozy, leading you to recall wonderful memories and, of course, they are delicious.
But generally, they also tend to be “junk food.” Comfort foods can be high in fat and calories with little or no nutritional benefit. But are there any comfort foods out there that aren’t high in calories and are actually good for you?
A recent article on health.com explored just that, concluding that some of those goodies we crave can also have health benefits. According to the article, the following foods can satisfy you and positively contribute to your overall health:
- Hot chocolate
- Collard greens
- Chicken noodle soup
- Pot roast
- Roasted carrots
- Red wine
- Roasted potatoes
- Mashed sweet potatoes
“The foods listed are all great options,” says Barbara Melendi, a dietitian at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “The key is knowing what’s in the recipe. When you cook comfort foods at home, you can control the levels of fat and sugar by making smart swaps without sacrificing that ‘comfort’ element.”
For example, sour cream in mashed potatoes can be swapped with Greek yogurt for the same creamy effect with less fat and calories. Chicken noodle soup made with low sodium chicken base allows you to control the sodium content to fit your health goals. Hot chocolate at home can be a heavenly treat – just make it with skim milk or your choice of plain nut milk to keep the rich flavor with fewer calories.
While comfort foods can vary from person to person and across cultures, Melendi offers some universal tips for kicking the cravings and staying healthy.
“They key is having healthy, convenient options available,” she says. “And, knowing when you are most often hit with cravings – like when you’re stressed, bored, or maybe even celebrating – is crucial.”
Melendi suggests tweaking whatever comfort food you want to eat to improve its nutritional content, even if you don’t make it yourself.
“Try pairing a small scoop of ice cream with fresh berries, or discover a new favorite baked snack chip,” says Melendi. “Even better, try an alternative activity like a stretch break, a brisk walk, or a call to catch up with friends and family to distract from the craving.”
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.