But don't despair, winter still brings seasonal produce that can satisfy comfort food cravings without the anticipated guilt trip. Winter squash, apples, citrus and beets – along with whole grains, winter greens, chicken and lean cuts of pork are full of vitamins, minerals and wholesome flavor.
Last week in FLAVOR some alternative ingredients were mentioned that offer comforting flavors without adding to your waistline. This week an overview of those ingredients has been provided, along with recipes that utilize their unique flavors. Nutritional analysis on each of the recipes has also been included.
Butternut, acorn, spaghetti and other varieties of winter squash are good sources of many 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.
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.
A feature from last fall that defined whole grains and gave an overview of the whole grain varieties is available on tylerpaper.com under the food tab.
Some of the 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.
Although winter comfort food is usually considered heavy and unhealthy, the produce that is in season during 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.
Unsalted Cooking Stock
When making soups and sauces using 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.
The unsalted versions do still have 130 milligrams of sodium that is naturally occurring in the ingredients used to make the stock but no salt is added.
What's great about agave nectar is that it's relatively low on the glycemix index. The glycemic index is used to measure the effect food has on the blood sugar.
As a comparison a 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 your tea and coffee rather than artificial sweeteners. To learn more about using agave nectar as a substitute for sugar go to www.allaboutagave.com.
When comparing the calories, fat and cholesterol in various cuts of pork to other types of meat, pork ranks as one of the healthiest options. According to the National Pork Board, a three 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 the loin cuts are good for grilling, roasting, saut￩ing, 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.
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.
The one thing that needs to be avoided 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 it comes to analyzing recipes and understanding the fat, carbohydrate, protein and sodium content in food the USDA has the following recommendations.
For adults, 45 to 65 percent of calories should come from carbohydrates, 10 to 35 percent from protein and 20 to 35 percent from fat. No more than 10 percent of fat content should come from saturated fat.
Simply looking at carbohydrate, sugar and fat grams is not enough. Ingredients should be read to see if the carbohydrates and sugar are coming from artificial ingredients, refined flours or added sugars. In regards to fat, saturated and transfats should be avoided and generally come from artificial and processed ingredients, animal fat, butter and dairy products.
For example a tablespoon of olive oil contains 14 grams of fat but only 2 grams come from saturated fat, while 10 grams come from the healthy monounsaturated fat and two from the equally healthy polyunsaturated fat.
A daily sodium intake of less than 2,300 milligrams is also recommended and further reduction of 1,500 mg among persons who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.
Pork Chops with Apple-Polenta Stuffing
4 six ounce boneless pork chops, about 1 inch thick, fat trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 apple, diced
1 parsnip, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken broth, divided
1/2 cup 1 percent milk
1/3 cup polenta
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1/2 cup white zinfandel or rose wine
Butterfly the chops and set aside. Rub with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper. In a saut￩ pan heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the apple, parsnip and onion and saut￩ until soft. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley, thyme and remaining salt and pepper. In a saucepan heat the milk and 1/2 cup of broth to a simmer. Stir in the polenta and continue stirring until liquid is absorbed and polenta is thick. Add the apple mixture to the polenta and set aside to cool. Spoon the stuffing into the middle of the butterflied chops and fold over to close. Secure with toothpicks or cooking twine. Heat a saut￩ pan with the remaining two tablespoons of oil until almost smoking hot. Place the pork chops in the pan and brown on both sides for about 30 seconds. Add the wine to the pan and let reduce by half. Add the remaining cup of broth. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low. Turn the chops. Place a lid on the pan and let cook until the chops are cooked through for about 15 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Watch the level of the liquid and add more broth or water if necessary. Do not let the pan go dry. Remove the chops from the pan and take off any toothpicks or twine. Serve with remaining liquid poured over the chops. Serves 4. Each serving contains 423 calories, 14 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 34 g carbohydrates, 9 g sugar, 40 g protein, 753 g sodium.
Gluten Free Light Fettuccini Alfredo
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups skim milk, warm
1 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces quinoa spaghetti
In a saucepan combine the oil and flour. Stir until completely blended. Gradually add milk, whisking continuously until all ingredients are combined and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Over low heat, add the mozzarella and parmesan and stir until melted and well combined. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta and add it to the cheese sauce. Toss to combine and serve. Serves 6. Each serving contains 292 calories, 12 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 29 g carbohydrates, 5 g sugar, 14 g protein, 376 mg sodium.
Roasted Acorn Squash with Agave Nectar
1 acorn squash
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash into fourths. In a small bowl combine remaining ingredients. Spoon over squash and rub into the flesh of the squash. Place flesh side up on a baking sheet and bake until the squash is tender for about 45 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 4. Each serving contains 82 calories, 3.5 g fat, .5 g saturated fat, 14 g carbohydrates, 2.5 g sugar, 1 g protein, 149 g sodium.
Roasted Beet & Wheat Berry Salad
3 medium-sized beets
1 large shallot, peeled and sliced thin
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup wheatberries
3 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
In a saucepan heat the water to boiling and add the wheat berries. Simmer for about 45 minutes on low heat until liquid is absorbed and wheat berries are soft and cooked through to the same consistency as rice. Place in a large bowl to cool and set aside. While the wheat berries are cooking cut off the stalk and root end of the beets. Cut the beets in half and place in the middle of a 12 x 12 piece of foil with a tablespoon each of oil and water and the sliced shallots. Fold the foil over and fold up the edges until sealed. Keep the packet loose so the beets can still steam within the foil. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes. Unwrap and let cool until the beets can be picked up and rubbed with a paper towel to remove the skin. Dice into small cubes and set aside. In a bowl combine the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, honey and Dijon mustard with a small pinch of salt and pepper. Begin whisking and slowly pour in the olive oil. Pour the dressing into the wheat berries, add the shallots and the beets and toss to combine. Chill for 30 minutes before serving. Serves 4. Each serving contains 234 calories, 12 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 29.5 g carbohydrates, 4 g sugar, 5 g protein, 42 g sodium.