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Comfort Food Gets a Healthy Makeover

We spotted this article on Runner’s World this morning as our little toes and fingers were freezing off and talk of soups, casseroles and hearty meals had us counting the clock for lunch. However, in gearing up for the holiday’s we’re doing our best to stay true to our fitness goals and maintain the hard earned shape we gained over the summer. Enter, this article! You know we love our cream and a good bar of chocolate, but there is no harm in implementing a few of the tips below to keep you feeling fresh after that big bowl of homemade chili. Enjoy!

Oh baby, it’s cold outside. When the weather outside is less than forgiving—like it is where I live in Pittsburgh—comfort foods sound great. But some of these foods pack a pretty hefty calorie punch, which can make your next run feel more like a waddle. Here’s how you can still eat your favorite winter foods in an enlightened way.

Chili 
Make a chili with 95% lean ground meat, or a mix of lean ground meat and ground turkey breast. Add some beans, canned tomatoes and spices for flavor.

Soups and stews
Stew meat is extremely lean. Add veggies (fresh, frozen or canned) for a comforting meal that tastes great. When making chicken noodle soup, think more broth and veggies and less noodles. Try using a whole grain—like barley—instead of noodles for a nice chew.

Hot cereal 
This is one of my personal favorites. Instead of buying the presweetened varieties, buy plain oatmeal and add a protein source (skim milk, soy milk, hemp milk, almond milk or protein powder), a sweetener (preserves, maple syrup, honey, brown sugar), fruit (fresh, frozen or dried) and spice (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, even a dash of cayenne).

Mac and cheese 
Play with a mac and cheese recipe too much and you may get a very unsatisfactory dish, but you can swap a few ingredients for a lower calorie treat. Try using evaporated skimmed milk instead of whole milk or cream. You can also use less cheese if you use a variety with a stronger flavor like Gruyere or Fontina.

Chicken pot pie 
Mark Bittman offers a great recipe for this true comfort food, which is typically full of fat in other recipes. Check it out here.

Other substitutes

  • If a recipe calls for two cups of pasta, use one and add more vegetables.
  • Replace one cup of sugar with 2/3 cup and add extra sweetness through vanilla, sweet spices and fruit.
  • Cut fat from baked goods by replacing fat or oil recommendations with Greek yogurt, canned pumpkin or applesauce.
  • Add thickness to soup by adding pureed beans or split peas. It’ll make your soup creamier, more filling and add fiber and protein.

Think about improving your nutrition by adding instead of omitting. Add more vegetables to vegetable soup or throw in a few canned pumpkin cubes (keep in freezer and use as needed), throw some shredded cabbage into a salad and add dried fruit to a stew or chili (dried plums in a beef stew and tart cherries in chili are excellent). Look for more tips on making your calories work for you in my new book The Active Calorie Diet.

Enjoy and stay warm.

-Leslie

Have a question for Leslie? E-mail her. (Please write “Ask the Sports Dietitian” in the subject line.) NOTE: Due to the volume of mail, we regret that Leslie cannot answer every e-mail.

And for more guidance on fueling and diet, check out Leslie’s Sports Nutrition for Coaches.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Great tips! I love the frozen pumpkin cubes idea. I have recently started sneaking flax seed into my muffins, along with replacing some of the white flour with whole wheat and ground up oatmeal. No one seems to have noticed and they still disappear faster then I can make another batch.

    November 19, 2012

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