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Four Favourite Comfort Foods Made a Bit Better

By Shannon Crocker MSc RD, Vibrant Nutrition Communications

As the colder weather starts to breeze in, warm, hearty comfort foods start to make their way onto our tables. They are always delicious, but not always nutritious. With a few simple changes, comfort foods can become nutritional super stars. Here are four favourite comfort foods made a bit better to nourish your family.

  1. Craving gooey macaroni and cheese? Try these three tweaks to add a nutritional punch!

My family loves gooey, creamy macaroni and cheese. In fact, my son now makes it for us! Getting kids in the kitchen is one of the best ways to make sure they will eat the nourishing foods you (or they!) make. Here are three ways you (or your kids) can make mac n’ cheese a little healthier:

  • Go whole grain. Using whole grain noodles means you’ll get more fibre and phytonutrients (plant compounds) that are important for good health.
  • Boost power protein! Adding chunks of lean, cooked turkey thigh boosts protein, making your mac n’ cheese a more satisfying dish. While all cuts of turkey are nutrient-rich, dark meat is especially rich in the immune-system optimizers: iron, zinc, and selenium.
  • Fill it with vegetables. Adding vegetables (or fruit) helps to lighten up your dish and get more much-needed veggies in your day. Try roasted cauliflower, diced tomato or pureed butternut squash.

Check out this Apple Mac and Cheese Bake that features all three top tips!

Picture of Apple Mac and Cheese Bake

 

  1. Is hot n’ spicy chili your go-to crowd pleaser? Kick it up a notch: swap in ground turkey and bump up the beans!

Chili is a super food to feed a crowd – it’s economical, easy to make, and tastes terrific! Here are two simple steps to make your chili even better!

  • Swap in ground turkey. Aside from fantastic flavour, ground turkey is extra lean and packed with protein; it delivers a whopping 28 grams of high quality protein and just 8.7 grams of fat, per 100-gram serving.
  • Bump up the beans. Chili isn’t just about kidney beans. Add in black beans, white beans, or chickpeas for variety and great taste, plus more plant-based phytonutrients and gut-healthy fibre.

For turkey chili with a twist, try this White Bean Turkey Chili. I’d add in some black beans too for more beany-goodness.

Tasty tip: make a double batch. Leftover turkey chili tastes even better the next day! Or, make it into burritos. Just wrap reheated chili up in tortillas, place in a greased pan, cover with cheese, and bake until warmed through and cheese is melted and bubbling.

White_Bean_Turkey_Chili_WEB

 

  1. Love a creamy casserole dish? Lighten up with lean turkey!

Casseroles are a tasty way to reinvent turkey leftovers. Those creamy, canned soup-laden casseroles are a thing of the past! Here are two better-for-you dishes that deliver great nutritional value:

Turkey & Mushroom Noodle Casserole TT

Make it even better: add defrosted frozen peas, baby spinach or cubes of roasted sweet potato to get a hit of veggies and make it a one-pot meal.

 

Warm Turkey and Root Vegetable Salad with Goat Cheese Dressing L web

Bonus: It’s simple enough for Tuesday night dinner, but sophisticated enough for a Sunday brunch.

 

  1. Is Friday night pizza and movie night at your house? Skip take-out and make a terrific turkey pizza!

Instead of getting greasy pepperoni pizza delivered, make better-for-you pizzas (that taste fantastic!) with lean turkey. You’ll benefit by getting a delicious, nourishing, pizza that’s lower in calories, fat and salt.

Try these two tasty pizzas that are way better than take out:

  • Greek Turkey Pizza: this pizza is so simple to throw together at the end of the day. Pile on lots of leftover turkey and cherry tomatoes to boost the nutrition even more! I’d add baby spinach or kale for even more veggies.

Greek Turkey Pizza TT

  • Turkey Taco Pizza – this pizza combines two Friday night favourites – tacos and pizza! Make a double batch of the ground turkey to save leftovers for taco salad. It’s a win-win all the way around!

 

Bottom line: if you’re trying to eat healthy, you don’t have to give up your favourite comfort foods! A few simple tweaks, like swapping in turkey and adding extra veggies, can make your comfort foods work a little harder, nutritionally speaking, for you and your family.