It is a very common trait to seek a bit of comfort through food. Eating our favorite foods can release lots of endorphins and make us feel better, at least temporarily. We often feel nostalgic for homemade foods or crave particular dishes when we’re feeling down. Treating ourselves from time to time can be healthy and positive. Restricting ourselves on a regular basis often leads to binging later on. But the problem with most comfort foods is that they are loaded with empty calories and very little nutrition. High in fat, sugar, or salt, comfort foods can make us feel worse in the long term. But there is a happy medium. Some comfort foods can now be made healthy with just a few simple substitutions. Many people may even not be able to tell the difference! Much has been said about the high number of people switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet. The reasons range from health-based to ethical. We may not be ready to take the plunge or still feel happy with our current lifestyle. But many doctors agree that switching to a vegetarian meal or even a vegetarian day on a regular basis can reduce a lot of health complaints. Many of the alternatives given below are vegetarian, vegan, or can be adapted to suit your dietary needs.
If we reach for these healthier alternatives the next time we crave comfort food, we are more likely to stay on track with our health goals. We will feel better while eating but also afterward in the long run too. Read on to discover how easy it can be!
Hot Dogs Made Healthy
The hot dog is a quintessential comfort food favorite, and it is not difficult to see why. Succulent sausage drowned in ketchup and mustard on a fluffy white bun with our choice of topping. What is not to love? But sausage meat can be heavy in saturated fat and low in fiber. It can also be difficult to digest. Saturated fat can raise your cholesterol dramatically over time. This may leave you more vulnerable to heart disease and strokes. But the fat and calorie content can be significantly reduced by making the dish vegetarian. There are many vegetarian sausages on the market now. But we can make our own if we have the time. Wheat gluten, flax seeds, nutritional yeast, and beans are combined to make a pattie and then rolled into shape. This packs a powerful nutritional punch with lots of added fiber. Top generously with salsa or fresh ketchup, add coriander and paprika and prepare to be amazed. Served with a side of sweet potato wedges, this recipe is always a crowd-pleasing hit.
Gluten Free Pasta Carbonara
Many people have a gluten intolerance or are dealing with celiac disease. But more people than ever before are choosing to go gluten-free for other health reasons. Gluten-free diets can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body and even aid weight loss. Gluten-free diets are often less reliant on refined carbohydrates. They can also reduce bloating and can even improve conditions like rheumatism and arthritis. This is especially true if we are already sensitive to gluten. Pasta carbonara is a deliciously comforting dish that is usually full of butter, cream, and cheese. Bacon is also a common staple. But those who do not wish to add meat could choose tasty tempeh instead, which is a soy-based alternative to meat. Nut milk and cashew cheese can also be more nutritious alternatives to the dairy-heavy version. The comforting combination of fresh pasta and creamy textures remains intact, though.
Creamy Potato Salad with Egg-Less Mayonnaise
Eggs are a popular comfort food and one of the most versatile of all ingredients. They are used in both sweet and savory dishes and can great a variety of textures. But eggs contain high amounts of fat and are not suitable for those observing a vegan diet. Egg-free Mayo by Hampton Creek provides a tasty alternative with none of the associated drawbacks. Boil the potatoes until soft and fluffy. Use margarine in place of butter and soy cream instead of the full-fat style. Combined with the mayo alternative, this version is just as creamy and moreish as the original. But without the empty calories.
Could this cake actually be considered as part of your intake of vegetables? The answer is yes! But to make the most of any healthy qualities of the cake, a few substitutions are needed. Whole wheat flour should be used for extra fiber along with an additional cup of mixed grains. Grated carrot, olive oil, and pumpkin are all rich in healthy benefits. Carrots are renowned as a great source of Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Olive oil has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease. Pumpkins should feature more regularly in everyone’s diet too. They are very nutritious containing both zinc and magnesium. Pumpkin seeds are a popular snack amongst the health conscious and make a great topping for this cake. The ingredients simply need mixing together and baking for around 40 minutes at a temperature of 180 degrees Celsius. Add a vegan buttercream frosting and it is the perfect cake to welcome visiting guests.
Tasty Tacos Without The Guilt
Tacos are a firm family favorite amongst all ages. This Mexican street food staple can be packed full of vitamins and minerals because of its variety of vegetables. Only the additions of meat and cheese can make it a tricky for health and fitness buffs. Crunchy peppers, black beans, and tomato are sweet, filling, and full of fiber. If we want to minimize the calories, add spiced silken tofu instead of chicken or beef. Go easy on any cheese or cream toppings and choose herbs and fresh salsa instead. Whole wheat tortillas will also help keep you fuller for longer. This makes it less likely that you will feel the need for that second helping or keep snacking later. They are the perfect snack for entertaining casual guests, or while on the go.
Healthy Breakfast Muffins
Muffins are a comforting snack for an early morning rise or the mid-afternoon slump. They are often packed full of sugar, however, which can cause insulin spikes. This means that we will feel an initial rush but crash again and feel hungry later. This can be a leading cause of diabetes and can also make us feel tired, irritable and prone to overeating. Many people experience headaches and even tingling and blurred vision. These are all classic signs of a blood sugar crash. But a healthy breakfast muffin can change all that. We can use dark, unsweetened chocolate chunks in the mixture. These will still give a delicious flavor and sweetness without being too heavily processed. Coconut oil, honey, and avocado can all help keep the texture moist without relying on unhealthy fats too. We can dust the muffins with cocoa powder for added flavor and nutritional value as cocoa is rich in antioxidants. Making the muffins with almond or wholewheat flour is also more nutritious and filling than just white flour alone. We can bake a batch the night before for a quick, convenient and healthy breakfast.
A Trim Tiramisu
Clever, health-conscious chefs, have come up with a tiramisu that is still a treat but in its healthiest incarnation. Agave syrup can be substituted for sugar as it is lower on the glycemic index. This means our blood sugar levels will stay more stable over the course of the day. Coconut milk and almond milk can be whipped up to create a healthier alternative to cream and mascarpone. Nuts are then mixed through for added texture and a more filling, nutritious dessert. The sauce mixture can still be flavored with good quality espresso coffee for that all-important pick me up effect.
The all-time comfort food favorite of fries need not only be made with potatoes. Potatoes have many health benefits in themselves but also count as a refined carbohydrate. If our exercise or activity level is low, we should be mindful of our carbohydrate intake. But fries can come in some creative new forms. Sweet potato fries have become especially popular. Sliced winter vegetables can also be baked to crisp, crunchy perfection. Parsnip fries and even beetroot crisps have become a more popular and healthy alternative to regular potatoes. Season generously with pepper, herbs, or chipotle spice. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Then bake the slices for approximately 30 minutes on high heat or until golden brown. Serve with an array of dips and salad for a tasty and unexpected party dish.
Homemade Ice Cream
Few things are more comforting than an ice cold scoop of soft, sweet ice cream. We can save on the high-calorie versions by making our own at home. Low-fat milk or almond milk can make a delicious ice cream that is low in calories but still high on flavor. Add sweetener, ripe bananas, and mix well before transferring to the ice cream maker. Once thick and frozen, serve with cocoa or a scoop of nut butter for added protein and crunch.
Treats and comfort foods can be an important part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle too. They give us the opportunity to enjoy ourselves or celebrate. If enjoyed in moderation and combined with exercise, they can be enjoyed without derailing our health and fitness goals.