We often don’t choose comfort foods because we know how good they are for us (spoiler alert: they’re not). But we gravitate towards foods like pasta, pizza and mashed potatoes because they make our brain happy.
This is especially relevant when we’re angry or hurting – because a cookie that’s high in fat and sugar helps to ease our emotional discomfort. The problem? This effect lasts just for a moment and we’re then left feeling like we need more – the reliance on food for comfort becomes addictive and it’s easy to fall into an emotional eating pattern.
For others, our cravings for these foods are linked to nostalgia – foods that we know and love from our childhood. For those of you looking for body-happy comfort food hacks – aka comfort foods that won’t destroy your stomach, enjoy the swaps below.
Swap 1: Mashed potatoes for mashed cauliflower
Mashed potatoes are often laden with cream and butterfat. Instead, swap for mashed cauliflower made with ghee and spices. If you’ve gone paleo, you may already know that cauliflower is your new best friend. It’s an amazing staple – it’s not only because it’s versatile, but also because it’s incredibly healthy. Cauliflower is an amazing detoxifying vegetable because of its sulforaphane content, which helps to boost the liver’s detoxification pathways. Check out Nom Nom Paleo’s garlic cauliflower mashed potatoes here.
Swap 2: Pasta for spaghetti squash
Pasta is one of the most nutritionally empty foods. In fact, it’s actually considered an anti-nutrient because it’s so refined that the body requires additional nutrients, like chromium, to process it (ironically causing you to crave more carbohydrates). For a more nutritionally complete alternative, enjoy some spaghetti sauce – it’s not only incredibly easy to prepare, but it’s also contains phytonutrients and antioxidants to help and optimize your nutritional health.
Cooking spaghetti squash is pretty intuitive, but if you’d like a play-by-play, visit The Kitchn’s recipe here. Feeling fancy? Dress it up with some homemade tomato sauce or pesto to save yourself all the sugar in store bought sauce. Find an easy tomato recipe here (adjust amounts as desired).
If you rather go for actual pasta, you can always try some almond flour pasta. This one from Capello’s is nearly indistinguishable (per my partner – who regularly enjoys gluten).
Swap 3: Chicken wings for almond-crusted chicken fingers
Ditch the breading and deep-fried chicken wings for a lighter and more delicious alternative. Almond-crusted chicken wings are a cleaner, yet still crunchy way to enjoy your finger food. All you really need is chicken breast, almond meal and an egg. A great recipe can be found here. If you really want to go ‘all out’, enjoy with some beet ketchup (might I suggested using a fraction of the sugar), recipe here.
Swap 4: Chicken noodle soup for chunky chicken-vegetable stew
There’s nothing more nourishing than a warm cup of stew. Forget the frozen and canned noodle soups that are not only laden with salt and anti-nutrients (ahem – noodles), but it doesn’t even compare the potential of a homemade soup. Creating your own soup requires little effort for maximum return – a giant batch will not only last you a week (or two) but the flavors mature over time and it becomes the most delicious, and easy to reheat, complete meal. If you need a guide, here is a delicious looking chicken-veggie stew.
Swap 5: Pizza for cauliflower pizza
Pizza alternatives are rampant – gluten free and vegan pizzas are ridiculously easy to find, but are they the healthiest choice? If you’re really looking to create healthier choices, perhaps opt for a cauliflower pizza crust with veggie toppings. You still opt for the pizza eating experience without all the junk. A recipe for if you’re truly feeling adventurous (I never said it was easy …).
Swap 6: Ice cream for whipped banana sorbet
If you have a high speed blender or a food processor, this might become your new favorite summer hack. Blend a frozen banana with the smallest dash of almond milk. It will turn from frozen to gooey to a cream like texture. You might need some ‘coaching’ through your first banana freeze experience – here’s a great recipe. Garnish with a dash of cinnamon, which is not only delicious but also helps balance blood sugar.
Swap 7: Fries for roasted carrot ‘fries’
I once left my carrots roasting a little too long in the oven, and something amazing happened. They turned into the most delicious and crispy fries. To make your own slice your carrots into strips, toss with virgin coconut oil and bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes.
Does your quest for comfort foods run into deeper emotional territory? This often happens when we do not acknowledge our feelings and try to suppress our emotions. Women tend to be more sensitive to this, especially because the spectrum of our emotions is not really accepted by society.
The next time you are looking for food and comfort, see if you can first take pause. Ask yourself to label your feeling and what would help best remedy that situation? If you’re sad, decide what will make you feel more joy? This might look like taking a walk or calling a friend.
We cannot always control the external factors in our life, but food will not solve your problems. You have the power to control the way you choose to respond.
And sometimes you just need a little extra help. If you’re looking to understand the deeper physical and emotional stressors that are causing you to overeat, please feel free to book your free discovery call here.