Healthy Alternatives

We all love comfort food, especially when it’s cold outside. Mashed potatoes, fried chicken, hearty soups…they’re good for the soul, so to speak. They’re not so good for the waistline, cholesterol count, or antioxidants, though. The answer isn’t to give up your favorites, it’s to change how they fit into your life.

Fried chicken is time-consuming and fatty. This version, made with Panko bread crumbs, is much healthier and a snap to make. Marinade boneless, skinless thighs or breasts in your favorite marinade overnight in a covered bowl or bag. A fun one is a southern sweet-tea brine, but you can do Italian dressing, honey mustard…whatever. Dry chicken, then coat with flour (seasoned if you like, and I use whole wheat), an egg wash (whites or egg beaters will do just fine), and press into panko crumbs to coat. Bake at 400 until done (it’ll depend on the cut of chicke, but about 25-35 minutes). Voila!

Chili, the ultimate winter soup. Anyone from MI knows that deer season, and winter in general, means lots of the spicy stuff.  The good news is that there’s already a lot to love about chili. It’s often got beans for fiber, and protein and tomatoes for lycopene. But, all that meat can put a strain on the fat meter if you’re using 80/20 ground beef. Since it’s deer season, replace it with venison. If you don’t have a hunter in the family, look up a local farm and get some grass-fed ground beef. It’s got about half the calories of store-bought. Or, turn it into a chicken chili, as I did above. This is my “Black and White Chicken Chili,” so named for the black and canellini beans I use.  A homemade veggie stock gives a warm, rich base for the zesty peppers (I use green, red, and chilis in adobo sauce!), spicy onions, creamy beans, and tender chicken.

Meatloaf is a childhood memory. For some of us, it’s even a good one. It reminds me of home and big family meals. It also is often just plain unhealthy. Fortunately, it’s an easy leap from unhealthy to tasty and good for the body. The big step is to make sure you use lean meat, like grassfed beef, 90/10 from the store, or venison. Use egg whites instead of whole eggs as a binder, toss in oats and TVP for the bulking agents, then add tomatoes, zucchini, and other fun veggies. You want the tomatoes and zucchini to keep it moist. I usually toss in black beans, spinach, and some other goodies! Cover with fresh or canned crushed tomatoes and bake, then serve with smashed golden or sweet potatoes and it’s a good-for-the-hips meal that is better than the old stand-by.

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