Comfort food season is officially upon us! Whether you’re trick-or-treating with the kids for Halloween, getting together at the dinner table with your extended family, or working hard in the kitchen on your annual yule log recipe, the chances are you’ll be surrounded by food and attending a lot of social gatherings over the next few months.
Research from Cornell University found that on average, Americans gain about 1.3 pounds between October and December. This might not seem like much, but according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine (1), most people don’t ever lose their holiday weight. Given that the average adult tends to gain (2) between 1 and 2 pounds per year from early adulthood through middle age, this holiday eating could account for a lot of expanding waistlines.
While soups and salads are great in theory, no one can survive on nuts and berries forever and it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to convince your family to eat nothing but healthy and nutritious food over the holidays. Being surrounded by delicious holiday treats all season long makes it very hard to resist temptation and at this point in the year, many people give up on healthy eating completely until they step on the scale in January. This year, Instead of binging on treats or relegating yourself to salads and vegetable dips, try these substitutes that won’t leave you feeling deprived at the dinner table.
1. Rice Casserole vs Cauliflower Casserole
If you’re craving casserole, switch out the rice in your recipe for cauliflower rice instead. Not only does this reduce your carb intake but it will significantly up your fiber as well, keeping you full and satisfied.
Try this easy twist on a ham and cheese casserole that the whole family can enjoy, with only around 350 calories per serving.
- Steam the following until tender:
- 16 oz of riced cauliflower. You can buy this pre-shredded and frozen, or simply throw about one medium head of cauliflower in the food processor until it has a rice-like consistency.
- 4 cups or 16 oz of broccoli florets.
- Mix the steamed veggies together with 2 cups of diced ham (you can use leftovers from your holiday meal!) 2 ½ cups of grated cheddar (substitute low fat or a low fat/full fat mixture for even fewer calories) and 2 eggs.
- Add 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, mustard powder, salt and pepper.
- Place the mixture into a baking dish, sprinkle with ½ cup of grated cheese and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
2. French Fries vs Sweet Potato Wedges
French fries are technically made from vegetables, but once they are deep fried in oil, potatoes lose a lot of their nutritional value and gain hundreds of calories per serving, plus a tremendous amount of fat.
Try this delicious alternative with fewer carbs and calories, so you can enjoy more of it without the side of guilt.
- Cut 2 large sweet potatoes into wedges. For bonus filling power and extra fiber, leave the skin!
- Place into a large bowl, add 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt & 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (or the seasoning of your choice). Mix together all ingredients until the sweet potatoes are covered in the oil and spices.
- Place wedges onto a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 30 minutes at 400. If you like your wedges extra crispy, broil for an extra 3 minutes, keeping a close eye on them so that they don’t burn.
3. Chocolate vs Chocolate Covered Fruit
If you just can’t beat that chocolate craving, it’s okay to embrace it every now and again. But here’s an easy tip to add fiber and a serving of fruit, giving those chocolate calories more bang for their buck and leaving you full and satisfied instead of craving more.
- Simply melt your favorite chocolate bar on the stove, pour the mixture into a bowl and dip some fruit. Place chocolate covered fruit onto parchment paper and freeze or refrigerate until hardened.
Our favorite fruit for this recipe includes strawberries, banana slices, cherries, and orange wedges!
As you can see, with a little know-how and creativity, there are several quick and easy ways to makeover your favorite comfort foods, turning them into healthier alternatives that the whole family can enjoy. More recipe ideas include swapping out store-bought potato chips for home baked and seasoned kale chips, trading a traditional pizza base for a personal whole wheat pita and spiralizing zucchini or roasting spaghetti squash instead of pasta. The possibilities are endless!
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