Why Are Comfort Foods so Hard to Overcome? (And How to Do it!)

On hard days, only my mom’s mashed potatoes can make it better. That’s because our own personal comfort foods are drawn from childhood memories, taste preferences, culture and season.

If you’re homesick, you may reminisce about warm cookies from the oven or grand mom’s creamy coleslaw. Some research has even shown a link between food and emotion, and that memory influences particular food preferences.

Basically, those good feelings you got while eating mom’s cooking as a kid can come back when you eat those same foods as an adult – except you don’t have the same metabolism anymore. But don’t fret. By making some easy modifications in the recipe and cooking method, you can enjoy your favorite comfort food without sacrificing your health all while boosting veggies. With simple swaps, you can feel good without feeling weighed down. Although everyone has their unique version of comfort food, here are a few common meals.

Mashed Potatoes
Reminiscent of Thanksgiving and mom’s pot roast, mashed potatoes are a classic comfort food. But loaded with butter, milk, and salt (and not a whole lot of nutrition), they can definitely use an upgrade:

  • Instead of using all potatoes, use half pureed cauliflower or butternut squash. It will slash the calories and pack in more nutrients. For picky eaters, try adding a little bit of cauliflower at a time, until you get to a 50/50 ratio. They won’t even notice!
  • Try precooked, shelf stable polenta instead of bland potatoes. Mix with coconut milk beverage, a healthy butter substitute, and your favorite cheese. Garnish with your favorite fresh herbs, like chives. Mash over low-heat, then eat! Adults can add in Portobello mushrooms cooked in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce for a more savory taste. It tastes like a more flavorful version of mashed potatoes with significantly fewer calories.

Pasta
A big bowl of pasta doesn’t have to be guilt-ridden. A few swaps will make even this heavy comfort food a little healthier:

  • Use quinoa or whole grain pasta instead of white flour pasta.
  • For creamy pasta dishes, instead of heavy cream, melt a small amount of a healthy butter substitute like Earth Balance butter substitute. Then drizzle in some olive oil and add parmesan. Mix in with quinoa linguine and cooked frozen peas. This is my daughter’s favorite!
  • Add greens like spinach or braised kale to pasta for extra nutrition and to bulk up a smaller portion of noodles. Keep the pieces small – kids don’t like chunks!

Pizza

A gooey, cheesy pizza doesn’t have to come with excess fat or salt. Any kid who loves pizza will love this simple 5-ingredient BBQ turkey flatbread, and you’ll love that it’s guilt-free.

  • Start with 6 oz. of pre-made pizza dough. Roll out the dough and bake for 5 minutes at 375 degrees.
  • Take dough out, and add 4 Tablespoons of BBQ sauce, 2 Tablespoons of chopped white onion and 1 package Simply Delicious Honey Roasted Turkey Breast.
  • Finish with ¼ cup mozzarella shredded cheese and put back in oven for 10 more minutes or until brown on top.

If you want to bookmark or pin the recipe, it’s here.

Ice Cream

You know what makes all my worries melt away? A GIANT bowl of ice cream. But don’t let an ice cream habit be a daily thing. Try this instead:

  • Make a frozen fruit whip (aka “nice” cream) instead of regular ice cream to cut down on added sugar. Put frozen bananas in a food processor and blend until ice-cream consistency. For a tropical flavor, add frozen cherries and mango.
  • For an ice cream parlor style “nice” cream, serve frozen banana whip with chocolate syrup and crushed nuts and top with vanilla Greek yogurt. It’s a new take on a banana split!

Baked Fried Food
Fried chicken and sweet potato fries can be so yummy – but the calories from all that extra oil can add up. Coat thinly cut chicken breast or thighs with egg white and crushed corn flakes or olive oil with breadcrumb and Parmesan cheese. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and bake in the oven instead of frying. In place of high-calorie dips and dressings, make lower sugar ketchup by mixing 1 part marinara with 1 part ketchup. You can also dip fries in a mixture of Greek yogurt and herbs and spices, like smoked paprika, cumin and ground peppercorn.

So here’s the deal. ext time you’re craving some classic comfort food, know that you can indulge in flavor without giving up your healthy eating plan. You got this, Mom.

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