Make Comfort Foods Healthier: 10 EZ Tips
Fall is here and for many that brings cravings for comfort foods! Who doesn’t remember their favorite casserole, stew or slow cooked pot roast? The thought, taste and smell can bring you back to mom’s cooking and the warm memories of home. And, mom was smart!
Casseroles, stews and chilis are low in cost and make multiple servings. Plus, what’s more convenient than a one-dish meal!
However, when you think about these recipes now, you might notice that they are often high in calories and fat. But don’t let that stop you from starting your own tradition -- healthier, new versions of old, familiar comfort foods!
Read on for tips on modifying casserole-type dishes.
10 easy ways to modify comfort foods
A few simple modifications can shave quite a few calories and fat off of a recipe without sacrificing the flavor.
1. Use lower-fat, lower-sodium cream soups such Healthy Request by Campbell’s. And, mix with non-fat milk, if called for.
2. Use evaporated skim milk in place of cream and try healthier versions of mayonnaise and sour cream.
3. Swap white pasta and white rice for brown rice and whole wheat pasta.
4. Reduce the amount of cheese called for in the recipe by half.
5. Use leaner versions of meat, such as extra lean ground beef or turkey. Or, substitute chicken or turkey breast in place of beef.
6. Go veggie! Try a healthy vegetarian stew or all bean crockpot chili- veggies and beans are very filling!
7. Use lower sodium tomato sauces and broths.
8. When making enchiladas, skip dipping the tortillas in oil. Instead, cover the tortillas with a wet paper towel and microwave for a few seconds until softened.
9. Reduce the meat and add veggies! Try carrots, bell peppers and corn in chili, or squash and mushrooms in enchiladas. Another example is right in this issue, where we take beef stroganoff and make it veggie!
10. Keep portions under control by filling at least half your plate with salad.
Lighter Tuna Casserole
2 cans chunk style white tuna
6 oz whole grain noodles (3 cups)
1/2 cup celery
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup non-fat sour cream
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
1 zucchini, diced
3/4 cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese
1 tomato, diced
1. Drain and flake the tuna. Set aside.
2. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse in hot water.
3. Combine noodles with the tuna, celery and onions.
4. Blend in the sour cream, mustard powder, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.
5. Spoon half the mixture into a 2-quart casserole sprayed with cooking spray. Top with half the zucchini. Repeat layers.
6. Top with the cheese.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
8. Sprinkle with the chopped tomato.
Nutrition Info (based on 8 servings): 267 calories, 19g protein, 35g carbs, 6g fat, 2g saturated fat, 355mg sodium, 5g fiber
October 9, 2008
The Weight Conscious Kitchen: What To Stock
Have you ever thought about stocking your kitchen according to your goals? Well, give it a try - you’ll benefit by meeting your health and weight goals.
The following ideas are grouped according to common health goals. If you have multiple health goals, you don’t have to stick with one of the below – try mixing and matching or alternating!
Weight Conscious Kitchen (fiber filled and low calorie)
Produce: apples, bananas, berries, broccoli, dark green lettuce, dates, green beans, kale, pears, pineapple, spinach
Grains: whole wheat bread, pumpernickel and rye breads, flax, whole grain cereal, brown rice, whole wheat pasta (or blend), whole wheat pitas, oat bran pancake mix, low-fat granola, whole wheat couscous
Protein: soybeans (edamame), lentils, all types of beans, chicken breast, turkey, lean ham, lean roast beef, extra lean ground turkey, fish or shellfish, tofu or tempeh
Dairy: non-fat or low-fat milk and yogurt, soy milk, reduced-fat cheese, part-skim mozzarella
Healthy Fats: almonds, peanuts and peanut butter, walnuts, olive oil, olives
Frozen: low-fat ice cream, sorbet, fruit juice bars, fudgesicles, frozen unsweetened fruit, frozen veggies, veggie burgers, healthy frozen meals, vegetarian low-fat burritos
Snacks: hummus, baby carrots, low-fat string cheese or individual cheese (try Babybel Light or Laughing Cow Light), whole grain crackers (try Ak-Mak), snack-size 94% fat free popcorn, 100-calorie packs
Stay Healthy Kitchen (rich in antioxidants, folic acid, lutein and fiber)
Produce: apples, apricots, avocados, beets, bell peppers, berries, broccoli, Brussels spouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, dried plums, grapefruit, kale, kiwi, shitake mushrooms, oranges, raisins, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes (and tomato sauce)
Grains: whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, bran cereal, oatmeal
Protein: beans, lentils, low-fat chili
Beverages: purple 100% grape juice, pomegranate juice, grapefruit juice, green tea (moderation for juices)
Freezer: frozen fruits and veggies, bean-based burgers
Heart Healthy Kitchen (rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and fiber)
Produce: avocados, bell peppers, berries, garlic, kiwis, leeks, onions, scallions, shallots
Grains: oatmeal, brown rice, bran cereal, wheat germ, wheat barely
Protein: soy products (soy milk, tofu, tempeh, soy burgers), beans, lentils, fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines or trout, eggs fortified with omega-3’s, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, hazlenuts
Healthier Spreads: vegetable spreads fortified with plant sterol/stanol esters such as Take Control or Benecol or try lower fat/trans fat free spreads such as Brummel and Brown
Beverages: 100% orange juice, red wine (moderation of course!)
Freezer: frozen fruits and veggies, veggie burgers, frozen fish
September 29, 2008
The Flexitarian Diet
Are you ready to lose weight, be healthier, prevent disease AND add years to your life?
Then you're ready for The Flexitarian Diet (McGraw-Hill).
Registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner didn't cook up the term "flexitarian" -- it'a a cute combo word that means flexible vegetarian -- but she did write the recipe-packed book being rolled out by major publisher McGraw-Hill in early October.
"The scoop is you don’t have to give up your carnivorous cravings," Dawn tells Diet.com. "You simply ingest few extra vegetarian meals here and there.
"The idea is you choose a flexible vegetarian way to live. It's not necessary to go cold turkey on meat; instead you start beefing up vegetarian recipes."
Dawn says there have been hundreds of studies that link vegetarian or semi-vegetarian eating to preventing or lowering your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other ailments.
"One study found you can boost your life by more than three years by eating more fruit and veggies -- and less meat!" Dawn says.
"People who eat plant-based diets weigh naturally 15% less than carnivorous counterparts!
"It's facts like these that ring a bell with a lot of people who are sick and tired of dieting."
During her candid interview with Diet.com, Dawn confessed the issue of flexitarianism is personal.
"I was a closet meat eater -- a vegetarian who’d sneak meat," she says. "I wanted the health benefits of a veggie diet but i didn't want to give up meat. This is hands down the best thing you can do while still participating in 'meaningful meat events' like barbecues, Cubs games and Thanksgiving!"
Yes, the Chicago resident openly digs into a hot dog or two while watching her beloved Cubs play ball.
"I grew up in typical Midwestern home where there was always meat on table," she says.
"Becoming a total vegan was something out of line and out of touch with who I am!"
Instead, Dawn began working more fruit and veggies into her diet -- and she began suggesting that to clients as well. Five years later, Dawn has a hot new book about to hit the bookstores. In it, you'll find a little science and a lot of recipes -- 100 mouthwatering treats to be exact.
"Follow my plan and in 6 to 12 months you'll find yourself lighter, more energetic and way more healthy," she says.
"If you make the needed lifestyle changes you'll see big changes in your blood work. Your cholesterol level will be on the right track because you'll be eating far fewer saturated facts.
"The book is 60-percent recipes for a reason. At the end of day clients want you to tell them what to eat.
"When they have a meal plan to follow and recipes to cook, they do better."
Dawn's favorite meals include:
Lunch: A Southwestern veggie burger with guacamole. It's under 400 calories and very satisfying, she says.
Breakfast: Her patients really her green apple and sun butter toast which is whole grain toast with sunflower seed butter and sliced green apple. It's crunchy and filling.
Her personal favorite is Swiss muesli which is uncooked whole grain oats. You take the old-fashioned rolled oats and soak them in skim milk, soy milk or unsweetened almond milk. You add chopped apple and nuts like almonds. For extra sweetness, drizzle with honey.
Dinner: Cilantro and peanut stir fry. Substitute chicken or beef id you desire.
"I have a very important equation for followers of the Flexitarian Diet: switch out 1/4 cup of beans for every ounce of meat," she notes.
Tips like that allow you to tweak your own food favorites.
Snack: Pizza popcorn. Dawn admits being a big fan of popcorn. It's natural and whole grain. For her recipe, you simply sprinkle the popped corn with oregano and a little bit of Parmesan cheese.
"After reading about the flexitarian diet in 2003 I finally felt like I fit in," she says. "I no longer had to call myself a vegetarian while eating meat in my closet… I am a flexitarian!"
In addition to the health and well-being benefits, you can save money by following this plan.
"Meat is a costly item," Dawn says. "My plan allows you to decrease how much meat you eat. You will definitely save money.
"Also, most ingredients can be found in a traditional grocery store rather than a pricey specialty store."
You'll also be leaving a lighter carbon footprint by choosing more non-meat meals. It's less taxing than meat on the whole ecosystem.
Dawn says Greece, Spain and many Asian cultures follow a flexitarian lifestyle.
A Few Final Words
By being flexibly vegetarian -- adopting more plant foods and new edibles in your diet, while slightly reducing your meat intake and getting to better know your local produce aisle or farmer's market -- you'll be hooked into better health.
Your immune system will get multiple boosts and ward off diseases like cancer and diabetes. You'll stretch out your life expectancy and out-supplement your vitamins.
Then there's the added benefit of weight loss.
Dozens of nutrition studies have scientifically proven that people who eat a vegetarian diet weight on average 15 percent less than non-vegetarians due to a lower intake of fat and calories, and more fiber.
Follow the Flexitarian Diet and you can expect to see a 20-pound average weight loss in six to 12 weeks -- and you'll maintain it for life.
Now that's something we find very easy to swallow!
About the Author: Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian and a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. She is the nutrition editor for LifeTime TV's website, MyLifetime.com, hosts the "Healthy Eating" segment on Chicago's "Fox News in the Morning" and teaches cooking classes at The Chopping Block Cooking School.
September 22, 2008