Most of my favorite comfort foods are not very healthy. I’m looking at you, macaroni and cheese, pizza, and fried chicken! When I switched over to a healthy lifestyle, I had to find ways to make my favorite foods without the fat-filled ingredients. The only problem is that butter, cheese, and cream tend to make these meals really shine. You might be wondering how to make healthy meals taste rich and comforting, so I’d love to share my secrets with you. By using these tips and tricks, I promise that you can make your favorite casseroles healthy again!
With a few ingredient swaps, you can transform your comfort classics into healthier versions that don’t sacrifice any of the flavor. It’s all about knowing which foods have creamy textures, mild flavors, and rich aftertastes. Don’t believe me? Try a few of these tips and tricks and let us know how it went in the comments!
Love Your Cauliflower
There’s almost nothing more comforting than a bowl of creamy mashed potatoes. Unfortunately, potatoes are filled with quickly-digesting carbohydrates and they’re not allowed on many diet plans. Not only that, but most mashed potato recipes load them up with butter and cream (you know, the good stuff).
It’s time to give cauliflower a chance! Cauliflower has such a mild flavor, and this Creamy Mashed Cauliflower dish will fool almost anyone once you puree it up. It’s super high in vitamins B6, C, and K, and it’s packed full of fiber and antioxidants. Not only that, but cauliflower has a third as many calories and carbohydrates as potatoes: only 25 calories and 5 carbs per cooked cup.
You can also use cauliflower to make bread and pizza crust, or you can rice cauliflower and use it as a substitute for carb-heavy rice. I promise you that this Cauliflower Fried Rice tastes just as good as the stuff you get at your favorite take-out restaurant with a fraction of the fat and calories!
Consider Adding Squash
Anytime you want to add cheese to a dish to amp-up the creaminess, consider adding a squash variety instead. In the summertime, you can use zucchini or yellow crookneck squash. In the wintertime, butternut squash or pumpkin are my go-to varieties. Simply grate them on a box grater and add them to your meal. They’re guaranteed to make risotto taste like it has a ton of added butter and cheese – even when you make it in the slow cooker, like this recipe!
Swap In Ground Turkey or Chicken
Some of my favorite comfort food recipes are filled with artery-clogging beef. Not that beef is bad, but I’m trying to avoid it more and more these days. I had to learn how to make healthy meals taste rich and comforting without all the red meat! Luckily, I learned that you can substitute ground turkey or chicken for almost any recipe that calls for beef. After you add all your spices, no one at the dinner table will even notice!
This trick also works for recipes that call for sausage. I love a good sausage-filled red beans and rice or Cajun-spiced gumbo, but pork sausage is often rich with fat. There are many great, pre-made chicken and turkey sausage products available at the regular grocery store. Or, you can make chicken meatballs and swap them in for the sausage. The end result will be the same – a flavorful blend of meat and spices – but your favorite comfort food recipe will be that much healthier.
Greek Yogurt, Coconut Milk, and Cashew Cream
If you look through my personal recipe book, you’ll find these three ingredients all over the place. Any recipe that calls for heavy cream, sour cream, or cheese will probably still taste great if you swap in one of these three ingredients. The Greek yogurt is great for dishes where you want a full-flavored, thick-textured dairy product. The coconut milk is rich and creamy, making it a shoe-in for a heavy cream replacement. And the plant-based cashew cream doesn’t melt like regular cheese, but it has the same rich texture and silky flavor.
Add Cannellini Beans
Beans and legumes are so good for you. They’re filled with fiber and plant-based protein. Pair them with rice and they make a complete protein! But, it’s not all about the nutrition: White beans (specifically cannellini beans) have a super creamy texture. You can puree them and add them to creamy soups instead of dairy, or you can add them to a salad to amp-up a cheesy texture. Or, you can serve up your favorite grilled piece of meat over beans instead of potatoes or polenta.
Think Outside the Box
This is my best piece of advice for you: Think outside the box and try things that you sound good to you. They might not always work out, but they might be brilliant (and, if they are, please tell us about them!). So if you have a hankering for fried chicken, try oven-baking it instead of deep-frying it. Or, try breading your chicken with almond meal. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, play around with bananas and applesauce instead of using sugar and butter (we love this plant-based Banana Pudding Ice Cream).
Basically, the sky’s the limit! The best way to learn how to make healthy meals taste rich and comforting is to have some fun with it. Your meals will almost always turn out delicious if you start with wholesome ingredients, you just have to get used to cooking it differently.
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