A lighter touch:

Nutritious twists on classic comfort food

By Julie Estlick

There’s a winter chill in the air and you’re craving something warm and filling like crispy fried chicken with a side of mashed potatoes for dinner. But you also have to feed your child, who has a basketball game later and can’t be too weighed down by a heavy, fat-laden meal.

Swapping some ingredients and crafting a lighter version of traditional comfort foods offers the same satisfying taste without the extra calories, says Kalyn Garcia, registered dietitian nutritionist at the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center at Colorado State University.

“Simple recipe modifications are small changes that don’t require extra effort and can have big health impacts,” says Garcia. “Any extra quarter cup of vegetables or swap of whole grains for refined grains can boost nutrition and feel like a doable healthy-eating shift.”

One example is rather than deep frying, try combining ground oats with flour and coating skinless chicken breasts, then baking them. The oats provide a nice crunchy outer layer to the juicy meat with fewer calories than frying, more fiber, and the skinless chicken breast has less saturated fat.

“Boosting fiber and reducing saturated fat in the diet can be effective for driving down harmful LDL cholesterol, the kind that is linked to heart disease,” she says.

Moving around the plate, a side dish of cauliflower may not seem like a fair replacement for piping hot, creamy mashed potatoes, but keep reading. Steaming and mashing the white florets, then mixing in some garlic, reduced-fat cream cheese, and Parmesan cheese offers a healthy alternative with a similar silky texture. If you’re not quite convinced, try displacing some of your potatoes with pureed steamed cauliflower, then blending in the other ingredients as a strategy for cutting calories in a classic comfort food without compromising flavor. Another way to boost the nutrition in traditional mashed potatoes is to include the potato skins for extra fiber.

Either way, having a homecooked version of a favorite meal is a sound health choice.

“Preparing more scratch meals using minimally processed ingredients is one of the best ways to practice healthy eating.”

Oatmeal-Crusted Chicken
•    4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
•    1 cup buttermilk
•    1 large egg
•    1/2 teaspoon salt
•    1/2 teaspoon pepper
•    2/3 cup flour
•    1/2 cup ground oats
•    2 tablespoons oil
Place chicken breast halves in a zip-top plastic bag. Combine buttermilk and egg. Add egg mixture to bag, and seal. Marinate in refrigerator for 4 hours. Preheat oven to 425°. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Combine flour and ground oats. Dredge the chicken in flour mixture. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sauté for 4 minutes. Turn chicken over. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes or until done.
Nutrition facts per serving: 387 calories; 13.6 g fat; 2.6 g saturated fat; 422 mg sodium
Recipe from cookinglight.com
Garlic Mashed Cauliflower
•    1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
•    1 tablespoon olive oil
•    1 clove garlic, smashed
•    1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
•    1 tablespoon reduced-fat cream cheese
•    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
•    1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place a steamer insert into a saucepan and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Bring water to a boil. Add cauliflower, cover, and steam until tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat; cook and stir garlic until softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer half the cauliflower to a food processor; cover and blend on high. Add remaining cauliflower florets, one at a time, until vegetables are creamy. Blend in garlic, Parmesan cheese, cream cheese, salt, and black pepper.
Nutrition facts per serving: 98 calories; 5.7 g fat; 8.4 g carbohydrates; 5.2 g protein; 7 mg cholesterol; 372 mg sodium.
Recipe from allrecipes.com