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Healthy comfort foods

Keeping comfort foods healthy with no compromise on taste

By Jana du Plessis

Whether it’s the nostalgic feeling of dipping a home-made rusk into a cup of sweet tea or the comfort of digging into a bowl of cheesy nachos after a tough day, we all have that one, two (maybe more like 5..) treats that we can’t see bidding farewell in pursuit of better health. The good news is that we can still have all those slightly less healthy foods by boosting them with healthful swaps while keeping our favourite flavours in tact.

Hide and sneak
The easiest way to add more nutrients (and not to mention flavour,) in any dish, is to sneak in as much veggies as you can. Making burger patties? Grate in some carrots, baby marrows or onions.  Eating pizza? Order the one with the most veggies, or,  better yet, make your own and fill it with a variety of caramelised onions, fresh tomatoes, roast veg or sauteed spinach. The key is to always see ways in which you can add a slice of tomato or a leafy green to your toasted cheese or swirl in some pumpkin or beetroot puree when baking a dessert bread . It’s not necessarily taking anything away, but rather bulking up with a squirt of vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Wholesome wholegrains
Always try to go for wholegrains when a dish includes a carby component. Take a burger on a wholewheat roll or a sandwich made with rye. The same goes for pastas and other grains – the less refined it is, the better it will be for your health. When eating Mexican, order corn tortillas instead of the wheat ones and steer clear of nachos made with store-bought crisps that’s loaded with extra additives and other infavourable add-ins.

The key is in the prep
If you want to avoid the energy slump and the feeling of excess after an indulgent meal, be aware of the way in which the food is prepared. Anything fried in lots of butter and oil will inevitably leave you feeling overindulged. Try baked fries with a little olive oil and flavourful spices, for example. And gravitate towards dishes that includes the fresh preparation of components like a raw tomato salsa. Remember that sauces usually contain either plenty of sugar and salt or a big dose of flour and cream – replace them with a single slice of cheese or a vinegar-based dressing like Tabasco sauce or balsamic vinegar.

Don’t overthink
There are plenty of tips to keep things healthy or make better choices in term of nutrients and ingredients, but when it comes down to it, food is there to give us an energy and to be enjoyed. Be mindful of what you put on your plate on a daily basis, but don’t forego the odd chance to truly savour a soul-comforting dish for the sake of health. Just as one salad won’t make you the healthiest person in a day, one cream-filled doughnut won’t result in a health crash. Keep control, keep the balance and feed your body with the nutrients that it needs.

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