This is the time of year when all you want is a hearty, body-warming meal that is rich and flavourful. Whether it’s lasagna, stew, mashed potatoes or cheesy macaroni – your body knows what it wants. There is nothing wrong with this as long as your hearty meals are also healthy and by healthy, I don’t mean tasteless! When the craving sets in for these types of meals, there are choices you can make that will benefit your whole family.
Here are suggestions and alternatives that will satisfy all your comfort food cravings, but without guilt.
Make it hearty
Instead of heavy meats and starchy white carbohydrates that make you feel tired and heavy, use chickpeas, lentils or black beans for a veggie loaf instead of a meat loaf. Choose whole foods like barley, oats, buckwheat, and quinoa for the base of a soup, stew or pilaf. These foods are high in protein, fibre and slow burning carbohydrates. You will feel satisfied and full without being overstuffed.
Make it creamy, thick or cheesy
Instead of heavy creams and cheeses that are loaded with saturated fats and calories that leave you feeling sluggish and uncomfortable, choose naturally creamy alternatives like tahini or cashews for your cheese sauces and lasagnas. Avocados can also be used to cream up a recipe – especially for a velvety dip or a smooth chocolate pudding. Your body will absorb the nutrients much easier and utilize the fat calories for energy rather than for storage.
Desserts and beverages are loaded with white sugar, artificial sweeteners and preservatives with empty calories and other unnatural substances. Opt for whole foods that are naturally sweet like butternut squash or yams for a side dish. Make an apple crumble for dessert, sweetened with maple syrup or honey. Play with herbs and spices like cinnamon that give a sweet warming accent to your dish or hot chocolate. These foods not only contain natural flavours, but are also loaded with vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients.
Choosing some of these healthy alternatives to create your holiday meals will not only provide you with variety, but it will also give you unique flavours to create comforting meals that are sure to please your whole family!
“Cheesy” Macaroni Recipe
What’s in it
1 pound pasta (whole grain or brown rice)
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup plain rice milk or almond milk
2 cups softened butternut squash cut in cubes (can be steamed or roasted)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast (or brewer’s yeast)
3 tablespoons arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons tahini
2 teaspoons mellow white miso (or additional salt)
black pepper to taste
1/4 cup brown rice bread crumbs
How it’s made
1. Put the pasta on to boil, according to package directions. While it’s cooking, blend all remaining ingredients together in a blender.
2. When the pasta is al dente, drain it, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water, and return the pasta to pan.
3. Add the sauce mixture and cook, stirring, until mixture boils and thickens. Add a little of the pasta water if more moistness is needed.
4. If the sauce is not as flavorful as you’d like, add a little more mustard and onion powder.
5. Place the pasta and the “cheese sauce” together in a large baking dish and top with brown rice bread crumbs and bake in the oven for 10-20 minutes (if you like the crispy baked kind).
6. If there is extra sauce, leave some aside for another batch.
Marni Wasserman is a culinary nutritionist in Toronto whose philosophy is stemmed around whole foods. She is dedicated to providing balanced lifestyle choices through natural foods. Using passion and experience, she strives to educate individuals on how everyday eating can be simple and delicious.