10 Comfort Foods That Pack a Nutritional Punch

Why Do We Crave Comfort Foods?

There are many reasons why we crave particular foods when we’re sad or stressed. A big part of this phenomenon is actually to do with memory. Our personal comfort foods are usually associated with particular memories and the positive feelings they invoke. Additionally, sweet and starchy foods help to boost serotonin levels, and decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This means that indulging in these kinds of foods will generally make us feel calmer, even if only temporarily. For this reason, cutting out all comfort foods is not really a realistic approach to improving your diet.

Why Is It Important to Maintain a Healthy Diet?

We’re told from a young age that the regular consumption of nutritional foods will give us a better quality of life. But how many of us actually understand why? Nutritional foods help to keep us energised and happy. They promote good digestion, strengthen our bones and teeth, improve the quality of our sleep, and minimise the risk of infection. Having a healthy diet will also help with the prevention and management of mental illnesses, as well as chronic diseases. While there will always be aspects of our health we can’t control, the food we consume impacts all facets of our mental and physical wellbeing. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our food either.

10 Comfort Foods That Pack a Nutritional Punch

Next time you’re craving some comfort food, try one of these twists on a comforting classic. 

1. Toasted Cheese Sandwich 

While the classic cheese toasty is full of cheese and little else, there are variations that are healthy. For example, ingredients such as onion, tomato, avocado, basil and mushroom go brilliantly in a toasted cheese sandwich. You can also swap white bread for wholegrain, and use a little less butter and cheese to easily add to the nutritional value of your sandwich.

2. Ice Cream

Ice cream is the go-to dessert for easing the pain of a break-up or a bad day. But did you know you can make healthy ice cream at home using ingredients such as frozen bananas, almond milk and even avocado? It might sound far-fetched, but these recipes can produce some of the creamiest, most flavourful ice cream you’ve ever had.

3. Pizza

Rather than banning pizza from the house, trying out some healthier recipes can be a great way to improve your diet. Add lots of vegetables and experiment with different veggie combinations to find what you like. You can also use a vegetable base, such as cauliflower or portobello mushroom caps, to dramatically increase the nutritional value of the meal.

4. Hot Chips

Everybody loves hot chips. They are practically irresistible, especially if you’re in need of some comfort food. While they might not sound as good at first, baked potato or sweet potato wedges are an amazing alternative. Once you smell them cooking, all thoughts of limp take-away chips will be out the window.

5. Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Mac ‘n’ cheese is easy, tasty and tempting after an exhausting day. To make it healthier, all you have to do is add some extra veggies to your recipe. Butternut squash, broccoli, cauliflower and kale are just some of the popular ingredients for healthy mac ‘n’ cheese. For even more health benefits, you could try a vegan take on the classic recipe.

6. Cookies

Cookies are crowd-pleasers for a reason, but they rarely provide us with any sustainable energy. Choose from a large selection of oatmeal cookie recipes for scrumptious and nutritional alternatives that will keep you fuller for longer.

7. Fried Chicken

The concept of healthy fried chicken might seem impossible, but if you make it yourself it can be done. Marinate your chicken in olive oil and oven bake for a delicious, nutritional meal. You can also add breadcrumbs for a crispy finish.

8. Spaghetti Bolognese

For healthy spaghetti bolognese, all you need to do is use whole-wheat spaghetti or vegetable spaghetti, and a lean meat mince. You can also add beans and veggies for extra nutrition. 

9. Butter Chicken Curry

This mouth-watering dish can be made much healthier by simply switching from regular rice to cauliflower rice.

10. Pasta Bake

For pasta bake, try swapping to whole grain pasta and using more vegetables in your usual recipe. Lean meat is also great for increasing your protein intake and keeping you satisfied for longer.

Don’t Stress About Comfort Food

Maintaining a healthy diet can sometimes feel impossible. Between busy schedules and daily cravings, it’s tempting to reach for easy, pre-made meals that are less than nutritional. On top of the usual temptations, many of us are also affected by our mood. Luckily, there are ways to make our favourite comfort foods more nutritional without sacrificing their taste and our enjoyment. With some small adjustments to our top meals, we can make a significant difference to our long-term health.

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