Enjoy Healthier Comfort Foods
while Keeping the Comfort
Enjoy the tastes you love without the extra calories
(BPT) - Comfort foods remind us of home, warmth and family; they are often the
creamy, rich and heavy everyday foods we had as children. Things like macaroni and
cheese, mashed potatoes, and fried chicken may be soothing to the soul, but not
to the waistline.
“I happen to like my comfort foods just the way they are,” jokes chef instructor
Terra Ciotta of The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Charlotte,
a campus of South University. “But around the holidays, many are making more mindful
and healthier choices.”
If you’re trying to reduce the holiday bulge, follow chef Ciotta’s equation of
substitution equals reduction. For mashed potatoes, Ciotta purees steamed cauliflower,
makes half the portion of her freshly mashed potatoes and folds the cauliflower
puree into the mashed potatoes. For hearty spaghetti with meatballs, Ciotta reduces
the ground beef portion and adds finely chopped sautéed mushrooms.
“If you really want to make your recipes healthier, try to make simple modifications
that won’t change the end product too drastically,” says chef Leslie Eckert of The
International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham, a campus of
South University. “Otherwise, you won’t achieve the comfort in comfort food.”
Here are tips and simple guidelines chefs Eckert and Ciotta recommend.
* Choose whole grains over refined: brown rice, whole grain bread, whole grain
pasta instead of white rice, white bread or standard pasta. Whole grains digest
more slowly, providing longer-lasting energy.
* Use small amounts of olive oil instead of butter on grains or vegetables and
to saute. A non-aerosol spray bottle can help use oil sparingly.
* Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products: skim or 1 percent milk, low-fat
or fat-free yogurts, sour cream and cheeses – and reduce the amount.
* Choose Canadian bacon or lean ham over bacon, wild-caught, fresh or water-packed
tuna or salmon over oil-packed tuna or salmon, chicken and turkey sausage over pork
sausage and lean ground turkey and beef over high-fat options.
* Use herbs, flavored powders (like garlic powder), citrus (like lemon juice)
and heat (like red pepper or hot sauces) over extra salt.
* Instead of frying, bake, roast or grill using a rub or marinade.
* Use fresh or frozen vegetables over canned. Remember that frozen vegetables
are harvested at peak season and usually flash-frozen, making them superior in flavor
and nutrients to off-season fresh ones.
* Remember – using low-fat or fat-free dairy products, olive oil, whole grains
or lean meats doesn’t mean unlimited portions.
According to chef Eckert, high-fat, high-sugar foods - such as comfort foods
- illicit “feel good” hormones quicker than a plate of raw vegetables. To make your
holidays healthier, you can always add vegetables to a hearty dish. Chef Ciotta
cites one of her favorites as creamy risotto with broccoli. You’re still getting
the hearty dish, but at the very least, you’re adding something healthy with fiber.
Many experts say that you don't have to give up your comforting favorites in
order avoid weight gain. It just takes planning and portion control, and substitution
For more information about The Art Institutes, visit artinstitutes.edu.