According to researchers, the top 5 foods associated with comfort are beans on toast, bangers and mash, tomato soup, chicken pie and macaroni cheese – foods often associated with happy childhood memories. They are often just what we crave when it’s cold outside and we want to warm our body and soul with the food equivalent of a cosy duvet. But those comfort foods in excess can provide you with extra padding all of your own if you aren’t careful, as they can be high in saturated fat, sugar and more. Don’t despair – here’s how to get the comfort without the calorie load; the health with an added hug.
Beans on toast
Tinned beans can be high in sugar and salt – neither of which are good for you. Choose the lower sugar and salt versions or make your own – it’s easier than you think and a delicious way of getting more of your 5-a-day. Beans count as a portion as well as any veg you add. And swap white bread for crunchy, wholegrain toast to help reach your 30g a day fibre goal.
Bangers and mash
Processed meats like sausages are bad for our health according to recent studies. So restrict them to the occasional meal and go for quality over quantity – having just one or two premium sausages with lean meat and as few preservatives as possible; from a reputable butcher. Then make a healthier mash from veg such as carrots, sweet potato or similar.
The tinned cream of tomato soup may contain memories of childhood –but it also can contain added sugar and salt. A much more delicious and fresher version can easily be made at home by oven-roasting fresh tomatoes with onion, red pepper and garlic in a splash of olive oil then mixing with a tin of tomatoes and some stock before blending to a rough or smooth consistency to suit. Serve with a swirl of Greek yoghurt and some fresh basil or ground black pepper.
A pastry-heavy, creamy chicken pie can be given a much healthier twist. Pack in some of your daily veg quota – chose hearty veg like squash, swede or similar – and top with lid of wholemeal pastry or sweet potato mash.
The joy of a bowl of macaroni cheese is the creamy cheesiness – but you can make it healthier without losing the comfort factor. Replace half the pasta with cauliflower or broccoli to increase the veg quota and use wholemeal rather than white pasta, which adds a delicious nutty taste anyway. Use low fat cream cheese and semiskimmed milk with just a sprinkling of parmesan for a delicious sauce. Top with grilled tomatoes for added taste and nutrients.
And of course, the times when these foods taste their best is when you come home to them after a bracing, energetic walk in the great outdoors. Then a few extra calories are neither here nor there and the health boost of exercise just adds to the healthy nutritional power of these delicious foods.
Now that’s real cause for comfort!