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Comfort foods remixed

Comfort foods are often loaded with sugar, butter and other fats, and guilty of demolishing diets. But take comfort that with a few substitutions, your most beloved foods can be healthier. Replacing colossal calorie counts and fat grams with vitamins and nutrients is an important step on your wellness journey. So, put a new spin on your favorites. Get creative in the kitchen. And remix your dishes by following the USDA’s dietary guidelines — half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, and the other half should be split between whole grains and protein; dairy is minimal.
Apple Pie
Apple Pie

Grandma’s homemade apple pie is a mouthwatering American treat. The perfect blend of tart, yet sweet apples and that flaky crust will always be a family favorite. Á la mode, you’re indulging in 650 calories of sweetness per slice.

The calorie-culprits: buttery crust and sugary filling. You can substitute some of the butter for unsweetened applesauce, reducing over 760 calories per half-cup. Other than apples, the filling is mostly sugar (40 grams per piece). Slice the sugar in half and use vanilla extract, cinnamon and nutmeg to amp up the flavor. For a true guilt-free treat, a fresh apple is the way to go.

Buttermilk Pancakes
Pancakes

Buttermilk pancakes and syrup can tip the scales at well over a thousand calories. A few hours later, you’ll experience a sugar crash — leaving you tired and hungry again. With a few healthy substitutions, your hotcakes will turn into a breakfast of champions.

Instead of white flour and buttermilk, choose whole wheat flour and low-fat plain Greek yogurt. With four more grams of fiber and seven more grams of protein, you’ll feel fuller through the day and support your gastrointestinal health. Instead of maple syrup (53 grams of sugar per quarter-cup), try pureed or fresh berries, local honey (great for allergy sufferers), or peanut butter for an extra boost of protein.

Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken Pot Pie

A warm, flaky and buttery chicken pot pie weighs in at over 400 calories per serving — and there are eight servings in one pie! The crust, creamy filing and cut of chicken are the biggest offenders.

Instead of heavy cream as the base of your filling, use low-sodium chicken broth. Opt for chicken breast instead of thighs for less fat. And substitute the buttery crust for a crumbly whole wheat biscuit. Incorporate more root vegetables — sweet potatoes, parsnips, beets, celery and carrots — and you’re on your way to a healthier version. What was 3,200 calories is now just under 600. Dig in!

Fried Chicken
Fried Chicken

A bucket of fried chicken is a southern favorite. Hand-battered and fried to a golden crisp, each piece in that greasy bucket contains 32 grams of fat. Top with cream gravy and you’re pouring on nine more grams of fat. One chicken leg with gravy is about 650 calories and 41 grams of fat. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, you’re three times over your daily limit of fat grams.

You can make a crunchy and equally finger-lickin’ good take on fried chicken that doesn't break the fat bank. Use chicken breasts instead of legs, wings or thighs. Marinate the chicken in low-fat buttermilk instead of whole milk. Coat the chicken using panko or bread crumbs, instead of white flour. Then, mist olive oil over the breaded chicken and bake in the oven. This not-so-fried chicken is just under 275 calories and five grams of fat.

Hamburgers
Hamburger

A McDonald’s Big Mac has 540 calories. Burger King’s Whopper has 670 calories — 990 calories including cheese. Meat quality and toppings (such as cheese and mayonnaise) are the main drivers of these sky-high calorie counts. Here are your best bets when it comes to burgers:

– Main meat: lean ground sirloin (230 calories) over ground chuck (275 calories) — look for the lowest fat percentage. Lean ground turkey breast is best (190 calories).

– Healthy toppings: romaine lettuce, tomato and onions. Eighty-six the pickles to cut about 250 milligrams of sodium (10% of your daily value).

– Spread lightly: ketchup and mustard are among the lowest in calories, but are not shy of sodium (each over 150 milligrams). An ounce of guacamole is also a good spread option instead of mayonnaise — a major fat gram offender with 12 grams per tablespoon.

Lasagna
Lasagna

This Italian dish has gathered families around the dinner table for generations. Whether made fresh from a restaurant or purchased from the freezer aisle, lasagna’s cheese and noodles can smother your diet goals.

Lighten up your lasagna by using a few leaner ingredients and checking for unnecessary sugar. Select fat-free ricotta and non-fat mozzarella to cut your calorie count in half — saving about 650 calories. Instead of ground beef, use ground turkey breast and season with basil, parsley and oregano. Factor in fiber with whole wheat noodles and spinach.

Macaroni And Cheese
Macaroni and cheese

A favorite since childhood, macaroni and cheese is an easy side or sometimes a full entrée. Even deep fried mac ‘n’ cheese is gaining popularity. But this baked bowl needs a makeover.

Portion control is key. Macaroni and cheese does not have a home on the new food plate recommendations. Three of the main ingredients — cheese, butter and milk — are “solid fats.” To reduce the impact, use whole wheat elbow macaroni, skim milk and low-fat cheeses. By shedding the higher-calorie ingredients, you can save roughly 250 calories, 22 grams of fat (14 grams of saturated fat), over 1,000 milligrams of sodium and 71 milligrams of cholesterol per serving (one cup).

Mashed Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes

Potatoes are starchy vegetables — but still vegetables. According to the new food guide, half of our plate should consist of vegetables and fruits. This spud can support some of your daily nutrients: 27% of vitamins C and B6, and 15% of dietary fiber.

Sadly, mashed potatoes may be loaded with butter, bacon, sour cream and mounds of cheese (among other heavy-weight toppings). Strip the toppings and get back to the basics. Leave the skins on when making the mash, adding fiber and potassium. Use skim milk, low-fat plain yogurt or Greek yogurt for the creamy consistency. Your remixed mashed potatoes will total one-fifth the original calories.

Meatloaf
Meatloaf

Meatloaf is a classic suppertime meal. But using fattier cuts of ground beef (less than 95% beef, 5% fat) can really undercut your health and fitness goals. One loaf may have a density of over 3,500 calories, 250 grams of fat and 3,000 milligrams of sodium.

Knead your way toward a slimmer version. To trim the fat, select a leaner cut of beef or ground turkey breast — saving about 70 calories and nine grams of fat. Plus, using egg whites (instead of whole eggs) cuts out over seven grams of fat, 215 milligrams of cholesterol and 60 calories, and increases protein by three grams. Use two egg whites for every one egg. Also, to help offset the drier lean meat, mix in sliced vegetables (like mushrooms) or low-fat milk.

Pizza
Pizza

A six-inch personal cheese pizza from Pizza Hut is 590 calories. The same pizza at Papa John’s is 720 calories. This game-time favorite pie is bubbling over with grease and fat. Get creative in the kitchen and make your own personal pizza.

Put a new spin on your pizza with fresh ingredients and whole wheat dough. Layer sliced fruits, vegetables and herbs (like pineapple, tomatoes, bell peppers and basil) as your toppings. Sprinkle on a little mozzarella and provolone — 100 calories per quarter-cup — and bake it in the oven.