Put a healthier spin on favorite comfort foods

As the cool temperatures of fall and winter arrive, many people find themselves gravitating toward warming, rich foods. Many of those dishes are fondly remembered childhood favorites or even part of a longstanding family tradition. While those cozy comfort foods warm you, body and soul, it’s no secret that many of them aren’t the healthiest foods you could eat. But with a bit of creative cooking, you can put a more nutritious spin on beloved dishes – and still enjoy the comfort they bring.

Whether you’re planning a small dinner party with friends or making a dish for the big family holiday gathering, you want to serve a dish that everyone will love. You might think that changing a recipe to make it more nutritious would produce something that’s a pale imitation of the original, but that’s not so – you can easily make a healthier version without sacrificing flavor.

Consider these tips for making more nutrient-rich versions of your favorite comfort foods:

* Mac and cheese. It’s a childhood staple that every adult continues to love, no matter how many years pass. Rich, gooey cheese and bite-sized elbow pasta are good on their own, but together, they’re culinary magic. To bring more nutritional value to elbows-and-cheese, consider switching your pasta from standard semolina to nutrient-packed, sprouted grain pastas like Ezekiel 4:9. The pasta is certified organic, and because it’s made from sprouted grains, it is high in fiber, rich with extra nutrients and is a diabetic-friendly food. Plus, sprouted grain pasta has faster cooking times, so it makes meal time preparation even easier. Top your cheesy elbows with seasoned bread crumbs and bake it to perfection.

* Soups and stews. On a chilly day, few things can make you feel quite as good as a steaming bowl of soup. The infinite variety of recipes attests to just how much people love soup – and just how creative you can get with it. Making a nutritious soup takes only a few adjustments. To make it more heart-healthy, look for low- or no-sodium broth instead of the regular versions, which are often packed with salt. Even if you’re making a classic recipe, like chicken noodle, add “superfood” ingredients like chickpeas (high in fiber and complex carbohydrates), dark leafy greens (such as chard, kale or collards) or vegetables from the allium family (like leeks, shallots or garlic), which add unmatchable flavor.

* Grilled cheese. Another childhood favorite that never fades in popularity, grilled cheese sandwiches are about as simple as great food can be. Bread, cheese and a hot skillet are all you need – but you can improve on the classic with a health-conscious touch. Instead of regular loaves, opt for sprouted grain bread rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, natural fiber and – perhaps most importantly – flavor. For a more sophisticated taste, try grilling Ezekiel 4:9 Cinnamon Raisin bread with white cheddar – and add a tart apple slice with the cheese. It’s a sweet-savory combination that might just become your new favorite.

With a bit of smart ingredient selection and tweaks in preparation you can make comfort food classics that are pleasing to the tastebuds as well as the body. For more information about healthy ingredients, visit www.foodforlife.com.