Think comfort foods and 'healthy and wholesome' probably aren't the first things that spring to mind. The usual suspects tend to be guilty culinary pleasures loaded with refined carbs, dripping in saturated fat or laden with obscene amounts of sugar.
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Good-fat snacks to help you stay on track
Fortunately, there are foods out there that can satisfy your appetite and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, without widening your waistline and endangering your health. Here are 10 of the most nutritious.
Old-fashioned British superfoods
Low in fat, low in calories and a good source of quality protein, chicken soup has actually been shown to help relieve symptoms of the common cold. A 2000 study found that the beneficial concoction soothes upper-respiratory inflammation and further studies report that chicken soup can help clear a stuffy nose. Try this ultra-healthy take on the soup with superfood lemon, mint and buckwheat.
Chicken, lemon and mint soup with buckwheat recipe
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Oatmeal raisin cookies
Cookies are a go-to comfort food but the typical sweet biscuit is bursting with refined white flour, lashings of butter and heaps of sugar, none of which will do your BMI or overall health any favours. Cue these surprisingly virtuous oatmeal raisin cookies. They contain no added sugar, healthier polyunsaturated fat and just four ingredients in total, including of course cholesterol-busting oats and antioxidant-rich raisins.
Sugar-free oatmeal and raisin cookies recipe
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Chickpea and bean masala
There's nothing like a hearty and satisfying curry to warm you up on a cold winter's day. Curry house or ready meal versions can contain excessive quantities of saturated fat, sugar and salt, so why not try making this nutritious veggie curry yourself? Bursting with goodness and super-low in fat, this sustaining masala is based on nourishing pulses and root vegetables. For extra health points, serve it with cooling minted yoghurt and a tomato and red onion salad.
Slow cooker chickpea and bean masala
A yummy treat to munch on with a nice cup of tea, this particular banana bread from Susanna Booth has zero added sugar and packs in a total of four bananas, which are a great source of fibre and potassium. To bolster its wholesomeness, this scrumptious sweet bread also contains wholemeal flour and a smattering of sunflower seeds. You can't go wrong.
Sugar-free banana bread recipe
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Avocado and egg quesadilla with salmon
Hankering after a healthy brekkie that will leave you feeling sated and set up for a busy day? Look no further than this superfood quesadilla. A healthy alternative to a greasy fry-up and just as satisfying, this wholegrain flatbread is filled with nutritious eggs, avocado, spinach and fresh lime, and topped with omega 3-rich smoked salmon.
Avocado and egg quesadilla recipe
The healthiest breakfast options
Cranberry and orange breakfast muffins
If you fancy a sweeter comfort food for breakfast that won't pile on the pounds, opt for one of these delectable cranberry and orange muffins. A decent source of quality protein, these tasty treats are crammed with eggs and almonds to keep you fuller for longer, and best of all, they are free from refined wheat flour and added sugar. Besides the fruit, they even contain carrots for added health appeal.
Cranberry and orange muffins recipe
Cauliflower and chicken pilaf
Cauliflower 'rice' is all the rage right now for very good reason. It makes for an excellent low-calorie, low-carb substitute for the refined white grain and is brimming with vitamins C, K and B6, not to mention an array of essential minerals. Give it a go in this mouthwatering spiced chicken pilaf, a wonderfully restorative recipe from the Hairy Bikers.
Cauliflower and chicken pilaf recipe
Chocolate bean brownies
Craving chocolate but don't want to jeopardise your health by gorging on sugar, flour and butter-filled cake or overly sweet bars? These bean-based – yes, bean-based – brownies are calling your name. They cunningly contain protein-rich butter beans, rice flour and apples in place of carby white wheat flour, along with very little added sugar.
Chocolate bean brownies recipe
Sweet potato mash
Mashed potato with butter and double cream is quite rightly considered the ultimate comfort food for many people, but it isn't the healthiest of dishes. To make this comfort food classic better for you, ring the changes and swap the white potato for more virtuous orange sweet potato. Instead of the butter and double cream, substitute olive or rapeseed oil, or a mix of single cream and oil if you can't do without the dairy creaminess.
How to cook sweet potatoes
Blueberry ripple frozen yogurt
Ice cream is a delicious sweet treat that can be hard to resist even in the depths of winter. If you're a die-hard ice cream fan who can't do without their favourite frozen dessert, this blueberry ripple frozen yogurt should hit the spot without subjecting your body to a nasty hit of refined sugar and saturated fat. It contains no added sugar, vitamin and antioxidant-filled blueberries, and low-fat yogurt.
Healthy blueberry ripple frozen yogurt