8 healthy comfort foods

By: Esther Blum

Author: Canadian Living


8 healthy comfort foods

By: Esther Blum
Here are some real-deal comfort foods and some healthier versions to try so you can make some informed choices. And although I don't typically advocate eating low-fat foods all the time, in some cases you can make healthy substitutions without sacrificing the taste you're looking for. With a little effort and planning, you can have your cake and eat it too.

Splurge: Ice cream
A half cup of Ben & Jerry's averages out at 300 calories and 17 grams of fat, depending on the flavour you use. This means that if you binge on the whole pint, you've just ingested 1,200 calories from ice cream at one sitting, and 68 grams of fat! To put this into perspective for you, that's more than a whopper with cheese, which clocks in at 680 calories and 39 grams of fat.

Solution: Sorbet
A half cup of most sorbets checks out at 110 calories, 27 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of fat. Cold comfort here I come!

Splurge: Spaghetti
Most people eat two cups of cooked pasta on average, which has 400 calories and a whopping 80 grams of carbohydrates; that's more than twice the amount of carbs found in an 8-ounce glass of regular soda. Yikes! We haven't even covered the sauces yet (tomato sauce has 90 calories per cup; vodka sauce has 380 calories per cup), or the meat (another 200 calories per 3 ounces) and Parmesan cheese that goes on top (50 calories for 2 tablespoons).

Solution: Soba noodles
Buck up your mood and the nutrient content by switching over to soba noodles which are make from buckwheat. Two cups of cooked soba noodles contain 220 calories, 48 grams of carbohydrates, and 12 grams of protein. They are delicious tossed with pesto sauce and stir-fried vegetables.

Splurge: Mashed potatoes
Considering that a serving of mashed potatoes can have up to 300 calories (gulp!), I had to come up with another option so I could keep my girlish figure – and still enjoy the best of the comfort foods.

Solution: Mashed cauliflower
Cruciferous cauliflower to the rescue! It's oh so healthful and delicious, no one (including you) will know the difference between these guys and whipped potatoes. Take 1 head of cauliflower and chop it up into florets. Throw it in a 2-quart stock pot; add in 1 cup of chicken broth and cover. Steam the cauliflower on medium heat for 20 minutes, or until fork-tender. Add more broth if necessary. Pour the cooked cauliflower and broth into a blender; add 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Blend to desired consistency: less time for a chunkier texture, more for a creamier one. Mmmmmmmm! Serves 4; 70 calories per serving.

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Excerpted from Eat, Drink, and Be Gorgeous: A Nutritionist's Guide to Living Well While Living It Up by Esther Blum, MS, RD, CDN, CNS. Copyright 2007 by Esther Blum. Excerpted with permission from Chronicle Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced without permission in writing from the publisher.
Splurge: Salt-and-vinegar potato chips
A 1.5-ounce bag has 210 calories, half of which come from fat. And believe you me, it's not from organic olive oil, either. Also bear in mind that the potatoes used to make chips are the supermarket rejects that neither you nor I would bring home for dinner.

Solution: Salted air-popped popcorn
Packed with fibre and low in calories, air-popped popcorn gives you far more bang for your buck: 1 cup has 31 calories, no fat, and 1 gorgeous gram of fibre. So fill up a big bowl and munch to your heart's content – this is a great snack!

Splurge: General Tso's Chinese chicken
General Tso's chicken is about the most dangerous Chinese dish on the menu – dark meat battered and deep-fried, then cooked with vegetables in a sweet (translation: sugary) and spicy sauce. A 2-cup serving size contains 830 calories, 37 grams of total fat, and 7 grams of saturated fat.

Solution: Szechuan chicken
Szechuan chicken, made with lean white meat and sautéed vegetables, is a far better choice. Two cups contain 500 calories, 21 grams of total fat, and 2 grams of saturated fat. If you order steamed brown rice on the side, your fortune cookie will be sure to give you the blessing of health!

Splurge: French fries
A medium serving of McDonald's French fries contains 350 calories and 18 grams of fat. Not the end of the world, but considering that they fry in cheap, unhealthful oils, there's a lot more danger to eating these than the numbers show. Plus, you're forgetting the Big Mac (560 calories) and the strawberry shake (740 calories) you'll probably order, which brings your meal total up to 1,650 calories.

Solution: Baked fries
Slice up a sweet potato, brush it with coconut oil and sprinkle on sea salt , and bake it on a cookie sheet in the oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until crispy. Or you can buy frozen fries and simply reheat them in the oven; 200 calories per serving. That's what I'm talking about!

Splurge: Hot chocolate
A tall Starbucks hot chocolate with whipped cream has 330 calories, 18 grams of fat and 28 grams of sugar. Do yourself a favour and make your own, which costs much less and still satisfies your sweet craving.

Solution: Homemade hot chocolate
Heat 1 cup of skim milk or water just until it begins to boil. Remove from heat, and stir in 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder and 2 teaspoons of agave syrup. Add in some cinnamon and vanilla extract if you like, for extra punch, as well as a splash of whole milk. Agave syrup is derived from the nectar of the agave plant and is naturally low in sugar but high in flavour; it looks and tastes like honey. This has 130 calories if made with milk, 50 calories if made with water. If you like the taste of milk-based hot cocoa but are lactose-intolerant, try rice or almond milk, both of which make a delicious hot cocoa.

Splurge: Candy bar
Standard-size chocolate bars (like Snickers, Hershey's milk chocolate, and Milky Way) supply roughly 250 calories, derived mostly from sugars and fat. Once in a blue moon it's an absolute treat, but don't make it a regular habit!

Solution: Dark chocolate
Not only does dark chocolate satisfy your sweet tooth, but you'll get the benefits of antioxidants too! Plus, you may feel extra love when you eat chocolate. Phenylethylamine is a compound that naturally occurs in chocolate. When consumed, it releases endorphins in your brain that produce a mild feeling of euphoria, mimicking the sensation of being in love. Other compounds detected and measured in chocolate include serotonin, theobromine, and anandamide, which are all naturally occurring compounds that elevate mood, increase circulation, and enhance sensory perception.

One ounce of dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa content or higher) contains about 154 calories, 12 grams of fat, 2 grams of fibre, and 2 grams of protein. Spread a little natural peanut butter on your chocolate if you’d like a homemade mini peanut butter cup!"

Read about the 5 ways to boost your metabolism naturally.

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Excerpted from Eat, Drink, and Be Gorgeous: A Nutritionist's Guide to Living Well While Living It Up by Esther Blum, MS, RD, CDN, CNS. Copyright 2007 by Esther Blum. Excerpted with permission from Chronicle Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced without permission in writing from the publisher.
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8 healthy comfort foods