Guest Author - Karen Huber
We all have comfort foods that make us feel better when we feel blue, want to celebrate, or just plain cannot get enough of. Mine is chocolate; I simply love it, the darker, the better. It is a good thing that small amounts can be beneficial. I try to eat small amounts of it, but I love hot cocoa, too. What is your comfort food? When do you eat it? If you are trying to lose weight, these might be questions that you want to ask yourself. Pinpointing your comfort food triggers can go a long way in helping you abstain from eating large amounts of it.
My cousins used to tell me that their comfort food was pasta. Some people crave carbohydrates, while others crave fats. Certain times of the month can trigger cravings for certain foods, too. Carbohydrates can raise serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical that makes us feel happier. Comfort foods also relax us. My idea of comfort is to snuggle up in bed when it is cold and read or bead. Craving sugars and fats is biological in times of stress; these foods give extra fuel to your body so you can deal with perceived dangers. Unfortunately, we no longer burn off these foods physically in our increasingly sedentary lives, so it is much easier to gain weight. Another way to lose weight is to deal with the stressors that cause us to eat more of these high-calorie, lower-nutrition foods, and we all know, that is not always easy.
Back to the fun part, eating. When it starts to get cold in November and around Thanksgiving, I start to crave rich desserts. I love to make brownies, rich, chocolatey ones, cakes, and pies. I think the colder weather makes my body want to put on fat for insulation, or so that's what I tell myself. You can still have cake and eat it too by making your comfort foods in the low fat or low sugar form. You can make your own treats with chocolate by using a sugar substitute, lower fat alternatives, egg substitutes, and skim milk. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties. You can substitute ingredients in just about any dessert recipe for a lower fat, low sugar alternative.
If you crave nice, warm soups, there are plenty of low fat soups in grocery stores, or you can make your own and add less salt and use less fat. I absolutely love cheese, but it is high in salt and fat content. You can buy part skim milk cheeses to eat and also to use in those cheese recipes that we all love like dips and cheese soup. There are also fat free cheeses available. You can use yogurt to substitute for sour cream in dips for vegetables. Many people love fried chicken; you can lower the fat content by taking off the skin, wetting the chicken in water and coating it with a low fat covering. I just watched a cooking where the cook baked the chicken in the oven. She got the crispy covering by rubbing it with a little olive oil.
If you crave sandwiches, use turkey and low fat mayo, or low fat peanut butter and low sugar jelly. Use whole grain bread or try an open face sandwich to cut down the carbs. Peanut butter is a wonderful source of nutrition; it has carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Peanut butter contains vitamin E. If you crave potatoes, use skin milk and low fat margarine to make mashed potatoes. If you are stuffing the potato, take some of the insides out, and put low fat cheese or another low fat filling. For stews and chili, you can use turkey for the meat or make a meatless stew or chili, and go easy on the fat and drain the meat well. Stews and chilis are a great way to warm up and feel cozy in winter. If you are going to make pasta, try a whole wheat pasta and use skim milk and low fat cheese if you are making a white sauce for it. Regular tomato sauce is pretty low calorie by itself. The same goes for macaroni and cheese. Use low fat cheese and skim milk to save many calories.
I know that some of these foods do not pack the same comfort punch as their fattening, delicious alternatives, but your state of mind will be much better if you have not added as much to your waistline or hips. I am still trying to lose my pre-winter five pounds I gained so I can fit into my shorts. I have been getting the low sugar candies and using an artificial sweetener sometimes. The low sugar chocolates really are not that bad. If I want hot cocoa, I have half a cup instead of a whole one, and I am trying not add a lot of extra toppings to my salads. I love salads, too. They are also a comfort food for me as is regular yogurt. I also love cottage cheese, but I cannot eat the low fat cottage cheese. It just doesn't taste good. It is hard work to even lose a few pounds, but in the end, your mental health will be much better. You will feel better about yourself and feel better as a whole. You will also have more energy. As I keep telling myself, keep trying, and one day, the pounds will have disappeared.