The Best Low-Calorie Comfort Foods
By Emily Jacobson
When you hear the term “comfort food,” you probably immediately think of delicious homemade dishes like casserole and pot pies, or sweet and sugary treats like ice cream and cake. Chances are, the your first thought is not “healthy” or “low-calorie.” But you’re in for a nice surprise: not all comfort foods have to be filled with fat and calories. There are some hearty and filling options that you may never have thought of, as well as some healthier takes on classic favorites.
Pizza doesn’t have to be super greasy and cheesy. Take some whole grain crust, put a little low-fat cheese on top, and add some natural red sauce. Then, go crazy with the veggies. Add artichokes, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, spinach, and whatever else your heart desires. The end result will be well-balanced and satisfying at the same time.
Popcorn When it comes to craving crunch, you can actually turn to popcorn without expanding your waistline. A single cup of air-popped popcorn is just 30 calories, and will give you a good kick of protein. Additionally, recent research has suggested that popcorn may have even more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables. If you don't have a popper, be careful when buying microwave popcorn. It's often packed with saturated fat and extra calories.
Chicken Soup On a rainy spring day, what could be more comforting than a bowl of chicken soup? If you pick the right kind, chicken soup could be the perfect low-calorie meal. When you’re at the store, look carefully at labels. Many top brand-name soups have a lot of sodium. Try to look for soups that have added vegetables and a broth base (don’t go for the cream-based soups, as they are much more calorie-laden). Better yet, make your own!
Rice And Bean Bowl This one might seem on the surface to be a poor choice when it comes to calories, but you can actually make a rice and bean bowl that's healthy. Beans are a great source of fiber and protein. They are low in fat and completely free of saturated and trans-fat. For the rice, make it brown and you’ll be golden. Brown rice, unlike white, is a complex carbohydrate, so it’s less caloric and easier to digest. Add some hot sauce and you have yourself a hearty meal.
Healthy Macaroni And Chees You can’t think “comfort food” without thinking “mac and cheese.” This hearty classic is the epitome of soothing. While it’s usually also loaded with calories and saturated fat when done in the traditional way, it’s surprisingly easy to translate into a healthier option. First of all, start with whole grain pasta. Instead of full-fat cheese, throw in a couple of different reduced-fat cheeses (such as cheddar and mozzarella). For the breadcrumbs, use whole wheat bread. You’ll be amazed at how satiated – and comforted – you feel in the end.