Guilt-free comfort food: Aussie nutritionist shares top tips for making your favourite meals healthier
Leading Australian nutritionist and dietitian, Susie Burrell
Long days spent at home can mean that we really, really look forward to dinner. And let's be honest, a salad is just not cutting it ATM, with many of us seeking out more hearty meals to self soothe at this rather challenging time. The issue with our favourite comfort meals is that they also tend to be high in calories, thanks to heavy sauces, pastry and heavy carb bases. The good news is that with a few recipe tweaks and knowledge of light ingredient alternatives it is possible to create your favourite comfort meals minus plenty of fat and calories if you follow these simple steps.
1) Start with a good quality protein
Protein rich foods including meat, chicken, oily fish such as salmon and white fish are all nutrient rich additions to meals but opting for proteins that are especially high in omega 3s such as my favourite Tassal Salmon, or the leanest cuts of meat and chicken will ensure that your recipe remains as healthy and calorie controlled as possible. On the other hand, fatty minces and roasted meats, chicken wings and thighs, sausages and processed meats all add plenty of extra fat and calories and are best avoided if your goal is to keep your overall calorie controlled at this time.
2) Go for a lighter carb
Whether your preference is for pasta, pizza, pies or roasts, the good news is that it is easy to swap the heavier carb bases of pastry, potatoes, pasta and even pizza base for much lighter alternatives. Not only can you find lower fat pastry at supermarkets, but filo too as a lighter option or you can ditch the pastry altogether for a vege mash. There are vege varieties of pizza bases, pasta and rice, and lighter veges such as carrots, pumpkin and even lower carb potatoes can mean you can still enjoy your favourite roasted veges or chips, minus plenty of carbs and calories.
3) Load up the veges
Any recipe will be significantly lower in calories once you bulk up the vege content - think grated veges into pasta dishes and stir fries, extra veges with your favourite roast and even adding extra veges to any pizza, pie or casserole will automatically mean you are boosting your overall nutritional intake whilst reducing the amount of total protein and carbs you are eating. It is the easiest way you can make any recipe a whole lot lighter and healthier - think zucchini, carrot, pumpkin and peas which work well with literally any dish.
4) Know your lighter sauces
One of the ways that comfort foods add in plenty of calories is via the high fat creamy sauces and gravies we use to flavour the dishes. It is though exceptionally easy to make lighter versions of all of these sauces for a fraction of the calories. Think Greek yoghurt as an alternative to sour cream, light evaporated milk with corn flour as an alternative to cream and as a base to your favourite curry, and premade gravy to avoid using the fat from the roast itself. Often once you lighten the sauce, you lighten the entire meal significantly.
Low Carb Salmon Pasta
2 x TASSAL skinless salmon fillets
200g edamame Spaghetti
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup light evaporated milk
3 tsp cornflour
½ lemon, juiced and zested
1 zucchini, shaved
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup grated parmesan
1 tbsp. parsley, roughly chopped
1) Cook edamame spaghetti to directions on pack and set aside.
2) Heat olive oil in a medium heat and add salmon fillets, cook for roughly 3 minutes each side, or until cooked to your liking. Remove from pan and allow to cool, then use a fork to flake the fillets.
3) In the same pan, reduce heat to low and add the evaporated milk and corn flour, whisk to combine and thicken. Add lemon juice and zest and cook for 3 minutes. Add in shaved zucchini and parsley and toss to coat.
4) Return salmon and spaghetti to pan and mix to combine. Season with cracked pepper and serve.