7 of the Unhealthiest Fall Comfort Foods

As the temperature drops, many of us will seek comfort in our kitchens, preparing hearty dishes, warm drinks, and seasonal desserts. Unfortunately, many of the foods that we find to be the most comforting are also the unhealthiest. Creamy sauces, rich fillings, and heavy foods can wreak havoc on any diet. Tasty as they may be, these 7 fall comfort foods can cause a lot of discomfort when it comes to your waistline.

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When fall rolls around, many of us warm up by indulging in a hearty side of stuffing, but this popular dish is packed with calories and fat. “Stuffing made with butter and sausage topped with gravy can be close to 300 calories per serving,” Marjorie Nolan Cohn, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Self. And if you’ve got gravy anywhere near that stuffing, you’re consuming even more calories, fat, and sodium.

You don’t need to swear off stuffing, though! There are ways to make it healthier, allowing you to dig in without feeling guilty. Self suggests making a more nutritious version by foregoing the meat, using a fat-free broth for a base, and filling it with tons of vegetables, such as celery, carrots, and squash. For a sweeter stuffing, you could also get creative and put some fruit in it, too.

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While it’s a great way to stay warm on a cool and windy day, just one bowl of chili can have up to 500 calories in it, according to Web MD. It is typically packed with fatty meats, such as beef and sausage, and topped with a ridiculous amount of cheese. Each spoonful of this hearty dish contains unwanted saturated fat, in addition to sodium, thanks to the canned beans that are often used, per Good Housekeeping.

If you’re preparing your own chili, you can easily make it healthier by using ground turkey or other lean meats. Additionally, Good Housekeeping suggests limiting the amount of meat in the dish and instead adding more vegetables, beans, and spices. You can eliminate a lot of the sodium by using canned beans that have low or no added salt, and rinsing them with water prior to cooking. If you must have cheese on your chili, Web MD recommends putting a small amount of a low-fat version on top.

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Creamy soups and stews

Nothing hits the spot more than a thick soup or stew on a cold, dreary day. However, a hearty bowl of soup or stew is packed with cheese, cream, meat, and calories, according to Live the Balanced Life. By adding other popular ingredients into the mix, such as rice, noodles, or bread bowls, you’re dealing with even more fat and calories.

The unhealthiest soup is French onion, reports Self. Thanks to its beef broth and gooey, melted cheese, you can expect to slurp down plenty of saturated fat. Rather than opting for a fat-riddled, creamy bowl of soup or stew, choose chicken noodle or vegetable instead; they’re usually low in calories and contain plenty of nutrients. Always try to pick a soup or stew that has a broth or vegetable base — it will keep you full without causing you to eat too many calories, according to Web MD.

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Seasonal drinks

Curling up in front of the fireplace to enjoy an indulgent pumpkin spice latte or a mug of sweet and spicy apple cider is the perfect thing to do when the weather gets chilly. But don’t be fooled by these tasty beverages: Good Housekeeping writes that plenty of fat and sugar can be found in these seasonal drinks. Furthermore, if you add whipped cream, alcohol, or any additional flavors or sweeteners, you could easily be sipping a drink that has more than 500 calories, per Good Housekeeping. 

If you need a warm drink, choose a cup of tea instead — it’s calorie-free and full of antioxidants, according to Web MD. Or, if you want something that’s a bit sweeter, Good Housekeeping has an easy fix. Simply warm up chocolate milk, and you’ve got a sweet tooth cure that provides vitamins and minerals, and tastes just like hot chocolate.

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This popular fall dessert is a diet no-no, with the two unhealthiest flavors being apple and pecan. “When apples are baked into a buttery crust and covered with sugar and butter, they go from a healthy fruit to a fattening heart attack. Try baking an apple with cinnamon, a little brown sugar or honey with graham cracker sprinkles for a tasty alternative,” Marjorie Nolan Cohn, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Self.

Pecan pie isn’t much better. Just one slice can contain 440 calories and an unhealthy amount of saturated fat. If you can, try to skip the crust, eat a small piece, and use a light whipped topping, suggests Live the Balanced Life. Pick pumpkin pie whenever possible, too. Self writes that it’s lower in saturated fat, only contains about 260 calories, and provides fiber and vitamin A. Now that’s a piece of pie you can feel good about!

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Mashed potatoes and gravy

Think about what goes into making mashed potatoes: butter, cream, and whole milk. Those fattening foods can create a dish that easily has 240 calories. And if you pile on the gravy, Web MD writes that it could be closer to 300 calories. According to SymptomFind, many people use drippings from cooked meats to prepare the gravy, creating a savory sauce that is packed with fat and an alarming amount of calories.

There are easy swaps that can make mashed potatoes and gravy less detrimental to your diet. Live the Balanced Life suggests using low-fat options when preparing your potatoes, or enjoying them without using any gravy. There are also plenty of healthy mashed potato and gravy recipes available, so consider swapping out your fat-riddled dish for a more nutritious alternative. For example, EatingWell’s recipe for mashed roots with buttermilk and chives creates a delicious dish that is packed with nutrients and is low in calories.

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Pot pie

Chicken pot pies are hearty, creamy, and rich, with filling foods. Regrettably, they are also loaded with calories and sodium. FitDay writes that a Banquet frozen chicken pot pie contains 370 calories and 850 milligrams of sodium, which is almost half an average adult’s sodium intake for the day. Additionally, Web MD writes that some pot pies can contain as many as 1,000 calories.

Web MD suggests foregoing your pot pie and eating a roast chicken breast with a whole wheat roll instead. You can also take matters into your hands by making a healthier, low-fat version of pot pie. Looking for suggestions? Try this Betty Crocker recipe for reduced-fat chicken pot pie. It’ll taste just as good, but with less fat and calories.

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