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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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