I made an appearance on Let’s Talk Live!, a DC based morning talk show, for National Cholesterol Education Month. It’s a great time to look at the food you eat and look for opportunities to make changes. It’s a good idea to minimize intake of salt and saturated fat to help keep your heart healthy. How you prepare the food matters — how much salt is used, is it fried or baked? It’s also about what you add in – veggies, beans, whole grains, and lean proteins for example are known to provide good nutrition.
I thought a fun segment would be to talk about some of my favorite healthified versions of typical “comfort foods” that tend to be higher in salt, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
Watch the entire segment.
Here’s a photo of the set taken by my dietetic intern, Anne. She’s been getting some practice with food styling while interning with me!
For this week’s segment, I worked with Mazola and developed some lightened-up comfort food recipes using Mazola corn oil. I love their corn oil because it’s high in plant sterols, which are plant-based micro-nutrients naturally present in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, cereals, legumes and vegetable oils.1 Clinical studies indicate that, when consumed as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, plant sterols can help reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the gut, which, in turn, can lower LDL blood cholesterol.2 Corn oils contain more cholesterol-blocking plant sterols than any other cooking oil – four times more than olive oil and 40 percent more than canola oil.3 Corn oil is great for baking and cooking at high temperatures, like when stir frying or sauteing.
Comfort Food Swap: Baked Parmesan Zucchini Fries
A new favorite recipe I created using Mazola corn oil and shared during the TV segment is zucchini fries! These fries are baked, not fried, and Panko bread crumbs, parmesan, and various spices give them a great flavor and crunch. Give them a try at home! Here’s the recipe: Baked Parmesan Zucchini Fries with Creamy Yogurt Dip. They are also great with marinara sauce.
Comfort Food Swap: Zesty Chili / Sloppy Joes
Chili and sloppy joes may be the epitome of “comfort foods” but the cholesterol and saturated fat can be not-so-good for the heart. I made it healthier with an ingredient makeover. This recipe provides a full serving of vegetables in every 1/2 cup serving – peppers, onion, mushroom, corn, carrots, and tomatoes. With help from the veggies and black beans, I cut down the use of meat in half. I swapped 98% lean ground turkey as well. Customize the “heat” level with the amount of chipotle pepper you choose to add! You can “cool it down” with a dab of Greek yogurt as well. Here’s the recipe: Zesty Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes.
Comfort Food Swap: Kale Chips and Stove Top Popcorn Snacks
Kale chips are a great alternative to regular chips. Kale is a leafy green similar to a heartier spinach; simply pull the kale leaves off the stem, coat them in a little corn oil and some pepper or salt-free seasoning, and bake! If you really like the heat try red pepper flakes! Really easy and they taste great, too.
Stove top popcorn is another great option because you can control how much salt you put in; try spices instead to add flavor without salt. All you do is put 1-2 tbsp corn oil in a deep dutch oven type pan. Heat on medium with a few kernels. Once you hear the pops, add 1/4 kernels. Watch and wait until you hear fewer pops. Be careful to keep on medium so it does not burn. Be patient.
Comfort Food Swap: Simple Decadent Desserts Chocolate Mousse and Banana Ice Cream
You might be surprised to hear this, but you can make a healthy variation of ice cream using just one ingredient: frozen bananas! Simple peel a very ripe banana, slice it up, and stick it in the freezer in a ziplock bag. Once it’s frozen, blend in a blender or a food processor until it resembles the consistency of soft serve frozen yogurt or ice cream. It’s a great alternative to saturated fat filled regular ice cream. Here’s a step-by-step recipe instruction from another blog: One Ingredient Ice Cream.
Another simple lightened up dessert idea is chocolate mousse made with cocoa powder, avocado, ripe banana, and a little sugar – you could choose honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup. I recommend a liquid sugar so you don’t get any grit, and the banana will add some sweetness so you don’t need to add too much of your sweetener of choice.
What are your favorite lightened up versions of comfort food classics? Share links if you blogged ‘em!
Disclaimer: I worked with Mazola’s as part of the TV segment. I was not compensated for this post.
1. USDA and USDHHS 2010
2. FDA 2000, 2010; Wu et al. 2009; Demonty et al. 2008, Ellegard et al. 2008; Mensink et al. 2010 – http://www.fda.gov/Food/Guidance-ComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/FoodLabelingNutrition/
3. Based on 2010 USDA comparison of cooking oils: Corn Oil has plant sterols content of 131.6 mg/serving vs. 29.8 mg/serving for Olive Oil, 42.8 mg/serving for Soybean Oil, and 93.8 mg/serving for Canola Oil.