We love to treat ourselves to comfort foods every now and then, but some of the tastiest recipes are filled with unhealthy fats and refined carbohydrates. Not to worry, our ShopRite Dietitians have come to the rescue with lighter versions of our favorite meals. Dig in, guilt-free!
Here are 10 lighter versions of some tried and true family favorites:
This layered casserole smothered in a rich red sauce has plenty of hiding places for vegetables. Thinly sliced zucchini or squash, pureed cauliflower or a fine sheet of spinach and mushrooms will practically melt into the dish without adding fat or distracting from the dominant cheese and tomato flavors. To cut the fat and boost fiber, use low-fat cheeses and whole-wheat noodles. If you need to eliminate the starchy noodles altogether, try thick slices of zucchini instead to hold your layers in place.
A crust of refined flour can easily be upgraded by using a whole-wheat crust as your base to boost fiber and add a nutty flavor. Smaller amounts of fresh mozzarella adds delicious flavor, or you can try vegan or nut-based cheeses if you need to eliminate dairy. Swap traditional Italian pork sausage for turkey sausage to reduce saturated fat, and toss on plenty of green toppings. A pizza is like a flattened version of a one-pot supper when your favorite veggies are heaped on top.
This American classic can conceal so much goodness while still offering your family its familiar flavors. Start with lean ground beef (90 percent or higher) or ground turkey and your favorite seasonings. Mix in a handful of flaxseed, a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids, with the breadcrumbs and puree black beans, carrots or zucchini – or all three! For added fiber, flavor and nutrients. Skip the brown sugar in the ketchup glaze. Instead try mixing the ketchup with Dijon mustard for a tangy glaze that still tastes sweet.
This is one childhood favorite we never outgrow. Start with a low-carb or whole-wheat macaroni. (There are also gluten-free pastas made from brown rice and quinoa that are worth trying.) Traditional recipes insist on heavy cream and full-fat milk and cheeses to create a rich, creamy sauce, but try it with light cream (or no cream) and reduced-fat milk and cheeses and you’ll be surprised at how good the dish still tastes. You can add finely chopped broccoli or pureed zucchini into the dish for extra bulk. Pureed winter squash will give your homemade mac and cheese the familiar look while secretly adding even more nutrients. The kids will love it.
This is another example of a dish that can be easily adjusted to remain a healthy meal. Try blue corn or whole-grain tortilla chips instead of ones made from refined flours. Skip the canned cheese sauce and experiment with queso fresco or cotija cheese. Use a lean ground beef, ground turkey or chicken for added protein. And, certainly, pile on the salsa, black beans, jalapenos and other veggies and bake until all these wonderful flavors meld together. Top with just a spoonful of guacamole for a healthy bit of decadence.
Fat and calories creep easily into this traditional dish but you can cut back at every turn. Start with lean ground beef or ground turkey. Or, for a vegetarian options consider using lentils for protein and a kick of fiber. Use a low-sodium beef, chicken, or veggie broth for the stock and whole-wheat flour to thicken the gravy. Replace the sour cream with nonfat Greek yogurt and reduce the amount of butter and milk you add to your mashed potato topping.
It’s easy to cut back on the excess fat without sacrificing flavor in this versatile dish, which has as many variations. Ground turkey is a fine substitute for ground beef but beef lovers may want to try a ground sirloin instead of chuck. If you want to eliminate the meat, bulk up on nutritious ingredients like beans, tomatoes and bell peppers. Try no-salt-added kidney beans, reduced-fat cheddar cheese and low-fat sour cream. A combination of unsweetened cocoa powder, chili powder and chipotle will add a new depth of flavor to your chili without adding any sugar.
This English staple is based on a nutritious duo so don’t spoil it by frying. You can make crispy fish and potatoes in the oven without a lot of oil. Coat skinless cod fish in seasoned flour, an egg wash and bread crumbs and bake in a jellyroll pan that had been coated with a small amount of vegetable oil. Cut wedges of baking potatoes – or, better yet, sweet potatoes – and toss in a small amount vegetable oil and your favorite seasonings and bake. To reduce the fat content, make a tartar sauce with light mayonnaise and nonfat yogurt or just sprinkle with malt vinegar.
A good cut of lean meat, like a chuck roast or boneless sirloin steak, is the basis for a healthier version of this beef-and-noodle classic. Bulk up the meal with fresh mushrooms and cut back on the butter and salt. Use low-sodium beef broth and light sour cream – or try nonfat Greek yogurt as a substitute. You can even substitute the flour needed to thicken the gravy with whole-wheat, rice or almond flour. Serve over whole-wheat noodles or brown rice.
Southern fried chicken is nearly impossible to resist but who needs all those calories and saturated fat? You can achieve a crunchy exterior and tender meat with a good oven-fry recipe. Make sure to soak the skinless chicken pieces in a low-fat buttermilk, then coat in your favorite flour and spice mix. Chicken breasts, in particular, will “fry” nicely in a jellyroll pan covered in a thin layer of vegetable oil. To cut back even further on the oil, midst chicken pieces with cooking spray but make sure to bake on a pan lined with parchment paper.
For more tips on how to lighten up your favorite comfort foods, talk to your local ShopRite dietitian!