We’re back for Healthy Food Swaps Comfort Food Edition! Healthy food swaps are a simple way to continue on your healthy lifestyle journey, without sacrificing taste. This article is going to focus on making your favorite hearty dishes healthier and filling at the same time. Because let’s face it; there’s nothing better than a warm, comfort meal now that the crisp fall air is on the way.
We love pizza and bread as much as the next person, but not all meals need to have grains as the star. Take chili, for example. You can load up your ground beef (or ground turkey), beans, tomatoes, and the works without having to add a large carbohydrate component. You can create delicious variations of chili by mixing different proteins and veggies of your choosing.
If you’re really missing the carbs, try crumbling a few tortilla chips on top to give your dish a little extra crunch. Even better, you can make a few servings ahead of time to keep in the fridge or freezer as an easy go-to option for extra busy days.
Make sure to take advantage of the different toppings you add to your chili recipes. Swap out the sour cream for plain Greek yogurt to get some extra protein. We like Fage plain Greek yogurt, which doesn’t have the tangy aftertaste like some Greek yogurts. You can even add healthy fats such as avocado slices on top!
Casseroles that highlight proteins and veggies are also great meal options. For instance, chicken divan casserole typically consists of chicken, broccoli, soup, mayo, cheese, and bread crumbs. You can easily modify this by swapping the mayo for chicken broth. Even simply omitting the mayo entirely and using a heart-healthy version of the soup is beneficial.
Swapping the single-serving recommendation of chicken and broccoli for double servings is an easy way to make the meal healthier. Plus, it gives you a good reason to add a nice helping of cheese into the dish too.
Another way to improve your casseroles is to swap out the carb source. For instance, instead of white rice in your shrimp casserole, try making the dish with cauliflower rice instead. Even if you keep the soup and cheese, swapping out the white rice alone makes your recipe significantly healthier.
Similar to casseroles, there are a few simple ways to make hearty soups healthier. For starters, choose clear liquids to make up the bulk of your recipe rather than cream-based liquids, which tend to be higher in calories. Adding ingredients like bone broth or chicken stock can add nutritional value while still maintaining all the delicious flavor.
Try finding new and different ways to incorporate proteins into your dish as well. For example, you can elevate your chicken noodle soup by using tortellini noodles, which are typically filled with veal or pork loin (and are a great source of protein), instead of traditional egg noodles.
Soups are also an excellent way to utilize leftover vegetables. Don’t be afraid to take liberties with your recipes and their ingredients list. Try adding vegetables that are similar and pair well together. For instance, a soup that calls for ½ cup of carrots would taste even better with chopped celery and onions added to it.
When it comes to noodles, everyone knows that opting for whole-grain pasta is a healthier way to go, but you can take it a step further with zucchini noodles. Spiralizing zucchini (and other vegetables!) into “zoodles” is a great option for pasta lovers. Not only do you get the vitamins and minerals from the vegetables, but this pasta alternative still provides plenty of flavor and crunch! Get creative with your cooking, like slicing zucchini ribbons to make lasagna, or using eggplant instead of zucchini. The possibilities are endless!
If you don’t want to part with the pasta, simply swap out the ratio of pasta being used. For example, a goulash recipe typically calls for ground beef, sliced tomatoes, a mixture of veggies, and a large amount of pasta. This is a great opportunity to throw in zucchini, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, any vegetable really, and even add in some extra ground beef (or ground turkey!) By simply increasing the amount of protein and veggies used and decreasing the amount of pasta, you’ve created a healthier version of classic comfort food.
Making hearty meals doesn’t have to be overly complicated- or bland! Small, simple swaps can take your favorite comfort meals up a notch without sacrificing flavor. Don’t just take our word for it, give some of these swaps a try to see for yourself! Check out more healthy food swaps here.