Cooler weather often leads to cravings for “comfort foods.” Why? It's all about our survival instinct. With shorter days, your body tells you to eat more carbohydrates which spark the production of serotonin—the mood-lifting chemical in your brain. Plus, colder temperatures up your body’s need to store fat.
That said, while everyone else is reaching for foods high in saturated fat and sugar, you can satisfy your hunger with these four comfort foods instead. As a bonus, you will reap the health benefits of fiber and fruits and vegetables at the same time.
1. Craving mashed potatoes? Try mashed cauliflower—a cruciferous vegetable that’s rich in vitamins and antioxidants, and low in calories. Just steam cauliflower florets until soft, then mash as you would potatoes. Mix in some nonfat milk (or soy milk), salt and pepper to taste, and a sprinkle of garlic powder.
2. Healthy apple cobbler: Apples are a near perfect food. They contain pectin, a type of soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol, and they’re loaded with protective phytonutrients. To make a warm apple cobber, dice several apples and sprinkle with cinnamon. Cook in a saucepan on medium heat until apples are soft, but not mushy. Remove from heat and sprinkle with your favorite healthy toppings—flax, oatmeal, dried cranberries, and/or ground nuts.
3. A better bowl of oatmeal: Oatmeal is the ultimate healthy comfort food. It can lower your blood sugar, weight, and cholesterol—mostly due to the health benefits of fiber. But stay away from instant oatmeal packets, which are loaded with sugar, salt, and preservatives. A better option is to make a pot of long-cooking oatmeal, using soy or nonfat milk instead of water for a creamy, rich taste.
4. Feast on the season’s bounty: Winter vegetables are filled with vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber and taste delicious roasted. Cut sweet potatoes, onions, mushrooms, carrots, and winter squash into bite size chunks (about ½”). Place on a cookie tray, lightly greased with olive oil, and sprinkle with rosemary (optional). Bake for 30 minutes at 400 F. Serve warm, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.
As you can see, comfort foods don't have to mean foods high in saturated fat and sugar. I guarantee you will find these healthy alternatives to comfort food to be just as tasty and satisfying.
Now it’s your turn: Do you have a healthy way to make your favorite comfort food?