Seasonal Comfort Foods, Casseroles, and Calories

June 20, 2009

Fresh fruits for good health

Explore how to keep the taste - but drop the calories - with healthy, low-calorie autumn comfort foods.

As the weather gets colder and the days become shorter, our bodies begin to crave warm, soothing comfort foods. Get ahead of the game this year. Keep calories under control with the following tips.

Cold-weather cravings

Pot pies, hearty stews, and casseroles abound as the season turns into fall. Keep in mind, though, that these seasonal favorites are notoriously high in fat and calories. If you enjoy stews and casseroles made with lots of meat, try adding more vegetables, beans, or whole grains - like brown rice or quinoa - and cut back on the animal protein. They'll have the same flavor, but will be more filling and better for you.

You also can pair a smaller portion of your favorite comfort foods with a side salad or cup of broth-based soup. This will add healthy nutrients to the meal and help you feel full.

While you plan your meals, try these other tips:

  • Use fat-free or low-fat evaporated milk instead of heavy cream in soups and sauces
  • Make individual servings of casseroles in muffin tins to control portion sizes
  • Use reduced fat cheese instead of full fat
  • Choose lean cuts of meat instead of higher fat counterparts
  • Skim the fat from gravy
  • Use an oil mister or non-stick cooking spray instead of butter or margarine

Cold-weather healthy treats

If you want to take things a step further, you can skip the calorie-dense foods and go for nutrient-dense foods instead! Take advantage of colorful produce that peeks in the fall with these super-healthy seasonal foods.

Apples and pears Full of antioxidants and fiber, these fruits can be used in stuffing or as a nice complement to roasted chicken or pork. They taste great diced in green or fruit salads and also make a delicious low-calorie dessert. Simply microwave slices and sprinkle with cinnamon or poach in fruit juice or wine.

Beets This colorful root vegetable contains powerful nutrients that help protect against heart disease and certain cancers. Add fresh grated beets to salads or use as a garnish for soups. Enjoy them as a side dish, roasted or steamed, topped with a little lemon juice and olive oil.

Cabbage Abundant in phytonutrients and an excellent source of fiber, cabbage can be used in a variety of hot and cold dishes. Bake cabbage leaves stuffed with leftover rice and vegetables, braise red cabbage with chopped apple and red wine, or use shredded raw cabbage as a garnish for sandwiches and tacos.

Pomegranates Once considered an exotic treat, pomegranates boost immunity, promote heart health and fight disease-causing free radicals in the body. Sprinkle on salads, pair with roasted meats, or enjoy as a snack.

Winter squash Winter squash (pumpkin, butternut, etc.) is packed with beta-carotene, vitamin C, and potassium. Use to make savory soups or in place of regular white potatoes to cut down on calories and boost nutrients. It's possible to enjoy the fun and flavors of the season without the weight gain. Incorporate some of these ideas into your meals this fall. You'll be so happy you did!

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