It may be time to swap out your comfort foods for healthier options.
Some foods smell and taste of comfort. When it’s cold and rainy outside or you’re sick, sad, or stressed, you turn to these foods to help you cope. After all, a few minutes of yummy food can help take your mind off of your problems and bring some relief to your negative mood.
Unfortunately, emotional eating is a major cause of weight gain for a lot of people.
If you’re constantly turning to food to help you cope with your emotions, whether positive or negative, you’ll likely overdo it on calories. Learning healthy ways of coping with your emotions is key to managing your weight. So instead of reaching for ice cream, French fries, cookies, or cakes to provide a sense of solace, choose healthy options instead. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Healthy Option 1: Soup
A warm bowl of soup on a cold, dreary day can do your body good. Soups are a simple and healthy way to fill up on vegetables and lean protein. Chicken, lean beef, beans of all kinds, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, corn, broccoli, onions, kale and spinach make healthy soup ingredients.
Just be sure to avoid soups made with added sugars. Tomato and French onion soups are culprits that often hide high amounts of added sugars. Also, choose chicken or vegetable broth-based soups instead of cream-based soups such as bisques and chowders. Heavy cream is high in calories and saturated fats.
When you use beef broth, make sure it’s made without caramel coloring to avoid more stuff your body doesn’t need.
Healthy Option 2: Pasta
Unless you’re on a super carb-restrictive diet, pasta every now and then can be part of a healthy diet. It’s warm, filling and delicious, making it a common go-to comfort food. Make healthy pasta by including lean protein. Instead of including ground beef or sausage, which are often high in saturated fats, choose chicken or ground turkey instead. While you’re at it, add as many vegetables to the pasta dish as you can. Throw in onion and spinach that’s been sautéed in olive oil. And add peppers, tomatoes, carrots, squash, cauliflower, or broccoli.
For maximum health, opt for pastas made with tomato sauce or pesto rather than cream-based sauce. Instead of pastas made from refined, white flour, try whole-grain pastas or vegetable pastas for added fiber and nutrients.
Healthy Option 3: Pizza
It’s a common go-to comfort food with a bad rap. Yes, when the pizza crust is made with refined, white flour and topped with extra cheese and processed meats it’s not good for you. But there are ways to make a pizza healthy.
For starters, you should skip the white crust, extra cheese, sausage and pepperoni, and make your pizza with a whole-grain crust for added protein, fiber and nutrients. Use a tomato-based sauce, pesto, or olive oil and garlic. Then pile on vegetable toppings—mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes and spinach are all great options. Want some meat? Add grilled chicken, turkey bacon or lean steak. Instead of eating a whole pie, limit your portion size and enjoy a large side salad.
Healthy Option 4: Snacks
It’s easy to grab cookies, a milk shake, ice cream, chips or French fries when you’re feeling in the dumps. These yummy foods may perk you up for a few minutes, but you soon feel worse than before your snack. So reach for healthy snack alternatives next time.
What about some whole-grain chips or crackers dipped in salsa or hummus? Instead of ice cream, why not a frozen fruit bar or low-fat frozen yogurt? A few apple slices dipped in creamy peanut butter, a cup of Greek yogurt mixed with fresh berries, a few nuts or a hard-boiled egg all make for healthy snacks that fill you up and taste good, too.
It’s easy to over-do it on comfort food portions. Cut your calorie intake by limiting portion sizes.
Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and the owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.