4 winter comfort food makeovers

Fill your favourite winter dishes with extra veggies to keep your body nourished, vibrant and strong

Winter is here, and for many of us this means long nights sitting by the fire with a large plateful of warm, hearty comfort food. Accredited Practising Dietitian Samantha Cowan transforms four delicious winter dinners to help you escape the unwanted kilos as the temperature drops.

The secret: add extra veggies

As well as the below recipe modifications, one of the easiest ways to make your meals more nourishing is to add extra vegetables. Using vegetables to bulk-up your recipe will reduce the calorie content per serve, and provide an additional range of colourful, immunity-boosting nutrients.

To create a healthy balance, try to make your dinner plate:

  • ½ vegetables or salad
  • ¼ lean protein
  • ¼ wholegrain carbohydrates

You may need to add an additional side serve of vegetables or salad, and reduce your meal portion size, to fit this model.

Winter pasta bolognese with vegetables

1. Pasta bolognese

Italian in heritage, pasta bolognese has truly become an Aussie culinary staple. To make your pasta ‘smarter’ this winter, try out these ideas:

  • Choose extra-lean, or ‘heart smart’ beef mince. This will save you around 11 g of total fat and 250 kJ per 100 g, compared with regular beef mince.
  • Substitute one quarter of the extra lean beef mince in your recipe with tinned kidney beans. This will save you 5 g of total fat and add 6.5 g of dietary fibre per 100 g, helping you feel fuller for longer.
  • Use fresh and tinned tomatoes for the bulk of your pasta sauce. Avoid using bottles sauces, which can often have upwards of 5 g of total fat and 10 g of sugars per 100 ml.

Extra vegetables to add:

Carrots, capsicum, mushrooms and grated zucchini are all great additions to a pasta bolognese.

Chicken pot pie

2. Chicken pot pie

This is one of my favourite winter dishes, but it can be super-high in calories without making these modifications:

  • Replace regular cream with a reduced fat alternative. My top suggestion is Philadelphia Extra Light Cream for Cooking, which saves you a whopping 30 g of total fat and 200 calories per 100 ml.
  • Use chicken breast fillets instead of chicken thigh. This will save you 4 g of total fat per 100g.
  • If using bacon, use the middle rasher and trim off all the fat. This will save you up to 40 g of total fat per 100 g.
  • Replace frozen regular puff pastry with frozen regular filo pastry. This will save you 13 g of total fat per 100 g. Filo pastry is also lower in fat than reduced fat puff pastries. And remember, don’t go overboard with greasing the pastry and adding layers! A light coat of olive oil and 3-4 layers will do.

Extra vegetables to add:

Carrot, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, peas and mushrooms.

Vegetable casserole

3. One pot casseroles

One pot casseroles allow you to get creative in the kitchen. Once you have a good base recipe, you can add as many flavours and ingredients as you like (or simply what’s left in the fridge). To make a healthy casserole:

  • Choose a lean protein source as your base. Good examples include diced beef blade or chuck steak, skinless chicken breast fillets, fish or seafood of any kind, and kidney beans.
  • Avoid using large quantities of butter, oil or cream – usually you can scale back significantly on what the recipe recommends, without changing the overall result. Usually, you can stick with using only a small amount of oil to grease your pot, and that’s it. If using cream, select a reduced fat option.

Extra vegetables to add:

Whatever you have in the fridge at the time! My favourites are zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, peas and capsicum.

Thai green curry with vegetables

4. Thai green curry

Turn up the heat and turn down the fat with these curry tips:

  • Choose a lean protein source as your base, such as chicken breast fillets or firm tofu.
  • Replace regular coconut milk and cream with Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk with Coconut Essence. This will save you 15-30 g of total fat per 100 ml. This is also a better option than selecting the ‘light’ coconut milks or creams.

Extra vegetables to add:

Green beans, snow peas, bok choy, broccoli and capsicum.

Recommended reading - Issue Eight Winter 2014


Going the distance: Liz Blatchford

Liz Blatchford on training, mental strength and the transition from Olympic to longer distances.

Read more

3 historic restaurants across Europe

These classic establishments in historic European cities have barely changed in centuries

Read more

Parkinson’s Walk in the Park

Take a walk in the park on 31 August in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and help make a difference.

Read more

Herbert Peabody: An educational adventure

This book uses the enchanting tale of Herbert Peabody to teach children where their food comes from.

Read more

Miso eggplant with soba noodles and walnuts recipe

Let Hetty McKinnon’s simple yet hearty recipes inspire your home cooking.

Read more

How healthy are smoothies?

How to make your smoothie better for you

Read more

A beginner’s guide to stargazing

There’s a wonderland of galaxies and constellations overhead. Why not take time to discover them?

Read more

17 ways to help someone on their health journey

Looking beyond your own wellbeing can make for more gratifying and healthier outcomes for all

Read more

The history of the hypodermic needle

Causing people to squirm since ancient rome, Nick Snelling traces the hypodermic needle’s history.

Read more

Community cooking

Creative salad-maker Hetty McKinnon on her love for delicious veggie combinations.

Read more

Fireside Festival

Warm up your winter and lift your spirits at Canberra’s regional Fireside Festival this August.

Read more
In Brief

National Diabetes Week – Reduce your diabetes risk

Healthy lifestyle changes can help reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

Read more

For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are instructions on how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.