By Fatima Villalobos, MS, MEd

The cold winter weather provides the perfect excuse to cuddle up and enjoy your favorite comfort foods.  Regardless of what your favorites are, it’s important to not let this disrupt an overall healthy diet.  So, what’s the formula to fighting those favorite comfort food cravings? While it’s not realistic to eliminate comfort food entirely (nor would we want to), here are five suggestions to help lay some ground rules:

  1. Use healthy preparation techniques – sauté, bake or grill instead of frying.  For example, when craving the starchy foods, bake sweet potato cut fries, carrots, or potato wedges with a light toss of oil instead of deep frying or digging into a bag of chips.
  2. Substitute high-fat foods with similar textured foods that are lower in fat– for example, use nonfat yogurt in place of mayonnaise, and when baking, use applesauce to substitute half the butter or oil in the recipe.
  3. Use real fruit to sweeten baked goods – A lot of baked goods will taste just as flavorful and sweet when sweetened with real fruit.  Add a ripened banana or shredded apple while eliminating half the amount of refined or granulated sugar required in the recipe.  Real fruit gives an added benefit of fiber to help slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
  4. Savor the moment, portion it out & slow down – For a lot of us, we see comfort food as “bad food” because it is so addicting and we can never seem to get enough of it.  Here, I invite you to savor the moment by portioning out a reasonable serving onto your plate and taking time to eat and enjoy.  Really take comfort in your food and allow 15 minutes to pass after you’ve finished before deciding to go for seconds.  This will give your stomach enough time to tell your brain you’ve had enough.  Whatever you do, don’t eat straight from that pint of ice cream or that 12oz bag of chips!
  5. Think healthy and nourishing – When craving that little sweet or salty snack ask yourself, “How can I make this more satisfying, so I won’t go overboard?”  Think along the lines of complex carbohydrates, substituting refined grains for the whole wheat version, and choosing hearty root vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots.  Also, opt for foods with smart fats like olive oil, fatty fish, and avocado to help keep cholesterol levels in check.

Example: Just as appetizing and soft!  These blueberry muffins were made by using ¼ c  sugar + 1 medium mashed banana and 1 cup fresh blueberries (recipe called for 1+ ¼ c sugar and 1 c blueberries).  Applesauce was used in place of half the oil.