Calories vs. comfort: Eat healthy, keep guilt at bay
By CHRISTINE GARDNERfood@tylerpaper.com
Every January we vow to eat healthier - lots of salads, fresh fruits and vegetables and meals with less fat, calories, sugar and carbohydrates. How are we doing so far? A cold and dreary first week of January might have knocked many off track.
Honestly, who wants to eat a salad when it is 40 degrees outside with a wind chill of 32? I would rather be eating a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs or maybe some chili and cornbread.
Most fruits and vegetables we truly enjoy are not in season. Out-of-season produce is more expensive and not as tasty. So what can we eat that is healthy, warm and satisfying? Depending on your dietary concerns, many options will satisfy the urge for comfort food and keep the guilt trip at bay.
Here are ideas that will keep you on the right track:Winter Squash:
Butternut, acorn, spaghetti and other varieties of winter squash are good sources of minerals and vitamins such as vitamin A and C, beta carotene and zinc. They are filling but low in calories and carbohydrates and full of fiber.
The simplest way to prepare winter squash is to roast it in halves on a baking sheet. Cut in half, scoop out the seeds, rub with some oil and salt and place skin side up on a baking sheet. Place in a 400 degree oven and cook until the flesh is tender. Depending on the size this can take between 30 minutes to an hour.Pork Tenderloin:
When comparing the calories, fat and cholesterol in cuts of pork to other types of meat, pork ranks as one of the healthiest options. According to the National Pork Board, a 3-ounce serving of lean, skinless chicken breast has 140 calories, 3 grams of fat and 74 milligrams of cholesterol. A three ounce beef top sirloin has 162 calories, 8 grams of fat and 76 milligrams of cholesterol. A same size piece of pork tenderloin has 120 calories, 3 grams of fat and 62 milligrams of cholesterol.
USDA data shows that many cuts of pork are as lean as or leaner than chicken. Also various cuts from the loin -- like pork chops and pork roast -- are leaner than skinless chicken thighs.
Because of its low fat content, loin cuts are good for grilling, roasting, sautéing, stir-frying and other dry heat methods of cooking. When choosing cuts from the loin trimming excess fat and using low-calorie marinades, sauces and rubs are other ways to maintain the healthy properties of the pork.Whole Grains:
If you are watching your carbohydrate intake but still trying to incorporate whole grains in your diet, there are many ways to do this without consuming bread, white rice or pasta.
Last September I wrote about the definition of whole grains and how to shop for whole-grain products. It included a list of gluten-free whole grains. This story is available on tylerpaper.com under the food tab.
Some whole grains that can be used as a substitute for white rice, potatoes or other starchy sides are farro, wheat berries, polenta, quinoa and brown rice. You can also fortify baked good with quinoa flakes and oats.Winter Veggies:
Although winter comfort food is usually considered heavy and unhealthy, produce in season this time are some of the most nutritious.
Kale, chard, beets, cauliflower, spinach, arugula and other winter lettuces like endive and cabbage are full of minerals and vitamins, most notably iron and vitamin C.
Most of these greens can be mixed into salads or lightly cooked to be used as a side.Whole Chicken:
Roasting a whole chicken is not only healthy and easy but economical. There's always been a debate on white meat versus dark meat but recent findings show many of the chicken's minerals and vitamins can be found in dark meat.
When breaking down the calorie and fat content the difference in calories in the breast is 165 calories, a drumstick is 175 and thigh is 209.
For breast, drumsticks and thighs saturated fat runs from one to three grams, respectively, and total fat three to ten grams.
The reason dark meat has more fat is because it contains more monounsaturated fat which, according to the Mayo Clinic, improves blood cholesterol levels and decreases risk of heart disease.
Unsalted Cooking Stock
The one thing to avoid is the skin. When you consume the skin on any of these cuts the fat and calories jump.
For more information on the nutritional values of chicken, go to www.nationalchickencouncil.org
and click on Here's the Skinny.
When making soups and sauces unsalted cooking stock helps control the amount of salt and seasoning you put in your food. Depending on the brand, one cup of stock or broth can contain 430 to 860 milligrams of sodium – even the low-sodium versions.Agave Nectar
The unsalted versions still have 130 milligrams of sodium that is naturally occurring in the ingredients used to make the stock but no salt is added.
Coming from the same plant that tequila is made from, agave nectar or syrup is a liquid known in Mexico as honey water.
What's great about agave nectar is that it's relatively low on the glycemic index. The glycemic index is used to measure the effect food has on the blood sugar.
Regular soda has a glycemix index of 90, a medium size apple is 54 and 2 tablespoons of agave nectar is 30. And because agave nectar tastes 40 percent sweeter than white granulated sugar the amount used can be reduced. So grab a bottle of agave nectar to use in tea and coffee rather than artificial sweeteners. To learn more about using agave nectar as a substitute for sugar, go to www.allaboutagave.com
Next week in the FLAVOR section I will take all of these ingredients a step further and talk about how to incorporate them into recipes that are warm and satisfying but low in fat and calories. Each of the recipes will also include a nutritional analysis.Christine Gardner can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Christine Gardner Tyler Paper Food. You can also write to 410 W. Erwin, Tyler, TX 75702.