As autumn weather gets cooler, it’s tempting to load up on traditional comfort foods that often are not the healthiest choices. When you want a warm and toasty snack this fall, try these five perfect comfort foods that won’t add pounds.
Plus, check out the recipes below for Heart-warming Vegetable Soup and Creamy White & Sweet Potato Soup!
As the temperatures drop this fall, you may be tempted to move to traditional comfort foods, such as mac and cheese, cream-based soups and cheesy casseroles. The problem with these choices is they are often laden with fat, carbohydrates and calories. Combine that with fewer daylight hours and less outdoor activity, and you have the perfect formula for gaining weight.
When you want that toasty feeling, here are five excellent options that will boost your immune system and help you survive the cold and flu season — without expanding your waistline.
A cup of warm, creamy oatmeal is a perfect way to start or end your day. Oatmeal will provide you with fiber and plant-based protein, a perfect combination to stop hunger. Add additional flavor, boost your immune system, fight inflammation and help control blood sugar levels by mixing in a little cinnamon. Then, for a dose of some healthy fats and crunch, toss in a tablespoon of chopped walnuts or almonds.
#2: Hot Cocoa
There is nothing more warming then curling up with a cup of hot cocoa. Skip the instant, high-sugar varieties and make your own using two squares of dark chocolate and a cup of almond or coconut milk. I look for the ones that contain at least 72% cocoa. Just melt the squares in a microwavable mug, pour in your milk, heat and enjoy.
Recipe for Hot Cocoa from Scratch
2 squares dark chocolate, 72% cacao or higher
1 cup almond or coconut milk
Melt squares in a microwave-safe mug or dish. Add in milk and heat on medium power until hot but not boiling.
An ounce of dark chocolate helps beat the sweet cravings and is a great health booster, too. The chocolate contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant thought to reduce the damage caused by free radicals, which are potential instigators of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
#3: Baked Apples
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and it also helps control the waistline. Loaded with fiber and nutrients, these low calorie sweet treats are delicious eaten raw or baked.
To Bake an Apple
Cut and scoop out the core from the top without cutting all the way through. Fill with a little cinnamon and/or nutmeg and a 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
The modest potato is vastly underrated when looking for a warm, low-calorie comfort food. The potato has gotten a bad reputation due to the increased interest in foods that are low-carb or low-glycemic index, but what many have forgotten is that this nutrient-dense tuber is packed with a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that ward off disease and benefit human health. White or sweet, the potato is high in fiber, potassium and vitamin C, and a medium potato provides less than 150 calories. Sweet potatoes are particularly high in vitamin A.
So, when you are wandering around the kitchen looking for a warm, low-calorie, filling snack, do not forget the potato. Just try to avoid slathering fatty butter or margarine on top. A better bet: top with a little non-fat Greek yogurt sprinkled with some chives, rosemary, or salsa.
Soup is an easy way to load your day with nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and immune-boosting powers that your body needs to get through the cold weather. Just remember to nix the heavy cream, high-fat meats and cheese.
I’ve created two wonderful soups that are sure to warm you up, fill you up and satisfy your taste buds without filling you out.
Heart-warming Vegetable Soup
YIELD: Makes 8 servings
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cups water
- 2 large carrots, thinly sliced
- 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
- 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (1/2 inch)
- 4 Yukon Gold or boiling potatoes, peeled and cubed (1/2 inch)
- 2 cups reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 can diced tomatoes with juice
- 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 medium zucchini, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- Place oil in a 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot. Sauté onion with bay leaf and 1/4 teaspoon salt over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in tomato paste and water cook, stirring until blended, about 1 minute.
- Add carrot and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.
- Add sweet potato, white potatoes, broth, tomatoes and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes.
- Add green beans and zucchini.
- Simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
- Remove and discard bay leaf.
- Remove and purée 2 cups soup in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids) and return to pot and stir thoroughly.
- Bring to a simmer, then stir in peas and dill and cook until peas are heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Nutrition Bonus: low in fat and sodium; no cholesterol; very high in vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, fiber and potassium.
Calories 208, Calories from Fat 36
Total Fat 3.9g
Saturated Fat 0.6g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Potassium 1240 mg
Total Carbohydrates 40.7g
Dietary Fiber 7.5g
Creamy White & Sweet Potato Soup
Blending the flavors of white and sweet potatoes, this recipe puts delicious healthy twist on a traditional high fat soup.
Yield: 8 Servings
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 sweet onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 medium white potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 4 medium sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cubed
- 5 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 4 oz. Canadian bacon, chopped (optional)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Chopped green onions
- In a Dutch oven, sauté celery, carrots and onion in olive oil until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and Canadian bacon then continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove Canadian bacon from pan and set aside.
- Add cubed potatoes to Dutch oven and toss to coat. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the chicken stock. Potatoes should be covered by liquid. If there is not enough stock add water to cover them.
- Cover with lid and let simmer on low heat until potatoes are tender.
- In a separate pan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and pepper.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.
- Add Canadian bacon to the potato mixture.
- Pour the thickened sauce into the potato mixture. Stir.
- For additional thickness, remove about 1/2 the soup, and puree with food processor or blender.
- Return to the pan. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.Top of Form
Nutrition bonus: high in vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin C; good source of fiber.
Calories 293, Calories from Fat 87
Saturated Fat 4.0g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Total Carbohydrates 43.5g
Dietary Fiber 6.1g