Top 5 comfort food makeovers

Baby It's Cold Outside ... the lyrics of the classic Dean Martin Christmas song are ringing true in most parts of Australia right now. And when it's this cold, our thoughts turn to cocooning self-indulgence: hearty stews and gooey puddings, preferably eaten on the couch in your tracksuit and Ugg boots.

Fear not! You can still satisfy your need for warming, filling food while making healthier choices. Here are our top 5 tips to help you makeover your favourite comfort foods:

  1. Add some legumes: Legumes like lentils, cannellini beans and chickpeas are packed with healthy plant protein and plenty of fibre, helping to stabilise blood sugar and keep hunger pangs at bay. Try slipping a can into curries, casseroles and soups. Our Orechiette with broccoli & chickpeas is a great place to start, or try adding some cannellini beans or chickpeas to Tunisian-spiced lamb shanks.

  2. Mix up your mash: Lamb shanks and the like are all the tastier served with a pile of creamy mash. Think beyond potatoes to make yours healthier — and tastier. Try any combination of sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, turnips or swedes plus regular potato. This adds more fibre and plant nutrients, and the natural sweetness of these veggies means you only need a tiny pat of butter to bring out their flavour.

  3. Enjoy some raw foods: We often forget to add salads and other raw foods to our meals in winter. Eating raw foods provides your body with living enzymes essential for health and kind to digestion. Do your best to enjoy a salad every day. Try an Orange, fennel & red onion salad to wake up your taste buds, or finely shred red cabbage, carrots and fresh ginger and dress with olive oil and apple cider vinegar.

  4. Try baking with less sugar: You can usually reduce about one third of the sugar in a recipe without a noticeable difference. Experiment with healthier sugars too: coconut sugar has a naturally low glycemic index, is a rich source of minerals and has a delicious caramel flavour. The flourless orange & chocolate cake is an old family favourite that originally contained 250 g of sugar — it now contains 125 g and is fabulous made with coconut sugar.

  5. Go nuts: Nuts are rich in protein, minerals, fibre and healthy fats. Ground nuts like almond meal work magically in many baked goods in place of flour (which doesn't have much going for it nutritionally). Almond meal keeps baked cooks wonderfully moist and is a simple way to make many cakes and desserts gluten-free. Just remember that almond meal is much denser than flour and 100 g = approximately 1 cup. Both our Flourless orange & chocolate cake and Rhubarb & raspberry crunch cake use almond meal instead of flour.