Comfort Food Without the Guilt
Lighter versions satisfy your cravings for fewer calories.
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
Piping-hot macaroni and cheese with a crunchy golden-brown crust; chewy, gooey chocolate-chip cookies warm from the oven; or a big mound of fluffy white mashed potatoes with a pool of melted butter dripping down the side -- who doesn't like comfort food?
Comfort foods soothe and nurture us, but they usually come with a steep nutritional price tag: They're generally high in fat, saturated fat, calories, and, sometimes, sugar.
So is the answer to simply resist comforting ourselves with these foods we crave? Not if you listen to Rebecca Reeves, DrPH, RD, an obesity researcher at Baylor College of Medicine.
"I do not believe we should deny ourselves these foods which we have emotional attachments to," says Reeves. "If we do deprive ourselves, we'll just want to eat more and more."
Instead, Reeves suggests that we indulge in our comfort foods in moderation -- especially when these foods are high in calories and fat.
2 Ways Comfort Foods Help
Can any good come from eating comfort foods? You bet! There are at least two ways in which comfort foods can actually help your body:
"However, comfort foods are addictive," notes one of the UCSF researchers, Mary Dallman, PhD. "And if eating them becomes a habit after the stress is over, then there is a downside, because these extra calories are primarily directed into the unhealthy abdominal fat pads."
Sound like anyone you know?
4 Ways to Enjoy Comfort Food Without Guilt
It is possible to comfort yourself without consuming all those extra calories and fat. Here are four tips for enjoying comfort food without doing a number on your diet:
Our Favorite Comfort Foods
What are the favorite comfort foods of WebMD Weight Loss Clinic Members? We asked that question on The Recipe Doctor message board and found that WLC members are a lot like other Americans. They named foods like oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies, pudding, potatoes, pasta, and fried chicken. Yum, yum, and yum!
To show you I mean business lightening your favorite comfort foods, I've tackled a few of the foods mentioned by these WLC members. Why spend 600 calories and 30 grams of fat on an entree that will taste just as good and be just as satisfying with 400 calories and 13 grams of fat?
Reeves agrees. "If you can modify comfort foods for fat and calories and still have them taste delicious, then you can enjoy them even more," she says.
Light Rosti with Mushrooms and Onions
Journal as: 1 cup "starchy foods with 1 tsp fat maximum" + 1/2 cup "vegetables without added fat"
I cut out the steps of boiling and grating the potatoes by using frozen shredded hash browns. I also lightened this recipe by cutting the butter way back and switching to olive oil; using Louis Rich turkey bacon instead of sausage; and replacing regular cheese with a reduced-fat type. Feel free to substitute about 1/2 cup of lean, finely diced ham for the turkey bacon.
8 cups frozen shredded hash browns
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