Comfort food made healthy

The comfort food we crave on cold winter days can be energy-dense and low in fibre. But here are some simple tips on how to make your favourite winter warmers healthier.

Shepherds pie

  • Substituting brown lentils for mince is a healthier option (with canned lentils, go for ‘no added salt’ varieties). Lentils provide dietary fibre, contribute to the protein content of the dish and are lower in saturated fat. If you prefer mince, try swapping half the amount for lentils.

  • Bulk up your shepherds pie with other vegetables such as peas, chopped carrots or broccoli: these will also add to the fibre content of your pie.

  • Use low fat milk and margarine instead of cream for mashed potatoes.

  • Add garlic or herbs for extra flavour.

  • Add mashed cauliflower or cannellini beans to your mashed potato.

Casseroles and curries

  • Bulk up your casserole with legumes such as red kidney beans or cannellini beans for a fibre boost and some extra protein. You can add chickpeas to your favourite curry too.

  • If using canned varieties, check if ‘no added salt’ options are available.

  • If you usually add cream to your casserole or curry, try swapping this for natural yoghurt towards the end of cooking. It will give the dish a creamy texture and flavour without the added heaviness of cream. Natural yoghurt has less energy (kilojoules) and total fat as well as more protein than cream.

Spaghetti bolognese

  • Use wholemeal pasta instead of white to gain extra fibre in this dish.

  • Add extra herbs to your bolognese sauce to reduce the need to go overboard with a “sprinkle” of cheese at the table.

  • If you serve your bolognese with cheese at the table, opt for parmesan as the stronger flavour means you don’t need as much.

  • You can use brown lentils in place of mince for your bolognese as well (see shepherds pie section above for details).

  • Add extra vegetables to your sauce to bulk it out.

  • Try adding chopped mushrooms, carrots, capsicum, or zucchini. This will not only taste great but also makes your dish go further.

Pizzas

  • Use flat breads such as wholemeal pita instead of traditional pizza bases. These will provide extra fibre.

  • Try using small dollops of low fat ricotta cheese on top of your pizza for an extra creamy, cheesy flavour and reduce the amount of other cheeses. Ricotta is lower in energy than cheeses such as cheddar and mozzarella.

Lasagne

  • Instead of making a white bechamel sauce, try mixing low fat ricotta or cottage cheese with parmesan cheese, garlic and herbs such as basil or parsley to taste (you may need to add a little water to get the texture right). It’s quicker to prepare than a traditional white sauce!

  • Add layers of roasted vegetables such as eggplant, capsicum, and zucchini to your lasagne.

Cream-free creamy soups

  • Instead of adding cream to soups, use cannellini beans and puree your soup for a creamy texture. You can add some skim milk or soy milk to thin the consistency if required. The cannellini beans will add fibre and protein without the added saturated fat.

Apple crumble

  • Load up your crumble with wholegrain oats or barley.

  • Nuts such as almonds or macadamias are also a nice addition, as they provide crunch and a nutty flavour.

  • Add extra fruits to your apple mix such as apricots, dates or rhubarb for extra flavour and texture.

  • Serve with yoghurt or ricotta mixed with honey or cinnamon.

Bread and butter pudding

  • Use multigrain instead of white bread for extra fibre.

  • Alternatively, try using a wholemeal fruit loaf, which will also add to the flavour.

Creamed rice

  • Add crushed nuts such as almonds or pistachios to your creamed rice for added texture and taste. The nuts will provide some extra protein and fibre.

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