Fish sticks. Mac n’ cheese. Chicken nuggets. These childhood favorites still predictably make us drool. Americans love nostalgic comfort food classics so much, they’ve been deemed a top food trend of 2020. According to the latest Synergy Taste Report, “living in a digital age filled with social media reminding us of what happened ‘a year ago today’ or even ‘10 years ago today,’ consumers are reminiscent of an earlier time.”
“It’s our nature to have fond memories of the foods we ate growing up,” notes Freshly’s head nutritionist Brooke Scheller, DCN, CNS. “and those memories aid in the appeal and delight of sitting down to eat those same meals.”
At Freshly, we have made it our mission to make healthier versions of some of those comfort classics so you can have your nuggets and eat them, too. We asked Scheller how to make a few of your favorites a little bit better-for-you by swapping in more nutritious ingredients and leaving out unhealthy additives:
Mac n’ cheese
Think outside the grocery store box and make your own healthified version by sneaking in more veggies: “To add nutrients, we infuse the sauce of our mac & cheese with butternut squash and cauliflower puree,” says Scheller. “This makes a classic nostalgic dish a bit healthier and also helps reduce the amount of dairy used.” Another stealth health tip: Use an alternative pasta like chickpea elbows to add even more nutrients including fiber and protein.
Chicken pot pie
There’s no doubt this classic dish is comforting—but it can also be incredibly heavy. To lighten up the filling, use almond milk (or another non-dairy milk) and chicken broth in place of the cream and butter, and pump up the nutrients by adding cauliflower puree to the mix of chicken, veggies, and potatoes. “In our creamy chicken casserole, we use oats, almond meal, cheese, and garlic-paprika seasonings to create that classic pie crust crumble without the gluten and to add more nutrients,” says Scheller.
Mom’s signature meal can easily be made more nutritious: “Using ground turkey over beef reduces total and saturated fat content,” says Scheller. “And blending veggies into the meat is a crafty way to add nutrients.” Go for mushrooms (like we do in our Turkey & Mushroom meatloaf) or chopped carrots, peppers, onions, kale or spinach. Also pay attention to any sauces, as these can often contain added sugars. For example, just two tablespoons of ketchup can add 8 grams or more of sugar (often in the form of high fructose corn syrup). Instead, try a clean marinara or a plain tomato sauce. For a touch of sweetness, try using honey or a bit of maple syrup.
And with all these dishes, ask yourself: What am I serving on the side? “The more veggies, the better!” says Scheller.
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