By serving healthier options of these comfort foods, you can satisfy your residents’ cravings without harming their health. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the top foods that people may crave at your facility and spoke to one of our expert chefs about how to make them healthier (but still delicious!).
To give your residents their cookie fix, try substituting an indulgent, healthy snack bar instead. But be careful. There are some snack bars that can be very high in fat and sugar. For a healthy option that still satisfies the sweet tooth, look for a snack bar made with whole oats and sweetened with fresh or dried fruit instead of table sugar. They’re likely to be high in fiber and contain more beneficial nutrients (while still being sweet!). Watch out for bars that contain “healthy” sugar like honey, agave, or coconut sugar. These added sugars aren’t as nutritious as fresh fruits.
Not all chocolate is created equal. When your residents are craving this sweet treat, reach for the dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher) instead of other varieties. A few squares of dark chocolate contains less sugar than milk chocolate or big-name candy bars. Dark chocolate also has higher levels of healthy plant compounds, like polyphenols. Studies have shown that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of these polyphenols may help improve markers of heart health. But remember that it’s still chocolate, so this sweet snack still contains high amounts of fat and calories. We recommend serving a few squares with a spoonful of almond or peanut butter for extra protein.
3. Potato Chips
When residents are craving a bag of salty, crunchy potato chips, we like to substitute chips made with healthier ingredients. Today, there are many varieties of healthy chips that you can provide. Look for ones made that contain whole grain omega 3 seeds, like chia and flax. Baked chips and vegetable or olive oil-based crisps are also a good option. Bean or legume-based chips are another guilt-free option because they have a lot of protein and fiber but a low amount of carbs.
4. French Fries
It’s a little more difficult to create a healthy version of a fry because there’s really no substitute for a crispy, deep-fried potato. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to serve a better-for-you version of this fast food staple. The process for making a healthy fry is similar to the chips we discussed above. One of the easiest methods is to roast vegetables on high heat with some olive oil. Just cut your preferred veggie (like a sweet potato) into sticks, set your oven to 450 degrees, and then roast your fry substitute for 10-12 minutes. Then, rotate and flip the sticks to evenly brown them. When you take them out of the oven, sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt and enjoy. Some of our favorite veggies to roast are root vegetables, like rutabagas and turnips, because they’re typically low in carbs but high in fiber.
Who doesn’t crave a cheesy slice of pizza every now and then? One of our favorite pizza swaps is using eggplant as the “dough.” Just slice large rounds of eggplant about half an inch thick. Spread the slices onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Let them sit like this for five minutes while you gather the rest of your ingredients, like cheese, sauce, and toppings. Letting the eggplant sit with salt pulls out some of the bitterness and helps with the browning process. Once that five minutes is up, dry off any excess moisture on the eggplant slices and then brush them with olive oil before broiling for two minutes on each side. Pull them out and top with your sauce, cheese (to keep this on the healthy side, go easy on the cheese), and preferred toppings. Then, put them back under the broiler just until the cheese melts. Let your cooked pizzas stand for 4-5 minutes before serving. For a finishing touch, garnish with basil and grated Parmesan Reggiano.
6. Ice Cream
In the peak summer months, many of us crave a cold scoop of ice cream, but because this dessert is high in fat and calories, it’s not always the healthiest option. Thankfully, the ice cream market has recognized that people are searching for healthier ways to enjoy their favorite summer treat. To find healthy ice cream alternatives, we recommend going to your local supermarket and scanning the frozen aisles for some of the many non-dairy ice cream alternatives that companies are making now. Look for options that are Greek yogurt based. If you prefer to make your own, we like to use this banana-based ice cream recipe.
Keeping your residents healthy doesn’t mean you need to deprive them of their favorite foods. Serving classic staples like pizza or ice cream will make your community feel comforted and able to enjoy mealtimes more often (and they’ll probably eat more of what’s on the plate!).
If you want some help planning out healthy dishes that still incorporate the elements of your residents’ favorite foods, let us know. Culinary Services Group’s experts can help your food service team create a menu that turns comfort food into nutritious meals. Contact us here to get started.