6 Healthy hacks for unhealthy winter food
Healthy food hacks from Lite n' Easy chef Brett Johnston
It’s winter, and as the temperature continues to drop and the wild winds start to pick up, many of us discover ourselves drawn to cosying up with some good old fashion comfort food. But why? Why do we find ourselves craving a hearty serve of slow-cooked lamb shanks, or a wholesome bowl of chicken noodle soup? Not to mention an overindulgent crumble or self-saucing chocolate pudding. It’s because these meals make us feel good!
Have you ever heard of the “happiness chemicals” dopamine and serotonin? Both are responsible for our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. We can naturally increase our dopamine and serotonin levels by carrying out activities that make us feel good, getting plenty of exercise and getting enough to sunlight. But did you know that when we eat, the gut effectively ‘speaks’ to the brain? Eating can trigger the production of neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, which can stimulate these same feelings of happiness!
So, how can we still enjoy our favourite comfort foods in a healthy and nutritious way, without the excess calories? Lite n’ Easy Senior Development Chef, Brett Johnston shares some tricks of the trade and how some sneaky substitutes can make a more nutritious, lower calorie, guilt free winter warming option!
1. Butter Chicken
Butter Chicken is a takeaway favourite, but did you know your average curry house version can host up to a whopping 800 calories? At Lite n’ Easy, we have a way you can still enjoy Butter Chicken without the excess fat, oil and calories. We use eggplant! We use eggplant puree as a fat replacer and this is what achieves the creamy texture that you need in a curry sauce. By pureeing the eggplant you feel like it’s fatty but it’s actually healthy.
2. Creamy Soups and Pasta
Creamy pasta remains another favourite that can be high in calories. In fact, the average carbonara at a restaurant can have about 700 calories. Whereas a Lite n’ Easy Spaghetti Carbonara is just as delicious, with significantly less calories (380 calories). We use cauliflower instead of cream. This provides the white appearance, but because we cook the cauliflower out, it feels like you’re eating cream. We only add a tiny bit of cream or milk at the end. The same can be achieved for creamy soups. If you mix cashews with water and puree them, it produces a cream. This gives you a nutty and creamy texture that is still white in colour. So your soup tastes creamy and delicious, without the cream or the calories.
A great way to get flavour into meals without the added salt is to puree mushrooms. Mushrooms are a natural source of MSG, so they provide a unique savoury flavour known as “umami”. Our Steak Diane looks creamy and decadent but the sauce is mostly pureed mushrooms. Mushrooms are super tasty and can be a great addition to many meals.
4. Meatballs and burgers
Eating heathy doesn’t mean that favourites like burgers and meatballs are off the table. We make our burger patties and meatballs taste delicious, as well as healthy, by keeping them lean and using artichoke as a fat replacement. The fibre and natural oils in artichoke can be pureed, which then creates a fatty texture and appearance.
5. Chocolate cake & desserts
Did you know that avocado can be included to make desserts too? Avocado is an amazing ingredient you can include to make chocolate or mud cake instead of butter or oil – achieving the same rich flavour and texture with a bonus hit of fibre and without the saturated fat. You can’t taste the avocado, but it gives you a great nutritional punch. It’s a healthier option that doesn’t compromise on flavour.
Sweet potato and mashed banana can also be used as a substitute to butter – a great way to sneak in an extra serve of fruit or veggie to your favourite cake without those who are devouring it any the wiser!
Apple puree is also a great natural sweetener to include in baked items as it replaces the need for too much sugar and fat. It’s full of fibre and helps in keeping baked items moist and fluffy!
6. Mash potato
Love creamy mash potato but worried about the calories? There’s a way you can still have fluffy and creamy mash potato without gallons of butter or cream. Once you’ve finished mashing your cooked potatoes, add a raw egg and mix through. Don’t worry, the heat from the potatoes will help cook the egg. You’ll be left with guilt-free, creamy mash potatoes with a little extra protein.
Brett Johnston is an accomplished and nationally recognised Product Development Chef with over 15 years’ experience. After starting in the restaurant trade, he successfully transitioned into large scale commercial food manufacturing representing the hospitality, food service, retail and airline sectors. Combining his creative talent, passion for concept development and expertise in quality ingredient sourcing, Brett has performed a number of senior roles to deliver products and processes that push the boundaries of traditional food processing. Working with his team and inspired by the challenge of meeting constantly evolving consumer demands, it is Brett’s goal to create eating experiences that are just as delicious as they are healthy.