Healthy Comfort Foods? Recipes Right Hereby Elise Museles
Can you smell the freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies, warm & gooey right from the oven? Do you love dipping your fork into a rich & creamy plate of mac & cheese?
Nothing beats the cozy goodness of your favorite comfort foods. These savory or sweet delights not only tantalize our taste buds, but they also flood our minds with happy memories and send warm & fuzzy nostalgia through our bodies.
While comfort food brings sentiment and joy, it’s usually not filled with the most waist & heart-friendly ingredients. And, after indulging in three helpings of Grandma’s famous mashed potatoes, you’re likely consumed with a whole lot of guilt & negative self-talk (and probably even a stomach ache to boot).
This pattern of “indulge in comfort food and feel anything but comforted” is the exact opposite of what you are supposed to experience when you eat comfort food in the first place! Remember, when you beat yourself up about food (or anything else), you release stress hormones (hello, cortisol!), which decrease your metabolism and impair your digestion and absorption of nutrients. Basically, your nerves & negativity may be doing your body just as much harm as the slice of warm apple pie.
Here’s what I know:
Completely abstaining from pleasurable, fun or comforting foods never works over the long haul. (And who wants that, anyway?)
Filling your body with whole, nutrient-dense & real foods most of the time, and then occasionally indulging in your favorite comfort foods, is a winning formula that sticks.
When you’re open to trying healthier versions of the foods that recall happy childhood memories, then these updated “comfort foods” can do what they are supposed to do…keep you feeling comfortable in your mind and your body.
So, from my kitchen to yours, enjoy these comfort foods with a healthy twist:
Baked Sweet Potato Fries. For the kid in all of us, these “fries” hit the spot when you need something savory to remind you of the good old days. Loaded with beta-carotene and lots of fiber, this is a nutrient-dense and just-as-tasty version of “fries.” Need a juicy burger to complete the meal? Try these tasty turkey sliders. Bet you can’t stop with just one.
Mashed Cauliflower with Garlic. Who doesn’t love a heaping scoop of “mashed potatoes” to complement dinner? This cauliflower version is sure to fill you up without filling you out.
Sweet & Spicy Kale Chips: I had to get kale somewhere in here. I would be lying if I said that they taste exactly like potato chips, but they are just as flavorful and crispy and oh-so good… like BBQ potato chips. (well, sort of)
The Best Chocolate Protein Bars Ever: Craving the taste of a decadent piece of gooey chocolate fudge? If you’re trying to do without the calories and saturated fat but want to satisfy your taste buds with all the flavors, try these nutritious & delicious signature protein bars. Warning: highly addictive.
Mint Chip “Ice Cream”: If you loved mint chip ice cream as a kid, then you are going to freak out over this nutrient-dense but scrumptious soft-serve version. Who knew that “ice cream” made with hidden greens from spinach and avocados could remind us of one of our favorite childhood treats. You have to taste this to believe it!
Calling all chocoholics. This special section is for you:
I could have written an entire post devoted to all the healthier versions of traditional chocolate dishes. For now, enjoy Flourless Garbanzo Bean Brownies made without gluten, flour or refined sugar with some sneaky beans thrown into this mix for added protein & fiber. Or, warm up with Healthy Hot & Spicy Cocoa filled with anti-inflammatory spices for a real treat. Indulge your decadent side with Chocolate Mousse that you’ll swear tastes like the real deal. (You won’t even notice the secret green ingredient.) Who says you can’t eat your greens… and your chocolate, too, in one dish?
I’m hoping these recipes find a permanent place in your kitchen… and a special place in your heart. Eat up!
Now it’s your turn: What is your absolute favorite comfort food? Bonus points for sharing any healthy adaptions you have made on your childhood faves. Share your stories in the comments below.