It’s the dead of winter and your body is saying to bring on the comfort foods. Deep-fried, lathered in cheese, or loaded with sugar—it all sounds mouthwatering. Comfort foods will give you that instant gratification while making you regret it hours later. And not to mention that the saturated fats, simple starches, and the lack of protein will squash your muscle building diet.
But wait, there are alternatives—comfort foods turned healthy—you’ll be able indulge guilt-free. Easy, simple substitutions can make any recipe healthy such as using complex carbohydrates, reduced fat cheeses, and leaner meats. With these easy changes, you’ll be able to satisfy your comfort food cravings while being able to maintain your muscle building diet. Learn how to hack some common comfort foods for better macros.
1. Butternut Squash Mac And Cheese
The king of all comfort foods—mac and cheese—it’s warm and cheesy, making it the perfect meal on a cold day. Typically loaded with calories and fat, it doesn’t have to wreck havoc on your diet. If you’re not a fan of the cardboard like taste that whole-wheat pasta brings to the table then try Barilla Plus elbows pasta. It’s made with a grain and legume flour mixture of lentils, chickpeas, egg whites, spelt, barley, flaxseed, and oats. To also cut back on the fat content of mac and cheese, puree butternut squash into a sauce by using nonfat Greek yogurt and low-fat milk instead of heavy cream.
To start, remove the skin and seeds of the butternut squash and boil it until it’s tender. Once the squash is tender, puree it in a blender. After it has been pureed, heat it in a large pan and add milk, nonfat Greek yogurt, and butter. Bring it all to a simmer, and then add the cheese and seasonings. While the sauce is being bought to a simmer, cook the pasta and chicken. After the pasta and chicken have been cooked, stir everything into the sauce. Then transfer it all from the pan to a casserole dish. Coat the top of the mac and cheese with whole-wheat breadcrumbs, and bake it in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for seven minutes. The recipe is made to serve six.
½ pound Barilla Plus elbows pasta
1 ½ cup butternut squash
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup low-fat milk
4 tbsp non-fat Greek yogurt
1 tbsp butter
1 cup shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp rosemary
12 oz grilled chicken breast
¼ cup whole-wheat breadcrumbs
Totals: 510 calories, 14.5g fat, 56g carbs, 39g protein
2. Turkey Avocado Grilled Cheese
Grilled cheese is another staple comfort food, but when it’s made with the right protein and carb you won’t go comatose. Complex carbs are digested slower than simple carbs (white bread), allowing you to maintain an efficient energy balance. And to cut back on the fat with cheese, choose for an ultra thin or reduced-fat cheese. This recipe totals for 23 grams of fat, but only 6 grams are saturated. A majority of the fat content is from avocado, which supplies the “good-fat.” Fat has also been seen to have a positive affect on testosterone levels. Lastly, another way to reduce the fat content is to use cooking spray instead of butter when grilling the sandwich.
2 slices whole-wheat bread
3 slices ultra thin sliced sharp cheddar cheese
5 oz sliced turkey breast
3 slices tomato
Totals: 545 calories, 23g fat, 39g carbs, 44g protein
3. Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizza
Say goodbye to the pizza delivery guy because you can effortlessly make a personalized pizza that’s healthy, yet tasty. Using a whole-wheat crust, FlatOut Harvest Wheat, can help eliminate empty calories and increase your fiber intake. Not only can fiber help control your appetite but consuming it with a protein can help achieve muscle growth. Fiber is capable of reducing protein absorption because it delays the release of amino acids, which is beneficial for overall muscle development. Combining a fibrous food with a slow digesting protein—chicken—at dinner will allow for a steady flow of protein. This will prevent muscle catabolism during the night.
In this recipe, bake the flat bread for two minutes in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and in a pan cook the chicken breast. Then evenly spread the oil on the flat bread followed by the chicken, mozzarella cheese, garlic, tomatoes, and fresh basil. Next, bake the pizza for 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Totals: 426 calories, 15g fat, 30g carbs, 43g protein
4. Worcestershire Burger
It can be difficult to lean out when your cravings are whispering sweet and savory nothings into your ear. A double quarter pounder would satisfy your cravings for the time being but your waistline will eventually disagree. To shut the cravings up, make your own burger using lean ground beef—there won’t be a smidgen of guilt.
Isn’t ground turkey healthier than ground beef? Not necessarily because ground beef is similar to ground turkey. When buying ground beef, look for 90 percent lean or more. Lean ground beef contains less cholesterol, more protein, and way more vitamins and minerals than lean ground turkey. Also, lean ground turkey can be extremely dry. So lesson learned here: read the labels and stick with the meat that’s more nutritionally packed, which wont’ take away any flavor.
For this recipe, combine the lean ground beef with whole wheat breadcrumbs, a chopped green onion, Worcestershire sauce, fresh garlic, steak seasoning, Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper. Then form the beef into patties and cook it until how you like it. This recipe makes two servings.
½ pound 95% lean ground beef
1 tsp canola oil
½ cup whole-wheat breadcrumbs
1 chopped green onion
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp fresh garlic
¼ tsp steak seasoning
1/8 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup shredded reduced fat Colby-Jack cheese
1/8 tsp salt and pepper
1 lettuce leaf
Whole-wheat burger bun
Totals: 424 calories, 13g fat, 37g carbs, 38g protein
5. Pulled Pork
That smoky barbecue smell gets your taste buds going every time. If you don’t own a slow cooker, well it’s time to invest in one because it’s an easy way to pervade meat with that smoky flavor.
Boston butt or better known as the pork shoulder is typically used for pulled pork because of the fat content. Fat generally adds more of a flavor. But to make this comfort food healthier, use top pork loin chops. Usually pork loin is too lean for shredding but cooking it in a slow cooker will allow moisture to penetrate the pork, allowing you to get that pulled pork.
To make this recipe, combine all the ingredients except the pork in the slow cooker. After all the ingredients have been mixed, add the pork. Cook everything on low for about 5 hours or until the pork starts to fall apart. The recipe below is made to serve eight.
4 pounds pork loin
2/3 cup sweet onion
1 can tomato sauce, no sugar added
¼ cup honey
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp paprika
Whole-wheat burger bun
Totals: 379 calories, 5.5g fat, 34g carbs, 45g protein