Food has a deep connection to culture. Beyond that, sometimes it just makes you feel good!
By Barrett White
We didn’t give certain dishes the name “comfort foods” for nothing. It’s food that has deep emotional ties to you:
- Maybe the dish has cultural significance
- It reminds you of your childhood, or otherwise simpler times
- Perhaps it’s just a dish that tastes good that you like to make when you’re feeling down
- Or maybe it’s the dish you see at every family gathering
Whatever the case, comfort food is here to stay – as it should! But not every comfort food is necessarily healthy. While it’s totally fine to eat whatever kinds of food you want, it may not be the best decision to eat it on a regular basis if it’s high in fats, sugars, sodium, or cholesterol. As you age, eating foods like this regularly can lead to poor health outcomes like high cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes.
However, “one dish every once in a while is not what causes a problem,” says Sean Barrett, Director of Nutrition and Fitness at Legacy. “It is what we do day in and day out.”
This is to say that eating a comfort dish high in fats, sugars, cholesterol, or sodium in moderation won’t take a terrible toll on your body, much like going to the gym one time won’t instantly make you muscular. Enjoy the foods you enjoy, in moderation, without guilt!
But what can we do to make comfort dishes a little healthier? Whether it’s because we just want to enjoy them more often, or because we want the times that we do eat them to come with less fat, cholesterol, sugar, or sodium, there are ways to make small adjustments.
“We can always add more vegetables, decrease the saturated fats with healthier options, use better cuts of meats, decrease added sodium, and watch portion sizes,” Barrett says. “These are all easy ways to begin to make our favorite comfort dishes a little healthier.”
There are also many alternative ingredients that we can add to our dishes, too. Popular blogger Simple Green Moms compiled a list of substitutions for common ingredients that you can save for later, including using nutritional yeast instead of cheese, honey instead of corn syrup, greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise, and many more.
For Barrett’s favorite healthy comfort foods, he looks no further than southern staple chicken and dumplings and Texas breakfast favorite, chorizo and eggs.
Sean Barrett’s chicken and dumplings with rotisserie chicken and biscuits:
- Add a rotisserie chicken to a pot of water, bring it to a boil
- Tear apart the chicken and pull the bones
- A pound of frozen mixed vegetables, season to taste with garlic and salt pepper
- Add premade biscuits, heat until biscuits are ready
- (If you want to decrease fat, you can skim fat from the surface of the soup when it cools down)
“And chorizo and eggs made with soy chorizo instead of the real chorizo,” Barrett says. “It tastes like the real deal! All the flavor with less of the saturated fat!”
A good wheat or lentil pasta (any shape) with a hearty meat sauce is my personal comfort food. What’s yours?
To discuss a referral to a Legacy dietitian, make an appointment with your doctor online or call us at (832) 548-5100.