Comfort foods are a favorite among many, and for good reason. With the first bite, they instantly provide us that warm, fuzzy feeling and can bring us right back to our best memories. The problem which these comfort foods is that many of them are high in fat and calories. Luckily, these foods can still be enjoyed in moderation. Here are the worst offenders among comfort foods and simple ways to lighten them up without compromising flavor.
1. Macaroni and Cheese
Ask anyone what their favorite comfort food is, and macaroni and cheese will often top the list. Warm and gooey cheese packed into every bite, this meal is for the kid at heart. Unfortunately, a serving of Kraft macaroni and cheese has a whopping 380 calories. To lighten it up, making this meal from scratch allows you to control the ingredients. For one, try cutting back on the amount of cheese added. Vegetables such as broccoli or spinach can help to provide additional flavor as well as some much needed nutrition to this dish.
2. Fried Chicken and Waffles
Sweet and savory tied into one, fried chicken and waffles makes the perfect comfort food. Since this meal consists of refined carbohydrates and fried chicken, it is lacking in the nutrition department. IHOP offers this choice on their menu which weighs in at over 1,000 calories. For a simple swap, try baking the chicken in the oven instead of deep frying. This will help to cut the calories and fat significantly. You can also add some extra fiber to the waffles by substituting regular flour for whole wheat.
3. Chicken Pot Pie
Creamy and delicious, chicken pot pie is a warm and comforting meal but it comes at a cost. Banquet frozen chicken pot pie has 370 calories and 850 milligrams of sodium, almost half of our sodium intake for the day. If you want to lighten the calorie load, make this recipe using flour and low fat milk which works just as well in place of a cream of chicken soup or whole milk.
Meatloaf is commonly served at family dinners for many generations. Not only is this meal delicious and easy to make, but it is viewed by many as a comfort food. The problem with this dish is that the fattier cuts of beef used can increase the overall saturated fat intake of this dish. An increased consumption of saturated fats has been linked with an increase in blood cholesterol levels. One easy swap is to use lean ground beef or turkey which has less saturated fat but does not skimp on flavor.
5. Cheese Enchiladas with Sour Cream
Enchiladas are a savory and delicious comfort meal. Loaded with cheese and meat, and topped with sour cream, this one dish is often loaded with calories. An easy way to make this dish more nutritious is by cutting back on the cheese. You can bulk up with nutrition by adding in lean chicken, beans, or even bell pepper and onion. Since sour cream can be high in fat, a healthier swap is replacing it with non fat Greek yogurt. It provides significantly more protein and takes just like the real thing.
Kristen Bourque, RD, LD has been writing health-related articles since 2000. Her nutrition articles and recipes have been featured in "Today's Dietitian" as well as the Canadian magazine "Glow". Kristen combines her love of nutrition with cooking on her personal blog, Swanky Dietitian.