Guilt-free comfort food has arrived

Good news: stodge doesn’t have to be sinful

Good news: stodge doesn’t have to be sinful

Winter brings with it the switch from summer salads to carb-loaded stodge in prep for hibernation season. Even if it’s just a subtle side-step from your usual chicken Caesar salad to a club sandwich for lunch, or pasta instead of fish for dinner, we’re already moving headlong into comfort eating season. But is it possible to indulge in guilt-free comfort food without the inevitable calories? Actually, yes, according to nutritionist Jackie Lynch, author of The Right Bite (Nourish Books, £6.99), who has devised a range of healthy food swaps as a handy guide. The best bit is they’re only small changes and you don’t have to compromise your tastebuds, which is well worth bearing in mind next time you’re doing the food shop…

Swap jacket potato for jacket sweet potato Jackie says: The delicious fluffy centre of a baked potato is created as the fibre breaks down, which makes it basically a nice bowl of sugar! Sweet potato is a low GI option which is higher in fibre and will keep you going for longer while retaining the lovely comforting texture. Top it with a protein-rich filling such as cottage cheese or chilli con carne and it’s a brilliant blood sugar balancing option, ideal if weight management is your goal. Swap mashed potato for cauliflower and bean mash. Jackie says: Cauliflower mash is usually a combination of potato and cauliflower which is lower in starch than pure mashed potato, but if you want a truly low GI option then try blending steamed cauliflower with butter beans, chopped parsley and nutmeg. It’s a delicious and super-low GI option, and has the added benefits of containing lots of antioxidants, as well as being extremely high in fibre, to support a healthy digestion.

Swap deep pan pepperoni pizza for thin crust vegetarian pizza Jackie says: If nothing but pizza will do, it’s still possible to keep things relatively healthy by making a smart choice. A deep pan pepperoni pizza has twice as many calories and three times as much saturated fat as a vegetarian thin crust, with just three large slices adding up to your entire daily recommended limit. If nothing but meat will do, opt for a simple ham and mushroom thin crust, as it will still be far lower in calories and fat.

Swap crisps for pistachios Jackie says: There’s nothing nutritious about crisps – they’re highly processed and an addictive combination of saturated fat, salt and sugar, due to the high level of potato starch. Nibbling pistachios instead will give you a great protein boost, which will keep you going for ages and reduce the risk of sugar cravings by ensuring your blood sugar stays stable. They’re also full of fibre and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and are a great source of vitamin E and folate, which play a vital role in optimum fertility. Swap ice cream for frozen yoghurt. Jackie says: The combination of saturated fat and sugar in ice cream is the ultimate comfort food but just two scoops of a deluxe ice cream offering such as chocolate chip cookie contain almost all your daily recommended limit for saturated fat and are very high in calories. Choosing natural frozen yoghurt will halve the calorie count and provide less than ¼ of the fat – adding some chopped banana or berries will sweeten the offering without doing as much damage as caramel or fruit puree.

Nutritionist Jackie Lynch is the author of The Right Bite (Nourish Books, £6.99)

Tracy Ramsden