Comfort foods done a little healthier


Comfort foods done a little healthier

Who doesn’t look forward to a nice juicy piece of fried chicken, or a bowl of creamy macaroni and cheese? Unfortunately, the guilt that often arises afterwards can diminish the pleasure of eating it. Well now you can have your comfort food and eat it too.

Eating healthier doesn’t mean that food has to be boring and taste bland.

“Food should bring us pleasure. I focus on getting my clients to savor and enjoy their food,” said Leslie Edmunds, MPH, RD/LD, CDE, CLT and owner of Health Hearts Nutrition, LLC of Springfield. “If you don’t look forward to what you’re eating, you aren’t going to stick with that plan long and you’re likely to binge on your ‘forbidden foods’ when you can’t take the deprivation anymore.”

Edmunds also believes we should eat “real” food, which she says are foods free from preservatives, artificial flavors, dyes, etc. “Things your great grandma would have had in her shopping cart. She wouldn’t have had Doritos and Hamburger Helper in her cart. When you eat real, wholesome food and savor it, you’re satisfied and tend to eat less. When I get my clients off processed food, they feel dramatically better,” Edmunds said.

Edmunds offers the following simple tips for eating healthier while still savoring the flavor, as well as a recipe for oven “fried” chicken.

Make creamy dishes like fettuccini alfredo without the cream. Ditch the calorie-loaded heavy cream called for in many recipes and make a velvety sauce by adding four teaspoons of all-purpose flour to one cup of low-fat milk, whisking over medium heat until bubbling and thick.

Cook with less oil whenever possible. Use heart healthy extra-virgin olive oil and canola oil. You can usually use less oil than what the recipe calls for, and you won’t miss the flavor.

Kick up the flavor without the salt. Canned goods like soups, broth and vegetables can contain high amounts of sodium. Whenever possible, use the lower sodium options available. If low sodium veggies aren’t available, don’t fret; purchase the regular variety and rinse the veggies under running water to remove the excess salt. Add flavor by squeezing on fresh lemon or lime juice or sprinkling on some fresh herbs like cilantro, basil and rosemary.

Use whole grains in baked goods. By simply replacing half the flour called for in a baked good recipe with whole wheat flour adds fiber and boosts essential B vitamins, magnesium and zinc.

Swap good fats for bad fats. Using butter can’t always be avoided — especially in baked goods recipes — but whenever possible, use extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil for cooking.

Add extra veggies and healthy fats. Adding more veggies, nuts and seeds will make your recipe more nutritious while kicking up the flavor.


Serves 4


1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon hot sauce

2 1/2-3 pounds whole chicken legs, skin removed, trimmed and cut into thighs and drumsticks

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1 ½ teaspoons onion powder

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Olive oil cooking spray


• Whisk together buttermilk, mustard, garlic and hot sauce in a shallow dish until well blended. Add chicken and turn to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or for as long as 8 hours.

• Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Set a wire rack on top of the baking sheet and coat it with the olive oil cooking spray.

• Whisk together flour, onion powder, paprika, thyme, baking powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Place the flour mixture in a large sealable plastic bag. Shaking off excess marinade, place one or two pieces of chicken at a time in the bag and shake to coat.

• Shake off excess flour and place the chicken on the prepared rack. Spray the chicken pieces with cooking spray. Discard any leftover flour mixture and marinade.

• Bake the chicken until golden brown and no longer pink in the center, about 40 to 50 minutes.

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