Comfort food can be a euphemism for “not particularly good for you.” We love cheese, cream, butter, oil, and heart-warming carbs, and we’d like to fill an article (and ourselves) with all of the above. But during and after cancer treatment, a healthier diet is more important than ever.
There’s hope for those longing for the good old “bad” days: By exchanging or using less of certain ingredients, comfort foods can be good for both your soul and body.
Here are some healthy ideas and recipes to help satisfy your comfort food cravings
Macaroni & Cheese – Our Vegetable Mac & Cheese recipe replaces refined, white-flour elbow pasta with a whole-wheat variety and uses Parmesan and Gruyere cheeses instead of cheddar. These two kinds of cheese are robustly flavored, so when it comes to adding cheesiness, a little goes a long way. We also add mushrooms and leeks for a savory, delicious touch. You can add any vegetables you want, like cauliflower, for example. Cauliflower contains indole-3-carbinol, a plant compound that has been widely studied for its potential in reducing inflammation. While inflammation is important for healing, long-term chronic inflammation can play a role in cancer promotion. Just chop the florets, steam them for 10 minutes, and throw them in for an extra health boost.
Meatloaf – Our delicious Chicken Meatloaf recipe will fulfill your hankering for this homespun classic, but we make it healthier, with less fat, by using lean ground chicken instead of beef. You can also mix the chicken with turkey if you prefer. Our recipe uses a lot of vegetables, so it’s healthier and tastier, and the vegetables in it add an appealing pop of color when it’s sliced and served. Our Quick Tomato Sauce recipe is a great topper for this lovely loaf and will add a boost of cancer-fighting lycopene, an antioxidant that helps keep inflammation low in the body. This excellent nutrient is absorbed more easily when tomatoes are cooked, so ladle on the sauce.
Burgers – There’s no denying that burgers are a true American comfort food. Unfortunately, the patriotic patty packs a hefty amount of fat — much of it saturated — and lots of calories. Swap out that ground chuck for ground turkey or chicken, however, and you will still have that juicy burger appeal without having to worry about the bad-for-you bits. Our Healthy Turkey Burgers recipe uses peeled shredded apple to add moisture and whole-wheat breadcrumbs for texture, while sage, red pepper flakes, and other spices give it just the right amount of seasoning. For a more exotic take on healthy burgers, try our Spicy Indian-Style Chicken Burgers.
Fries – No frying is involved in our Root Veggie Fries With Yogurt Ranch Dressing, but they are a delicious addition to any comfort food plate, especially our burger recipes. Instead of using only russet potatoes, we throw in some sweet potatoes, parsnips, and carrots to boost nutrition and add color. All it takes is some chopping, a few simple seasonings, time in the oven and voilà! You might also want to try our Oven-Roasted Sweet Potato Fries.
Soups – Any of our warm soups are perfect for a cold day, or any day you are feeling under the weather, but one of our favorite comforting soups is our classic Chicken Soup With Dill. The recipe also includes a video tutorial so you can see just how easy it is to make. Tomatoes, garlic, and a little seasoning make our Provencal Tomato Soup tasty, but the addition of barley makes it a true comfort food. After the soup is blended, the barley gives it a creamy consistency and taste. Using cream in this recipe adds fat and calories, but the barley is high in fiber and rich in protein, too.
Pasta – No matter what those people on the South Beach or non-carb diets are telling you, pasta is not evil, especially if it only makes cameo appearances on your plate. Pasta is a great showcase for vegetables and healthy meats. We love our Spicy Sausage Pasta With Greens. In this recipe, we use less fatty, Italian-style chicken sausage instead of pork. Don’t let the broccoli scare you — it’s quite delicious in this dish. Plus, cruciferous vegetables are well-known cancer combatants and some of the best foods you can eat.
Sweets and Desserts – Many people think of cookies, cake, and ice cream when they get a yearning for comfort in a dessert. And since cancer is tough enough without depriving yourself of life’s little sweet interludes, we’re not about to discourage indulging that sweet tooth. Our recipes for sweets keep health in mind, but they are still high in fat and sugar (which is sort of the point, after all) so try to keep portions small and savor them slowly.
If you are in the mood for ice cream, try our Super-Easy Gelato. There’s no cream involved, and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make a delicious frozen treat from just about any of the fruits around your house. Besides offering satisfaction, the gelato will provide free-radical-capturing antioxidants.
Our Pear & Ginger Upside-Down Cake tastes incredible, and the ginger will aid in digestion. Our Orangey Tofu Chocolate Pudding is loved even by those who cross the street when they see tofu coming. The silken tofu gives the perfect pudding consistency while supplying protein. And for an easy dessert whose scent will waft you straight to the tropics, try our Bananas Baked in Coconut Oil.