3 Nutritionists Share Their Tips For Healthier Comfort Food

Eating healthily doesn’t have to mean a salad for every meal. Whether your go-to is a bowl of pasta or homemade apple crumble, nutritionists agree it is possible to put a healthy spin on your comfort food favourites. From simple swaps to the store-cupboard essentials to keep at hand, here are some top tips from three experts…
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Karen Koramshai, chef & wellness expert, says…

Swap Carbs For Healthy Fats

“When we crave comfort food, we often reach for the carbs, but a serving of healthy fats satisfies cravings just as well. The next time you’re craving toast with lashings of butter and jam, try a few slices of apple or pear with crunchy almond butter. The sweetness of the apple will deal with a sweet craving while the fats from the nut butter will hit the spot and keep you full.”

Sneak Vegetables Into Pasta Sauces

“My family love what they call my ‘secret pasta sauce’, which may well be my ultimate health hack. It looks like a plain tomato sauce but is packed with sweet potatoes, peppers, carrots and leeks, which I chop into very small pieces. You can use this as a sauce for pasta or as a base for a homemade lasagne, meatballs and curries.”

Stock Up On Tinned Tomatoes

“My store cupboard is never without good-quality, organic tinned tomatoes. I use them for countless dishes, whether it’s curries, stews or pasta. I also bulk buy beans and pulses – particularly lentils, borlotti beans, chickpeas and black beans – as they’re great sources of fibre and protein. Add them to soups and stews throughout the winter.”

Try Gluten-Free Pasta

“Pasta is my go-to comfort food although it can leave me feeling bloated and lethargic. Even though I’m not coeliac, I find gluten-free pasta makes a real difference. I love to serve it with a homemade pesto, made with cashew nuts, nutritional yeast and avocado oil. Avocado oil can help reduce cholesterol and cashews are full of nutritional benefits (they contain copper, magnesium and manganese which can help with immunity). You can also stir through some seasonal greens for an extra nutritional boost.”
 
 
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Jen Walpole, nutritional therapist, says…

Be Wary Of Plant-Based Substitutes

“Melted cheese is pure comfort food, but cheese is something to be enjoyed in moderation as it’s high in saturated fat. Serve it as a ‘sprinkling’ rather than the main event. It can be tempting to opt for a vegan cheese thinking it’s a healthier option but always read the label, as some are very processed and use a lot of coconut oil. Try to avoid plant-based cheeses unless they are made with nuts, such as Kinda Co and Nush. Nutritional yeast is also a great alternative – sprinkle it over pasta dishes or dark green leafy veg.”

Make Your Own Takeaway

“Love a Friday night curry? Make your own using coconut milk and tinned tomatoes instead of butter and shop-bought sauces. Curries are also a great way to get in lots of vegetables – sweet potato, cauliflower, peppers, onion, garlic, baby sweetcorn and green beans work well at this time of year. Pair with brown rice for a healthy and balanced meal. If you love pasta and meatballs from your local Italian, make your own meatballs with turkey mince.”

Have A Warm Breakfast

“A hot breakfast feels instantly comforting. Instead of a plain bowl of porridge, stir in a tablespoon of chia seeds for a dose of healthy fats, and top with chopped nuts, a drizzle of nut butter and pomegranate seeds. For an extra comforting twist, stir in ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric – just a pinch of each will transform a bowl of porridge.”

Think Outside The Box

“Puddings can be healthy too. Try simmering frozen berries with a little water, maple syrup and cinnamon, and top with an oat crumble topping. Adding a variety of chopped nuts will add extra crunch, and you can even use coconut oil or a little olive oil to coat the topping, so it crisps in the oven. Another favourite is a baked banana (remove the skin and wrap in foil), which you can top with shaved, dark chocolate, chopped nuts and nut butter.”
 
 
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Ania Mason, nutritional therapist for the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, says…

Get Creative With Ingredients

“Hearty casseroles, curries and soups are perfect for this time of year. Aim for variety with your ingredients and you’ll reap the health benefits. If a recipe calls for white potatoes, for example, use celeriac or swede instead to lower the carb content. If you’re making lasagne, substitute half the pasta sheets with slices of aubergine and courgette. If you’re making a soup, add beans or lentils for additional protein and fibre, and sprinkle with fresh herbs before serving to add antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. And if you don’t already own one, invest in a slow cooker. They’re brilliant for these types of meals.”

Choose Soft Over Hard Cheese

“Soft cheeses such as mozzarella, ricotta, burrata and cottage cheese are lower in fat than hard varieties such as cheddar, so use these in salads, sauces and pasta, or on an oatcake for a snack. When eating cheese, try to be mindful of your portion size – a matchbox-sized piece should suffice.”

Switch Up Pizza Dough

“Pizza may not be an obvious healthy choice, but if you make your own base with cauliflower and almonds it can be a guilt-free treat. If you’re buying a shop-bought pizza, consider adding extra vegetables to make it more nutrient dense.”

Be Dessert Savvy

“If you’re making cheesecake, use ground almonds for the base instead of digestive biscuits, and swap sugary jams for fresh berries when making a cake – you can always crush them to create a jam-like consistency. Instead of shop-bought chocolate mousse, make your own by blending avocado, cocoa powder and stevia.”

Go Low On Carbs

“One of the dishes I make on repeat throughout the winter months is a veggie-loaded mince sauce, which I serve inside gem lettuce leaves or over spiralised courgettes, then top with homemade guacamole and grated cheese. This dish works out at around 70% veg – it’s full of fibre and antioxidants and provides seven servings of vegetables.”
 
 
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