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TIP OF THE DAY: A Pre-Holiday Diet Of Low-Calorie Comfort Food

Why do we only get pitches for slimmer versions of food in spring, before “bathing suit weather?”

After an especially tasty month visiting restaurants, for everything from fried skate sandwiches to duck confit mac and cheese, we noticed that clothes were getting snug.

As if on cue, we got this list of tips from Warren Honeycutt’s new book, Comfort Food without the Calories: Seven Delicious, Healthy Substitutes for Cold-Weather Favorites. The author of Get Lean for Life: 7 Keys to Lasting Weight Loss shared these tips with us.

Given the upcoming calorie fests of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, we can’t think of bathing suit weather, but we can think of fitting into something for New Year’s Eve.

Our tip today is: Plan ahead for all the great holiday fare ahead. Here’s advice from Honeycutt, who starts off by reminding us that “flavorful” and “nutritious” aren’t always mutually exclusive. Here are seven guilt-free substitutes for some classic comfort foods:



To save calories, make your own hot chocolate recipe instead of a mix. Photo courtesy OpenSky.com.

Cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. Substituting cauliflower for potatoes is a healthy alternative that’s gaining more and more popularity—and for good reason. When prepared correctly, cauliflower mimics the texture and taste of mashed ‘taters, with fewer calories and carbs. Boil or steam the cauliflower until tender, pour off the water and beat the cauliflower with a mixer to the consistency you like. Top it with fat-free sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, fat-free cheese, Butter Buds, and/or Molly McButter. Reheat each serving in the microwave for two minutes until piping hot. Add chives, bacon bits, salt, and pepper as desired.

Spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti noodles. Spaghetti squash isn’t nearly as carb-heavy as noodles, and it contains nutrients like vitamins A, B-6, and C, as well as omega-3 essential fatty acids. When baked or microwaved, this veggie can be shredded into spaghetti-like strands with a fork and enjoyed with any tasty sauce of your choosing. Top with lean chicken breast or seafood for a healthy and delicious boost. Alternative #2: zucchini noodles. Alternative #3: a half-and-half mix of spaghetti and zucchini noodles.

Sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. Sweet potatoes are filling and delicious, rich in vitamin A, and contain more vitamin C and fiber than white potatoes—with fewer carbs and calories. But that’s not a license to eat sweet potato fries. Enjoy them baked.


Here’s our recipe for cauliflower mashed potatoes. Also look at our cauliflower mac & cheese. Photo courtesy FAGE Greek yogurt.

Tea instead of hot chocolate. Tea is full of antioxidants and may, according to several studies, help lower the risk of diseases ranging from Parkinson’s to many different kinds of cancer. It’s also great for weight loss, especially when sweetened naturally with stevia or xylitol (we admit to using Splenda). What, you say: How is tea a substitute for hot chocolate? We agree with you, not with Mr. Honeycutt. If you just have to have a cup of hot chocolate, make your own a healthy recipe (unsweetened cocoa powder, nonfat milk, noncaloric sweetener, peppermint extract) without the sugar and corn syrup of commercial hot chocolate mixes.

Thinly sliced zucchini or eggplant for pasta-free lasagna. Layer all that delicious low-fat ricotta cheese and tomato sauce between zucchini or eggplant slices to cut down on the carbs in this classic comfort food. Both zucchini and eggplant are low in calories and full of nutrients and antioxidants, making them healthy replacements for pasta.

Baked vegetables instead of potato chips or French fries. Delicious, nutritious chips and fries can be made by slicing squash, radishes, beets, sweet potatoes, zucchini, apples, or any other fruit or vegetable, then seasoning the slices and baking them in the oven for a delicious, crispy treat. If you’re craving fries, cut carrots, zucchini, asparagus and/or eggplant into sticks. Brush them with olive oil if you like, then season them with Parmesan cheese, flaxseed, ground nuts, oats, or sea salt before baking.

A NIBBLE favorite is a microwave chip maker. These chips go fast, so buy several (they stack in the microwave).

Health-conscious homemade soups instead of salty store-bought brands. There’s nothing that says comfort like a warm bowl of soup, but the condensed canned soups you buy at the supermarket are often loaded with cream and sodium. When making soup at home, use low-sodium stock, plenty of herbs and spices for flavor, and cauliflower puréee in place of cream. Add nutritious, low-calorie veggies like spinach, kale and carrots, as well as beans and chunks of lean meat for protein. You may never buy a can of soup again!

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