Comfort foods without the calories

Just because you’re watching your calorie intake, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your favourite comfort foods. Follow our guide to find out how you can still indulge in creamy stews, cheese dishes and cakes, with less of the guilt.

Cut out the double cream

If you’re making a creamy stew or pasta sauce, don’t reach for the double cream. Single cream is lower in fat and can be swirled into soups and sauces at the end of cooking – but it’s prone to splitting if it boils.

If you need something with a thicker texture, try crème fraîche, which contains less fat than double cream as standard, but is also available in low-fat versions, which are best spooned cold, onto desserts.

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Natural yoghurt is even lower in fat and can be stirred into curries and spooned over puddings or fruit. If serving with desserts try grating in some citrus zest before serving for added flavour.

Use low-fat varieties of cheese
You can buy special low-fat versions of cheeses such as mozzarella and cheddar in the supermarket. But some varieties of cheese are naturally lower in calories.

Ricotta contains around 40 calories per 30g serving, compared to mascarpone, for example, which can clock in at around 120 calories for a serving of the same size. Stir ricotta into pasta sauces, spoon into ravioli and whip it into cheesecakes.

Another way of cutting calories via your cheese intake is to buy a more mature variety. Because it has a sharper and more intense flavour, you’ll need to use less in your recipe.

Reduce the calories in your baking<br>It is possible to still enjoy cakes and pastries in moderation, while cutting down your calorie intake. Go easy on the choc chips and fudge pieces and spread or drizzle a little icing onto cupcakes, instead of piping buttercream on in big, luxurious swirls.

[Related article: Chicken and leek pie: My favourite British comfort food]

Also, consider using silicone baking pans, which don’t need smearing with butter before using. And reduce the amount of sugar in your recipe and balance the flavour with fruits such as mashed banana, berries or a small drizzle of honey.

Fry less
You fancy chips, but not all that deep-frying. The answer is simple – bake them in the oven instead. Just peel potatoes, slice into skinny chips or wedges and then coat in a little olive oil before arranging in a roasting dish lined with greaseproof paper. Then, just bake in a hot oven for about 25 minutes until crisp.

Cooking them in this way means they absorb much less oil. Also, grill meats instead of frying, so the food absorbs less fat. 

Switch to honey
If you really need to sweeten your porridge, don’t just instinctively dredge it with sugar - drizzle over some honey instead. Although honey actually contains more calories than sugar, it’s much sweeter so you need to use less.

Also, many people believe it’s less likely to give you a sugar rush (and sugar cravings later in the day) because it’s natural and not refined.

[Related article: Best Comfort Food Recipes]

Use a little honey to sweeten drinks, biscuits, desserts and fruits.

Try frozen yoghurts instead of ice cream
For some of us, ice cream is a guilty pleasure we cannot do without. But you don’t have to skip dessert completely if you’re counting your calories. Frozen yoghurts are soft and creamy and often fat free. They also come in a wide variety of flavours at the supermarket and are easy to make at home, too.

Try stirring in fruits such as blueberries, strawberries and raspberries before freezing. Just watch out for quantities of added sugar. 

What are your tips for enjoying comfort foods without stacking up the calories?

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