Finding healthier versions of your favourite comfort meal
These small changes amount to a big difference when it comes to the amount of saturated fat and salt you’re consuming.
By Bio Island Nutrition Team
We all need to treat ourselves every now and then, and one of the most common ways that people like to do this is by indulging in their favourite comfort foods. While this can be unproblematic if done every now and then, it can become an issue for your health if you are indulging in comfort foods regularly. This is because comfort food commonly contains high levels of salt, sugar, and fat – which acts on the rewards system in the brain and makes us eat much more than we would if it was just a plain, bland meal. Foods high in sugar, salt, and fat not only contribute to weight gain, they also increase the likelihood of developing serious diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
A more balanced way of enjoying your favourite meals on a regular basis is to make them at home from store bought ingredients. This way you know exactly what’s going into your meal and you can customise it so you’re eating much healthier meal and saving yourself some guilt.
Pizza and pasta
One of the most popular comfort meals by far usually involves either pizza or pasta. Making your own version at home means you have complete autonomy over what ingredients you use, and you can create a super healthy and tasty version for you and the family. If you’re in the mood for pizza, the first thing to do is buy your pizza bases. You can buy these in the bread isle in the supermarket and you should select either a wholemeal pizza base, or for an even lower calorie option go for Lebanese bread. Next, pick up some tomato paste or premade pizza sauce, cheese, and then whichever toppings you like. Try and select a variety of vegetables to go on your pizza like mushrooms, capsicum, sweet potato, baby spinach and onion. Pair this with some lean protein such as prawns, chicken breast, lean beef mince, ricotta, or nuts, but try and steer clear of overly processed meats like salami or peperoni. If your comfort meal looks more like pasta than pizza many of the same suggestions apply. Cook your pasta from fresh store-bought ingredients, try and buy wholemeal instead of white pasta, and try and include as many vegetables as possible. Don’t forget about herbs and spices too, these can make so much difference to how a pasta or pizza dish tastes.
We all love a good pub meal every now and then. A delicious chicken parmigiana, mouth-watering steak, or just good old-fashioned fish and chips. The unhealthiest thing about these meals is not really ingredients but rather the method of cooking. Fish and chicken are usually battered and deep fried, and most meals come with a side of potato fries which are heavily salted. With only a few little tweaks you can easily make your favourite pub style meal at home. Simply skip the deep frying and swap with grilling your proteins. You can still indulge in chips but make your own from either white or sweet potato and bake them in the oven without added oil. You can also adjust your portion sizes so that your salad is as big or even bigger than your side of chips. Try and go easy on the salt and instead get creative with herbs and spices to add extra flavour. These small changes amount to a big difference when it comes to the amount of saturated fat and salt you’re consuming.
Let’s face it, one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome when trying to make healthier food choices is the craving for sweet foods, especially after dinner. But it doesn’t have to be so hard. When you break it down all you’re really craving is sugar, and there are plenty of healthy foods that will give you that sugar hit you’re after. Two of the easier desserts that you can make from healthy foods are chocolate mousse and ice cream. If you’ve got that chocolate craving, simply pick up some cocoa powder, avocado, vanilla essence, and honey from the grocery store and create your own healthy mousse. Let it set in the fridge for a few hours before eating as it eats better when chilled. If ice cream is more your thing, just chop up some bananas and pop them in the freezer overnight. The following day your bananas should be frozen, ready to go into a blender along with a little milk and there you have it, banana ice cream! You can also change up the flavour by adding ingredients like berries, coconut, honey, or cocoa powder. If you want a little texture in your ice cream add in some coconut flakes, nuts, or chocolate chips. Delicious!
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