This time of year can be stressful. In times of stress, we want comfort foods - the foods we used to eat on special occasions, at grandmother's house, or when we were sick and mom pampered or nurtured us back to health with special dishes.

Unfortunately, many comfort foods are high in calories and fat but low in the nutrients and protective phytochemicals necessary to reduce risk of chronic diseases, like cancer, and to keep a healthy weight. Many of these foods come from a time when the relationship between diet and disease was not well known.

But in recent years, cooks have learned to make such foods with less fat and fewer calories. With a few substitutions and some changes in technique, comfort food can be feed your health as well as your memories.

Substitution is the first step toward healthier comfort food. Substitute an ingredient low in fat for a high-fat ingredient, for example. Evaporated skim milk can be used in place of cream, and olive oil can replace butter in many recipes.

Adding a few healthful ingredients such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans can enhance the nutritional quality of the dish. Add diced bell pepper and zucchini to your spaghetti sauce, for example, and some variety of beans to your chili.

Finally, watch portion size. Most comfort foods are meals in themselves. If you serve them in smaller portions and add a few side dishes such as cooked vegetables and salad, you'll have a more healthful meal and still enjoy your favorite comfort food.

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The following recipe for meatloaf is a good example of how to enjoy more healthful comfort food. Chopped parsley, minced bell pepper and shredded carrot add color, fiber, taste and nutrition.

Turkey Meatloaf

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Makes 5 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb.ground turkey breast
  • 1/2 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup unseasoned whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, minced
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. ketchup (optional, to use as a topping)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine all ingredients except 3 tablespoons of ketchup in a large bowl. Transfer mixture to a 9x5-inch non-stick loaf pan. Bake 1 hour, uncovered.
  3. Remove from oven. Spread the 3 tablespoons ketchup on top, if desired. Cover lightly with foil and let meatloaf rest 10 minutes. Cut into slices and serve.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
278 calories,
10 g. total fat,
3 g. saturated fat,
23 g. carbohydrate,
24 g. protein,
2 g. dietary fiber,
420 mg. sodium.

Diabetic Exchanges: 1 Bread/Starch, 3 Lean-Meat


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