Health & Wellness | Nutrition

Comfort Food with a Healthy Twist

Oh, comfort food. You don't have to be deep fried and slathered in chocolate. Here are some healthy hacks for your (formerly) guilty pleasures.

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Oh, comfort food. We seek you out when we’re happy, because we want to celebrate our good moments. And we want you when we’re sad, because we had a crummy day and we just deserve it, okay? It doesn’t take an armchair psychologist to realize how much our emotions are tied into what we eat. Admitting you have a problem is half the battle. The other half is just a hack away.

A Lighter Slice of Pizza
It’s hard not to overindulge with pizza. It’s one of our go-to comfort foods when we’re not in the mood to cook or clean up. And while restaurants keep finding creative ways to add more cheese and processed meat, you can get just as creative.

Start by swapping traditional white flour crust for whole wheat crust; not only do you get to reap a ton of nutritious benefits, but you do so without sacrificing flavor. Whole wheat boasts higher amounts of fiber, which can help reduce cholesterol and even help you lose weight. Most markets carry whole wheat dough, or if you’re in a pinch grab a Top This Fire Grilled Pizza Crust. The super thin crusts, which are available in whole wheat, are easy-to-use and delicious-to-eat. The Rhode Island-made crusts can be found at Dave’s Marketplace and other markets around the state.

You can find whole wheat crust on menus around the state, like Pizza Pie-er (Providence) and Fellini’s Pizzeria (locations in Providence and Cranston). Whether you’re baking your own or ordering in, ditch the meat and add lots vegetables for a pie that’s stuffed with vitamins instead of empty calories. 

Burgers Gone Healthy
Making burgers healthy is one of the easiest hacks in the kitchen. Start by making your own patties with lean ground beef, turkey or chopped up salmon. Beef patties are pretty easy to prepare, and less is more in terms of spices. If you’re using turkey or salmon, you’ll need to add a few ingredients to help bind the patties, like an egg or chopped spinach, and also to throw them in the freezer for 20 minutes to help the patties stay together. Broil or grill, then top with sliced avocado, onions, tomatoes or fresh veggies of your choice. You can further lighten the calorie load by going with an open-faced sandwich, or curbing the carbs altogether by wrapping your burger with lettuce.

Bake (and Fake) Fries
To make fries healthy, you need to stop frying them and start baking them. Slice up regular or sweet potatoes, season with a spices and mix with a few drops of coconut or olive oil. Lay them flat on a baking sheet and cook them at a high temperature (450 degrees for thicker wedges) for about 45 minutes. These baked tots are really tasty and guilt free.

Hack Your Snacks
Kale, believe it or not, can become as crispy and irresistible as potato chips. Cut into bite size pieces and toss with salt, pepper and a few drops of olive oil. Lay them flat on a baking sheet and bake on 325 for about 10 minutes. The perfect blend of crunchy and chewy, these kale “chips” pack a vitamin dense punch.

Health Hacks That Go the Distance
Once you arm yourself with tips and techniques, eating better won’t just be a diet – it will just be the way you eat. Here’s seven ways to change your eating lifestyle.

  • Keep it real. The number one way to eat healthy – and keep weight off – is by eating whole, unprocessed food. That means choosing raw almonds instead of smoked or flavored and drinking whole milk instead of reduced fat. Even packaged foods that seem healthy, such as granola bars and low-fat crackers, are full of artificial ingredients that our bodies simply cannot break down. Stick to real food for real healthy results. 
  • Keep it simple. Cooking food from scratch can seem daunting and that’s why you should keep it simple. Find easy recipes online that only require a handful of ingredients and take just a few minutes to prepare. 
  • Plan your week. Meal planning is critical for a healthy lifestyle. Once you make it a weekly habit, it should only take about 20 minutes to plan out your meals and create a shopping list. You can get fancy and use an app or your phone’s calendar to keep track of your meals, though a simple piece of paper affixed to your fridge will work, too.
  • Prep twice a week. Take 30 minutes every three to four days to food prep. You can chop vegetables, like celery and onions, to have on the ready for recipes or salad toppings. Put healthy snacks like baby carrots, grapes and cubes of cheese in ziptop bags for easy grabbing.
  • Dust off your small appliances. Let your crockpot make dinner while you’re away at work. Take a few minutes the night before to prep out the ingredients, dump them in the machine in the morning, and come home to a slow cooked meal. Use a countertop grill (like a George Forman) for a healthy and fast way to cook chicken, fish and burgers. 
  • Rethink your plate. If you just can’t give up your go-to comfort foods like mac and cheese and pizza, then rethink your plate. Rather than using the majority of your plate for that entrée, just use a quarter of the plate. Fill in the rest with a leafy salad or vegetables.
  • Drink up. Drinking half of your weight in ounces of water is recommended for everything from improving digestion to balancing bodily fluid to better functioning kidneys. It also helps with keeping weight off, as we often confuse thirst with hunger.