4 healthy comfort foods to help you shape up this spring

Comfort foods are an absolute must during the winter,  but once spring puts in an appearance, many of us turn our attention to the coming summer and those inevitable skimpy swimsuits. While no-one would blame you for switching to salads and smoothies to shape up for summer, there are some comfort foods that enable us to have our cake and eat it too. Some comfort foods – cake aside (sorry!) – can be transformed into highly nutritious and filling dishes that will give us the best of both worlds.

Read on to discover how to turn four classic comfort food dishes into delicious, healthy meals:

1) Comforting Curries

Curry is one of my all-time favourite comfort foods. It’s creamy, it’s rich and it’s incredibly warming, which makes it the perfect meal to eat curled up on the sofa. While shop-bought and takeaway curries are high in fat, salt and sugar, homemade curries are often very healthy and just as comforting. Vegetarian and vegan curries are some of the healthiest and tastiest out there, so even if you’re a meat eater you’ll no doubt be impressed by them.

Popular vegetables to use in curries include chickpeas, red lentils, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, spinach and cauliflower. To make your own healthy curry, simply pick a few of your favourite veggies, cook them up with some curry paste and add chopped tomatoes and/or coconut milk. Add seasoning to taste and enjoy with rice or quinoa for a super healthy, warming dinner.

2) Meat Dishes

Venison at Chapel 1877. Cardiff

For some people, it doesn’t get better than a succulent piece of lamb, beef or pork, and there are plenty of healthy ways to make a hearty, comforting meat dish. Whether you go for a stew, casserole or hot pot, these traditional dishes can be made healthier with the simplest of steps. The first trick is to up the vegetable content with plenty of seasonal root veggies. The next thing to do is to cook your meat in a healthy way, be that grilling instead of frying, or simply allowing it to slow cook in a pot.

Alternatively, try making easy pork chops by grilling them and then adding a slight glaze afterwards, or do the same with a lean cut of steak. Then surround your meat with plenty of fresh vegetables and pour on fat-free gravy. My tummy is rumbling at the thought…

3) Easy Peasy Pasta

Lobster spaghetti at Carluccio's Cardiff

Pasta dishes are incredibly versatile and are also some of the most warming, comforting meals out there. While simple to make, pasta is often smothered in cheese and cream, which might be great for the taste buds but isn’t so good for the blood pressure or the waistline!

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make a nutritious, appetising pasta dish without ditching the comfort factor. One easy way to make this dish healthier is by switching from a shop-bought pasta sauce to a homemade sauce. All you need is chopped tomatoes or passata, cherry tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, and a jar of Italian herbs. Cook them up for twenty minutes or so and you’ve got yourself a more-ish pasta sauce, minus the added fat, salt and sugar. Alternatively, swap spaghetti for courgetti to up your veggie intake and cut calories.

The more challenging part of making a healthy pasta dish comes when you want to make something incredibly creamy, like a lasagne, carbonara or macaroni cheese. Believe it or not, it is entirely possible to make healthy versions of all of these while still keeping the element of comfort. The trick is to keep the cheese but use a more mature version and add slightly less than usual, then substitute cream for low fat milk or fat-free creme fraiche. You’ll still get that delicious creaminess, but without the calories that usually come with it!

4) Delicious Desserts

Cheesecake, panna cotta and tiramisu

Healthy desserts don’t have to consist of fruit salads and fat-free yoghurts. It’s actually relatively simple to make your favourite puddings in a healthy way. Desserts are perhaps the ultimate comfort food, enabling us to enjoy something sweet after dinner and often invoking a sense of luxury. Believe it or not, you can make an incredibly tasty ice cream recipe from over-ripe frozen bananas. Simply blend the frozen bananas in a food processor and add some low fat or vegan milk, then flavour with cocoa, peanut butter or fruit. The options really are endless. You can even try copying your favourite ice cream brands by adding marshmallows and dark chocolate chips. Move over Ben and Jerry!

What are your favourite comfort foods? Leave a message below to let me know – I respond to all of my comments 🙂

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