Guilt-Free Comfort

Keep the comfort but ditch all those extra calories! Here are some ways to lighten up great-tasting burgers, fries, lasagna and more! By Kristin Wood, Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist • Photos by Becky Gleaves


e all love to have a great meal with “comfort foods” – those hearty, filling dishes that leave us feeling really satisfied. While some of those meals can be waistline killers, tweaking them can make them more nutritious and still satisfying. Oh, and a nutritious meal does not have to be tasteless! The trick is to figure out where to skim fat and calories, so you can lighten up a recipe without also cutting out the flavor. Here are a few great ways to lighten your meals to help you get started.
Lasagna is a gooey comfort food that definitely satisfies taste buds and leaves us with a comfortably full stomach.

It also can heap on unwanted calories and fat, especially if we’re eating in a restaurant, where single-serving portions can range from 10 to 25 ounces of lasagna. At home, we have much more control over portion sizes, as well as our ingredients. Here are a few great ways to slim down your favorite version of this meal: Replace the lasagna noodles with 2-3 zucchinis, cut into ¼ inch slices (longways). For every layer of zucchini, sprinkle ½ to 1 tablespoon flour on top before adding the next layer to absorb extra liquid. Or, try grilling the zucchinis first to get some of the water out (this will make the zucchinis a bit crunchier in the lasagna), then top with flour. Calorie savings per serving? 477 calories and 6 grams of fat and 88 grams of carbohydrates. Three zucchinis have 93 calories, no fat and 20 grams of carbohydrate while 9 lasagna noodles have 570 calories, 6 grams of fat and 108 grams of carbohydrates!



Swap 1 cup ricotta cheese with 1 cup 1-percent cottage cheese and save a whopping 265 calories and 30 grams of fat. (One cup ricotta has 428 calories and 32 grams fat while one cup 1-percent cottage cheese has 163 calories and 2 grams of fat.) Substitute one cup part-skim mozzarella for the full-fat version and you’ll save 265 calories and 21 grams of fat. (336 calories, 25 grams of fat versus 71 calories and 4 grams of fat) Try using ¾ of the cheese you normally use. You likely will not notice the difference and can shave off 25 percent of the calories, whatever cheese you use! Editor’s note: For this lasagna recipe, we added 7 percent lean ground turkey for us meat eaters. Lean turkey is a healthy and great substitution for ground beef. But if you’ve got to have your beef, then read on for ways to make it healthier and less fattening.

the ground beef, these leaner cuts will be the best way to cut unwanted calories. Leaner ground beef generally has a higher price point than its fatty brothers, however, so it isn’t always the best solution for all meals involving ground beef. If you are cooking the meat in a skillet (for lasagna, a meat sauce, tacos, etc.), you don’t need to go to the expense of purchasing super Got other healthy lean beef to slash the hamburger’s comfort food fat and calorie substitutions or recipes? content. Just Email them to drain the fat off as you normaland we’ll put them in a ly would, then put the beef in future article! a colander and rinse completely with hot water. You can pat it dry if the meat seems too watery after rinsing. Taking this simple step after the meat is thoroughly cooked renders that inexpensive hamburger as lean or leaner than super lean beef. Below you will find a chart showing the differences among the various types of ground beef, as well as reduction in fat content that comes from draining hamburger.

How Do You Like Your Ground Beef?
Type of Ground Beef 1 pound raw; weight after cooking 12 - 2/3 oz 1 pound raw; calories after cooking 1/4 pound raw; calories after cooking 170

Burgers & Other Recipes That Call for Ground Beef

Super Lean (7% fat) Extra Lean (15% fat) Lean (20% fat) Regular (30% fat), broiled Regular (30% fat), drained & rinsed Source:


We all know that ground beef is a staple in the American diet and it’s a great place to start skimming calories from your recipes. While ground beef is rich in protein, zinc, B-12 and absorbable iron, it also contains significant amounts of saturated fat and sodium. Ground beef is generally sold in categories based on its fat content. Most commonly, these range from super lean with 4 to 10 percent fat content; extra lean (also called ground round) with 15 percent fat content; lean (also called ground chuck) with 20 percent fat content; to regular hamburger with 30 percent fat content. Choose a leaner ground beef and you can peel off calories from fat without sacrificing taste. For burgers, meatloaf and meatballs and other meals that call for hand-shaping

12 oz



11 - 1/2 oz 10 - 2/3 oz

876 880

219 220

11 oz




Get creative!

Finger Lickin’
Jack Walker (left) and his brother, Joe Walker, (right) travel around the United States sharing their family’s secret Cajun seasoning recipe blends at food shows.

French Fries


French fries are another classic dish, one that tastes delicious but is very unhealthy. The good news is there are several great ways to have French fries that can reduce the damage. For example, make them at home instead of getting them at a fast food joint and save 140 calories and 9 grams of fat. A 3-ounce serving of ChickFil-A waffle fries has 270 calories with 13 grams of fat. But if you bake frozen waffle fries instead, a 3-ounce serving is just 130 calories with 4 grams of fat. Better yet, put potato wedges drizzled with olive oil, sea salt and rosemary on the grill. A 3-ounce serving has 144 calories and 2.5 grams of fat, is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol and is a very good source of fiber and vitamins A and C. For a surprise twist, roast cauliflower florets instead! These caramelize beautifully when drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, ground pepper and garlic powder and baked in a 400-degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Calorie count? A cup has 48 calories and 2.5 grams of fat. So, think creatively and you’ll be surprised how easy modifying your favorite recipes is once you start really focusing on making healthy changes. Choose nutrient-rich foods to ensure your meals are full of vitamins and minerals, and use disease-fighting antioxidants (deeply colored fruits and vegetables) as the basis for your recipes. MS&F

ack Walker, 28, has a secret. It’s a big family secret. And, the secret is in the sauce ... er, the seasoning. Three blends to be exact − all of which are guaranteed to put the zing into any delectable dish. Your food will taste so good, you’ll want to “Slap Ya Mama” for not cooking like that! At least that’s how the old Cajun saying, which lends its name to the “Slap Ya Mama” brand, goes, according to Jack. Jack is just one member of Walker & Sons, a family-owned business that started as a convenient store with a deli serving up some of the best Cajun vittles in Louisiana. “People started asking if they could buy our seasoning, so we bought little glass jars and filled them with our blends,” says Jack. The demand became so great that Walker & Sons had to find a manufacturer to make and distribute their products, which are now available in specialty food stores and a number of national grocers. Or, you can find the products on www.slapyamama. com. Raised in Ville Platte, Louisiana where the spicier the better prevails when it comes to food, Jack is proud to be a part of this family business and their secret blends. The ingredients are listed on each container, “but you’ll never know the proportions,” says Jack, with a wink. There are three different blends. In the yellow canister is the original blend; the white

pepper blend is in the white canister (white pepper digests easier than black pepper for those who may have digestion problems); and in the red canister ... yep, you guessed it ... the hot version. “We took out a lot of the salt and packed a lot more heat in that one,” says Jack about the red blend, which is his favorite. You can use the seasoning blends as a rub, a marinade or as table seasoning. Jack suggests using the original blend for chicken and pasta, the white blend for seafood and the red blend if you’re grilling. Here is one of the Walker family’s favorite recipes using the white blend of “Slap Ya Mama” Cajun seasoning:

Slap Ya Mama Shrimp Stir-Fry

Ingredients: • 1 lb cleaned shrimp • 1 tsp chopped garlic • Slap Ya Mama White Pepper Blend to taste • Olive oil • 1 bag of Asian Stir-Fry • ½ glass red wine • 2 tsp brown sugar • 1 tsp lemon juice Directions: Coat bottom of a pan with olive oil and put over medium heat. Season shrimp with Slap Ya Mama white pepper to taste. Add garlic, shrimp and lemon juice in pan. Cook until shrimp turn pink. Now add veggies wine and brown sugar and cook until veggies are soft. You can also add noodles if preferred. MS&F




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