Comfort Foods With a (Healthy) Twist

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Macaroni and Cheese with Spinach and Sun-Dried TomatoesWhole-Grain Jalapeño Cornbread recipeHomestyle Turkey Pot Pie Soup Recipe

What’s your favorite comfort food? Most likely it’s something cheesy, creamy, buttery, fried, rich or warm – or a combination of all those decadent tastes and textures. It’s probably something pretty high calorie, too.

That’s okay, because as a practical dietitian who believes these satisfying foods are a basic necessity in life, I trust – and am comforted – that you will balance all those calories consumed with plenty of physical activity. And you’ll add, boost or substitute where realistic in comfort food recipes. Realistic means not tampering too much with the ingredients and keeping the overall essence of the dish’s soothing powers.

For example, it’s just not macaroni and cheese unless there’s a lot of cheese and milk. So in this Macaroni and Cheese with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes, simply substitute heart-healthy versions of both – 2 percent milk instead of whole milk or heavy cream, and reduced-fat, 2 percent milk cheese instead of full-fat. Boost the whole-grain goodness by using whole-wheat macaroni instead of white refined. Finally, add unique nutrient-rich ingredients such as fresh spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.

Comfort yourself with a hunk of Jalapeño Cornbread knowing that it’s 75 percent whole grain from the white whole-wheat flour and whole-grain cornmeal. Add frozen corn kernels and fresh jalapeños, and you’ve boosted eye-protective nutrients and disease-fighting antioxidants.

Substitute a big batch of Homestyle Pot Pie Soup when the craving for pastry-rich pot pie strikes. The soup has all the familiar flavors, but it’s lower in calories, fat and sodium with far more antioxidant- and fiber-rich vegetable. But the best thing about this soup? You still get to eat rich pie crust because every serving gets a few pie-crust circles on top!

A few additional favorite comfort food recipes to warm your belly this winter:

What’s your favorite winter comfort food?

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