For many of us, food has a way of bringing us great comfort. Whether we’re feeling sad and turn to our favorite food to cheer us up, or we’re feeling joyful and food becomes part of our celebration, what we eat is not always used strictly for nourishment.
And while many of us tend to gravitate towards rich, indulgent choices, “comfort foods” don’t have to be “bad.” In fact, there are plenty of comfort foods with solid health benefits. The trick is being intentional about how you prepare them, what you eat them with, and how much you eat.
Here are just a few comfort foods with benefits. See if your favorites are on the list, and if not, which of these would make for a good, healthy swap?
Oats are a gluten-free whole grain that contain fiber (which your “good” gut bugs love), plus important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They contain more protein and fat than most grains, yet have a relatively low amount of calories. This makes them a very nutrient-dense food.
Instead of grabbing a packet of sugary, highly processed instant oats, opt for rolled or steel-cut oats and flavor them with natural ingredients like cinnamon, nuts, fruits, seeds, or local honey. You can even sprinkle a scoop of GutConnect 365 in them.
A bowl of warm, healthy oatmeal can be just as comforting as sugar-filled treats… and it’s much more filling and nutritious.
If chips and dip are your go-to comfort food, try swapping out your processed dip with freshly made guacamole, and trade in your chips for veggie slices or planks.
You may have heard that avocados — the star ingredient in guacamole — are full of healthy fats. But did you know they also have more potassium than bananas? They also have no sodium or cholesterol and are a great source of fiber. Can you say that about French Onion dip or queso? Sorry… but no.
As for chips, bell peppers make an excellent swap-out, as do cucumber coins. Remember, the more colorfully you eat, the more nutrients you take in, so don’t be shy. Slice and scoop your heart out.
While chicken noodle or broccoli cheese soups are considered “traditional” comfort foods, pumpkin or squash-based soups can deliver the same warm, cozy comforts along with loads of health benefits.
Full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, both squash and pumpkin are tasty nutrition powerhouses that provide your body with many of the nutrients it needs for digestion, gut health, and a healthy immune response. Their rich color, texture, and taste make them easy and delightful to work with. So while you don’t need to abandon chicken noodle altogether, roasting a squash or grabbing a can of pumpkin puree can make your next slurp session even more potent… and healthy.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention cookies. Whether they’re packaged or homemade, cookies are a favorite comfort food go-to for many people.
While we can’t sanction sugary, packaged cookies as “healthy,” we can say that cookies come in many forms, and that a few ingredient swaps can make a big difference. Try searching for cookie recipes using oats, Medjool dates, nuts, raw cacao powder, peanut butter, and natural sweeteners, like maple syrup. And, just like with oatmeal, you can add a scoop of GutConnect 365, or even a scoop of collagen powder, to the batter for extra gut health support.
As you can see, comfort foods can be just as healthy as they are, well, comforting. Try these swaps and enjoy both the flavor and the health benefits.
To your health and happiness…
Your NatureM.D. Wellness Team