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It’s Comfort Food Time Again!

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Ringing in a new year brings a burst of cold weather for many. For those who love the cold, it means breathing in fresh air, skates, skis and snowmen! Indoor types may exercise (we hope) in front of the TV.

Exercise or no, certain foods have more appeal. Luckily these foods, often hiding behind the appealing name of comfort foods, are favorites of the active and the inactive alike. Supermarket RD’s and consumer specialists can step in and save the day (and maybe a few calories).

Comfort foods can be anything from hot chocolate to a bowl of soup, chili or stew, to mom’s meatloaf. They're all year-round favorites and hit the mark in January, but they might need some a bit of an ingredient or preparation makeover to keep the calories reasonable while turning up the excitement. Trends are showing more meals at home and cooking are still popular, even though we're out of the recession. Providing customers with recipes and ideas can make it easier for them to be comfortable with comfort foods! Here are some ideas:

• Follow the Dietary Guidelines and lower the fat content of the milk used in the hot chocolate. You can always point out there are more calorie spaces for marshmallows or whipped cream.

• Try coffee and tea specialty drinks for the non-cocoa drinkers. This is a good time to feature coffee beverages, hot Chai, and drinks that double as a sweet ending of a meal. They can be lightened further with lower-fat milk or alternative sweeteners.

• Take meatloaf to a higher level. Along with varying the type of lean ground meat, chicken or turkey, try a meatless version, or ones made with salmon or tuna, and a variety of toppings. Roll meatloaf around mozzarella sticks or other cheese for a melted center. And serve the entree with vegetable stars like stuffed baked potatoes, oven-roasted Brussels sprouts or cauliflower.

• Feature vegetables as both the center of the plate or as a way to add variety to another cold-weather favorite, mac n cheese.  Ever try it and stewed tomatoes? It's better than you imagine.

• Add a new at-home look to serving soup, chili or stew with whole grain mini bread bowls.

As you can see, just because it's cold doesn't mean your imagination has to go into hibernation.

[Photo credit: Cornelia Kopp]

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