I have been talking a lot about comfort foods over the past few weeks. This time of year, smack dab in the middle of the holidays, comfort food is on the radar. Here in the Midwest it is winter. It is cold. We leave and return to our homes in darkness. Let’s just melt cheese on every carbohydrate in sight and put on some sweatpants.
Well, that’s not exactly my advice. As a comfort creature I know it is important to have foods that feel good in a healthy diet. Here are some ground rules for how to feed those cravings and have a healthier holiday season:
Are potatoes a vegetable? Sure. For blood sugar and weight control we have to be cautious with large amounts of high starch / high carbohydrate comfort foods such as potatoes, pasta, breads and rice. I recommend diluting your comfort carbs with vegetables. Roast potatoes with onions, Brussels sprouts and carrots. Mash potatoes with cauliflower crumbles and white beans. Make easy fried rice with peas, carrots, mushrooms and fried egg. Make your marinara sauce sweeter by adding pureed butternut squash. Go heavy on the vegetables for that full feeling we want from comfort foods without the not so comforting scale jump.
Pick Non-Processed Carbohydrates
Research into the microbiome, our complex population of gut microbes that dictate our health, is revealing that unprocessed whole foods that are higher in carbohydrate such as potatoes are much more gut friendly compared to processed starches such as Cheetos and breads. When you eat a higher carbohydrate food in the form that it originates in (potatoes look like potatoes, rice looks like rice) the influence on your gut flora is healthier compared to processed, man-made carbohydrate shapes: Cheetos, bread, pizza crust. Curl up on the couch with some homemade baked French fries instead of a box of crackers or bag of chips.
Find Better Treats
Thanks to the amazing Internet and genius low carbohydrate diet bloggers we can all find healthier versions of our favorite desserts. Want pumpkin pie? If it’s not Thanksgiving or maybe the day after why not try a lower sugar pumpkin pie with a walnut crust? This is so healthy you can have it for breakfast. Craving soft chewy oatmeal raisin cookies. Let’s make some low sugar oatmeal cookie energy balls to eat 5 the night we make them and then portion them out for the next few days.
Crave Comfort Find Calorie-Free Comfort
In the weight loss world articles about holiday eating and comfort foods talk about practicing mindful and intuitive eating to prevent overindulging. This makes sense and it is more enjoyable to eat comfort foods when you eat slowly, savor each bite and listen to your huger. I get that. Unfortunately it’s not always the meditative mindful version of you that just wants pasta (add those vegetables crazy you!) This is what I ask: if you crave comfort foods also find comfort in activities that have nothing to do with calories. Practice good self-care: exercise, sleep, build nourishing relationships, and spend time engaging in activities that bring you joy. As a comfort creature I know that eating the carbs with the cheese in the sweatpants isn’t always the comfort I’m craving.
In improved health,