There’s a reason people turn to comfort foods when they’re feeling down; not only is there a lot of nostalgia wrapped up in certain dishes, but they often feature carbs, fats, and sugars that release feel-good dopamine. Plus, they’re pretty darn tasty.
That said, the push for healthier fare has caused those in the food industry to take stock and develop ways to transform comfort food classics into something a bit less harmful to the heart and waistline. It can be challenging to artfully reinvent unhealthy comfort and junk food to maintain flavor and appeal, but it’s not impossible.
Just consider the ironically-named Impossible Meat. The combination of plant-based ingredients not only mimics the texture of ground beef, but the flavors are on point, thanks to the inclusion of a soy-based heme protein added to genetically engineered yeast.
The outcome is a juicy, savory product that not only passes for meat but provides the same pleasure.
How else are food industry professionals working to meet consumer demand with healthier versions of beloved dishes?
No, we’re not talking about throwing this cruciferous vegetable on top of your pie. Instead, you can use it to make a healthy, gluten-free crust that packs higher protein and fiber content.
This flatbread-style, keto-friendly crust consists of ground/riced cauliflower paired with eggs, cheese, and spices, baked like a frittata to deliver a pie that can be loaded with toppings.
Vegan options call for additions like rice flour and potato starch, as well as flax egg and vegan parmesan for binding. The result is a chewier crust than some gluten-free alternatives, which can be quite dry.
Cauliflower is also a great substitute for pasta in dishes like mac and cheese and can easily be made in a keto-friendly style. Because cauliflower has such a mild flavor, it’s a great option to substitute for carbs in dishes that are traditionally less healthy.
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Versatile tacos are a staple meal for many consumers. They can be assembled with a wide range of ingredients to suit every palate, and they’re incredibly easy to modify for alternative diets.
Case in point: vegan tacos. While a typical taco might consist of several animal products (meat, cheese, sour cream, etc.), all can be replaced by plant-based options that deliver similar flavors and textures.
Starting with meat, you can not only opt for burger and chicken substitutes from companies like Impossible and Beyond, but you can go a completely different direction with firm mushrooms (portobello), roasted squash or sweet potatoes, or even cauliflower.
With the right seasoning, customers will still enjoy the spicy and savory flavors associated with tacos.
Beans are a great way to add protein back in, and cashews can be prepared in a variety of ways to stand in for dairy products like cheese and sour cream.
Dates in Desserts
Whether they’re fresh or dried, dates are delicious on their own. They also make for delectable stuffed snacks when pitted and paired with walnuts, goat cheese, nut butters, and more.
That said, soft Medjool dates have recently made a splash as a hidden ingredient in other recipes, primarily desserts. It turns out you can substitute one cup of pureed dates for processed sugar in a wide range of dishes, including breads, cakes, cookies, brownies, pies, and other confections.
Paleo Pop Tarts
These flaky, frosted pastries are more dessert than breakfast, but a healthier version is easy to accomplish with gluten-free dry goods, homemade strawberry jam for the filling, and a glaze made with nut milk and paleo sugar.
Related: What’s New in High-Protein Snacks?
Put a Healthy Spin on Comfort Classics
Necessity is the mother of invention, and with more consumers seeking ways to reinvent comfort food faves with healthy flair, those in the food industry have an opportunity to get creative and serve an eager audience.
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