A Different Kind of Comfort: Healthy Comfort Food for Athletes

Athletes follow strict diets that will help them maintain their physique and enhance their performance. Nutrition is also a huge factor when the game day arrives. These athletes are expected to be at their peak whenever they step onto the playing field. Although the ideal diet differs from sport to sport, there is always a balance to be achieved among a person’s intake of carbohydrates, proteins, and other nutrients. As a result, they usually miss out on meals that have all the saturated fat, are jam-packed with sugar, or are high in carbohydrates, which comfort food has to offer.

Almost anybody can have food cravings they would want to satisfy. They want food that will make them feel overstuffed with a happy belly, waiting to descend into a food coma. Comfort food comprises many, if not all, of those cravings. But if you’re an athlete, or just someone trying to get into a healthier lifestyle, you can’t always get what you want. Or so you’d think.

A Different Kind of Comfort

Fortunately, there are already countless healthier comfort food alternative recipes out there that are still easy to prepare. Many of which taste exactly like the ones you’ve gotten used to despite swapping some ingredients. These kinds of comfort food won’t just be good for your soul; they’ll also be good for your body.

Proper Portion Control

Comfort food shouldn’t necessarily cease to exist in your life for fear of long-term health problems that it could pose over time. You just have to lighten it up a little to avoid all the high blood pressure, high blood sugar, risks of heart disease, and other illnesses that worry you. Besides, getting a feeling of deprivation from all the restrictions could potentially trigger an eating binge that would be counterproductive in the long run.

Instead, you could simply prepare a comprehensive meal plan and include a small allocation for indulgence. Sneak in a slice of pizza, a chili dog, or a taco every once in a while. As long as you don’t make those a part of your regular meal rotations.

Common dietary guidelines advise that saturated fat shouldn’t take up more than 10% of your daily caloric intake. The American Heart Association, on the other hand, recommends that a person’s salt intake shouldn’t exceed 2,300 milligrams. Ideally, it should even be less than 1,500 milligrams, especially if you have preexisting conditions of heart disease or high blood pressure. Always take note of your numbers.

athlete running

Switching Things Up

But when you’re making comfort food and you read the label of every single ingredient you’re about to put in your dish to make sure you stay within the recommended amount per nutrient, that’s already a little too much. You could always just swap a few things here and there so that you know for sure what you’re making is healthier.

For instance, in a dish that involves dairy, instead of using full-fat dairy products such as cream and butter, you could use non-fat yogurt, skim milk, or other alternatives in their place. Everything from the consistency, texture, and even taste will most likely still be the same.

When making your own pizza dough, you could go for whole-grain flour such as buckwheat, whole wheat, or cornmeal rather than the usual white flour. This way, you don’t have to compromise on your pizza toppings since you’ve already made the dough much healthier.

Even sugar and syrup can be replaced with berries, citrus fruits, or sweet vegetables. Refined-grained noodles in pasta can be substituted with whole-wheat noodles, black beans, lentils, or zucchini. It’s in these sorts of subtle changes that can turn your comfort food having too much fat, sugar, or carbs into healthier, more nutritious meals.

What’s Good?

Finally, let’s not overlook the countless benefits that these adjustments in your diet could have for your body. As mentioned earlier, eating comfort food on a regular basis puts you at a higher risk of obtaining health complications such as heart disease. Making healthier alternatives, while not depriving your body of your food cravings, significantly lessens those risks and increases your mental and emotional well-being.

Diet and nutrition also play an important part in the recovery of injured athletes. When athletes, especially those into contact sports, suffer debilitating neck injuries such as whiplash, rehabilitation often requires patience and diligence. Eating healthier food provides the necessary support needed to heal these kinds of damage.

Athletes, professional or otherwise, already sacrifice a lot in their daily lives to achieve their goals. It could be their bodies for strict training regimens, their quality time for family and friends, and so much more. Comfort food shouldn’t be a part of those sacrifices, at least, not anymore.

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