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Written by The Nutrition Twins
With the cooler weather rolling in, our clients have been telling us that they find themselves craving heartier foods. And they’re not the only ones. We’ve gotta admit that even as registered dietitians–who are very well aware of comfort foods’ belt-bursting, artery-clogging, and sugar-spiking capabilities—we still feel tempted to indulge sometimes. So what’s a comfort-food craving, girl (or guy) to do?
First, drink a large, low-calorie, warm beverage (think hot tea or vegetable soup) in order to cut back calories later in the day. Soups made with water, not milk, are particularly effective in reducing subsequent calorie intake. In addition, warm and hot foods require eating more slowly, and therefore, you allow your body’s “you are now full” alert system to activate before you have time to dive into calorie-laden foods. It seems to be especially helpful to have the tea or soup immediately before you leave work and head home, or while waiting for a meal.
If this trick doesn’t work, try these comfort food swaps (and check back with us in a few weeks for even more healthy swaps).
Comfort food: Pasta
What to eat instead: Spaghetti squash. It’s so easy to prepare. Simply poke holes in the squash with a fork and microwave it. Then, use a fork to shred it into “spaghetti.” Toss on some tomato sauce and a teaspoon of grated Parmesan, and, voila, you have guilt-free pasta! It tastes and feels like the real deal, but has less than half the calories—40 calories per cup versus 200! If it’s mac-and cheese you crave, simply mix the warm spaghetti squash with a slice of fat free or low fat cheddar.
Comfort food: Mashed potatoes
What to eat instead: Make lower cal mashed potatoes by combining them with pureed cauliflower and using low-fat milk and butter-flavored vegetable spread instead of full-fat milk and butter. Or you can completely replace the potatoes with cauliflower. A cup of plain potatoes carries about 104 calories, compared to a mere 25 in a cup of cauliflower. Plus, no one notices the difference! Or opt for a baked potato instead to get all of the nutrients potatoes provide (like potassium and vitamin C), without the extra fat from milk and butter. Top it with low fat yogurt, Greek yogurt, steamed veggies, or salsa to keep calories to a minimum.
Comfort food: Chocolate
What to eat instead: If you can quench your craving with a small piece of the real deal, then go for it! After all, some of you may be lucky enough to feel satisfied after a teensy Hershey’s kiss, which contains less than 40 calories. However, if you are more likely to eat the entire bag than a kiss or two, then you’re better off sipping a mug of hot chocolate. Use a sugar-free, fat-free chocolate mix. If you also use low-fat or skim milk, you can enrich the flavor with a half a teaspoon of instant coffee or a dash of cinnamon. We like sugar-free 25-calorie hot chocolate with a dollop of fat–free whipped cream. Like the hot tea or vegetable soup, the warm beverage will pacify you, slow you down (since you can’t guzzle hot food), and allow the craving to pass while you silence your sweet tooth. Try these chocolate fixes over the next couple of weeks. If they don’t work for you, stay tuned for more suggestions.
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For More Delicious Healthy Comfort Foods and Get Healthy Guide, check out The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure!