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Healthy Substitutions for Fall Comfort Foods

When the leaves start to turn and the air becomes brisk, we tend to turn to our favorite fall foods to keep the chill out. Stews, casserroles, hot coca and other decadent foods att seem to do the trick... but the calorie count makes us cringe. Here's some tips to make your favorite fall foods healthier so you can enjoy them all season, guilt-free. 

Have you ever noticed that as soon as the summer temperatures disappear, it becomes ten times harder to find the motivation to eat nutritiously, stay in shape or lose weight? Maybe it’s because warm temperatures are associated with skimpy clothes and the dreaded bikini season, and cold weather is known for slouchy sweaters perfect for hiding any imperfections or problem areas. Regardless of the reason, though, cold months make it so much more tempting to overload on comfort foods that may not be the most nutritious options out there.

But if you’re like most people, sticking to only fruits and veggies during wintertime is next to impossible, and not nearly as delicious. Go ahead and indulge in your favorite cold-weather comfort foods, just keep moderation and ingredient choices in mind as you cook this season. If you’re not sure where to start, try these easy tips for getting the most nutritional benefit out of these popular fall and winter favorites:

Hot Chocolate
Hot chocolate is one of the most-beloved cold weather beverages, and for good reason. It’s creamy, chocolate-y and tastes best when it’s topped with big fluffy marshmallows. Cut out some calories by making your hot cocoa with low-fat or skim milk instead, and if you use the mix-in packets, choose the lower fat options. Holding off on the marshmallows will also cut out unnecessary fat and calories. You’ll get the same delicious taste and texture from low-fat hot chocolate but without the guilt.

Soups and Chowders
Hot and hearty soups and chowders are perfect for cold blustery nights, which is great news since they have a lot of potential to be healthy. Load up your soups with vegetables and proteins for key nutrients, and if you’re using a cream base, stick to milk and low-fat cream so as not to increase the caloric content. Also avoid loading up your soups with toppings like bacon and cheese to keep them healthy and nutritious.

Casseroles are go-to comfort foods when it’s cold out because they’re thick, hearty and usually full of cheesy goodness and gloppy cream sauces. Luckily, there are definitely healthy casserole options out there that function as quick healthy meals in addition to comfort foods; choose recipes or frozen casseroles with lots of protein, vegetables and low-fat sauces. The more vegetables, protein and tomato sauce present in your casseroles and pasta bakes, the more nutritious they will be. Casseroles and bakes can easily be healthy as long as they are made up of nutritious ingredients, so don’t stop yourself from enjoying them this season.

Pies and Cobblers
Between apple-picking season, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, fall and winter are the peak seasons for pie and cobbler baking. To keep your pie consumption as nutritious as possible, make them with more fruit than sugar and steer clear of the chocolate or cream cheese based desserts. One of the easiest ways that people add calories to their fall desserts is by topping them off with giant scoops of high fat, high sugar and high calorie ice cream. A simple solution for this is to use frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, and Greek frozen yogurt is an even healthier alternative. You’ll still get to enjoy something cold and creamy on top of your pie, but you won’t ruin your diet by doing so.

So if you’ve been stressing about how to resist your favorite foods this season, you can stop! Healthy eating is all about moderation and smart ingredient choices, so as long as you’re aware that what’s going into your favorite food is not doing bad things to your body, you’ll be able to enjoy the tastes of fall guilt-free.

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