Healthier Ways to Make Your Favorite Winter Comfort Foods

comfort foodsAh, winter comfort foods—is anything better than curling up in a blanket and eating your favorite?

However, many comfort foods, such as macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, and creamy stews and soups, are full of fat and calories we don’t need. Following are a few tips to reduce the fat and calories without sacrificing the taste and comfort you want.

Cut down the butter.

If a recipe calls for three tablespoons of butter, try using only two tablespoons (or less). Chances are you won’t notice a difference in taste. Using margarine presents its own problems, as most of them have hydrogenated oil you need to completely stay away from.

Try using lower-fat dairy products.

Instead of heavy cream, try using half-and-half, or use 2% milk instead of full-fat milk. Sour cream and cottage cheese come in low-fat varieties. You can find lower-fat cheeses, or use a smaller amount of high-quality cheese.

For some recipes, a lower-fat substitution might not work, but it’s certainly worth a try.

Reduce sugar by half.

While sugar doesn’t have that many calories, reducing it is always a good idea when trying to eat healthier. If you don’t like the taste with less sugar, try adding a little bit of honey.

Add more lean protein, fruit, and vegetables.

If you’re making a chicken potpie, use the leanest cuts of the chicken and add more vegetables. Try some broccoli, cauliflower, and beans.

Try pan-frying instead of deep-frying.

You’ll use less oil and have fewer calories. Try frying in olive oil or coconut oil for a change of taste. Taking the skin off will reduce fat, as will baking or oven-frying.

If all else fails, simply eat smaller portions, or make adjustments elsewhere in your diet.

If you can’t stand the way your mac ‘n cheese tastes with lower-fat substitutions, by all means, cook it the right way—just eat from a smaller bowl or plate. If you don’t want to do that, then plan your mac feast and eat less during the other meals of the day.

What do you do to reduce the fat and calories in your comfort foods?

Low-Fat Ways to Spice up Any Dish

low-fat dishesOne criticism of low-fat diets is boredom and blandness, because fat adds flavor to meals. Spices and condiments can add all the flavor you want without adding extra calories or contributing to health issues.

When using spices, don’t be afraid to experiment. One way to know if a spice is right for your dish is to do the sniff test. Smell the spice, and you’ll be able to tell right away if it’s right for the meal you’re planning. We’ve searched our spice rack to bring you some fresh ideas to create new flavors without fat.

Meat and poultry

Even low-fat cuts of meat benefit from thoughtful use of spices. Try tenderizing and then marinating your meat overnight before cooking. You can find plenty of commercial marinades in a variety of flavors, but some have high fructose corn syrup or excess sodium, so be sure to read all labels. Try using steak sauce, beer, wine, soy sauce, or fruit juice. Marinade recipes abound online and provide variety.

Spice and seasoning blends such as Mrs. Dash, Nature’s Seasons, and seasoned salt and pepper take a simple cut of meat or poultry and make it taste like a gourmet masterpiece. Instead of simply sprinkling the spice, try rubbing it into the meat directly. Single spices that pack a flavor punch include garlic, dill, sage, rosemary, and cinnamon. You can also add vegetables during cooking, such as mushrooms and onions.


Lemon pepper and fresh-squeezed citrus fruit enhance seafood, as do low-sugar, low-fat tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. Most spice companies produce spice blends specifically for seafood, and for a real treat, add a little parmesan before baking.


Veggies are an important staple of a low-fat diet because of their fiber and low calorie count. Spice blends are delicious on vegetables, and some spices that add a unique flavor include marjoram, nutmeg, onion, and cinnamon. Think outside the box when using spices. Perhaps an apple pie or pumpkin pie spice would work with squash. Instead of butter and sour cream for baked potatoes, try some low-fat plain yogurt with chives, salt, and fresh-ground pepper.

Be sure to keep an eye on sodium, high-fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated fat when you’re spicing up your food. The main rule in using spices is that there is no right or wrong. Use the spices you like in combinations that make sense to you. You never know what delicious spice blends you’ll create.

Do you have any low-fat ways to spice up a dish? We’d love to hear about them in our comments section!