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Cold Days, Warm Food

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Cold Days, Warm Food

With the colder days, bone-chilling winds and icy evenings that are commonplace this time of year, nothing sounds more tempting than a warm blanket and a cup of hot chocolate…unless it’s meatloaf, lasagna, macaroni and cheese or mom’s famous chicken pot pie. Most of these home-style favorites are very high in calories and fat and can undermine our New Years resolution to get healthy and stay fit.

There are alternatives. There are plenty of lower calorie substitutions that can help you re-create your favorite recipe and ensure the chances of fitting into your skinny jeans (or dresses, or pants, or suits).

Consider some of these substitutions from Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services for your next recipe:

Instead of this:

Try this:

Butter, margarine, shortening

Applesauce or prune puree for half of the butter or shortening; Smart Balance 50/50 sticks for baking

Butter or oil to prevent sticking

Cooking spray or non-stick pans; saut‚ in chicken or vegetable broth


Fat-free half-and-half or evaporated skim milk

Cream cheese

Fat-free or low-fat cream cheese, Neufchƒtel, or low-fat cottage cheese pureed until smooth


Two egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute for each whole egg

Flour, all-purpose

Whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour

Meat as the main ingredient

Minimize the amount of meat and add extra vegetables (pureed and chopped) to casseroles and soups

Oil-based marinades

Wine,balsamic vinegar, fruit juice, or fat-ree broth


Whole-wheat pasta

Rice, white

Brown rice, wild rice, bulgur or pearl barley

Soups, sauces, dressings, crackers, fish or vegetables

Low-sodium or reduced-sodium versions; Pureed potatoes or tofu to thicken a sauce or soup

Sour cream

Fat-free or low-fat sour cream, plain fat-free yogurt


Reduce amount of sugar by increasing amount of ingredients like vanilla, cinnamon, or nutmeg that adds more intense flavor.



Try dishes that are high in volume and low in what dietitians would call “energy density”. This is one of the many tips that can be used on the road to weight management. It means that a food provides a large portion for a small number of calories. Think of salads, soups, and fruits and vegetables. We can eat a huge plate that satisfies and fills the stomach for just a couple hundred calories. These foods all have a few factors in common:

  • Water. Many fruits and vegetables are high in water, which provides volume but not calories. Carrots are about 88 percent water = 52 calories in 1 cup.

  • Fiber. High-fiber foods such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains take longer to digest so you feel full for a longer period of time.

  • Fat. Most fruits and vegetables do not contain a lot of fat. One level tablespoon of butter will cost you 100 calories and 12 grams of fat. One level tablespoon doesn’t cover very much.

This could be the year of experimentation in the kitchen that leads to a leaner you, and quite possibly, a way that lets you have your warm, favorite comfort foods and eat them too.

For more information about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, click here or call 972.560.2655.