Comfort food made healthy

Try these nutritious makeovers for guilt-free comfort food, says Matt Gilbert

Bangers and mash

The eternal British favourite sausage and mash is a must for post-run refuelling when the days get cold. You can make the most of it nutritionally with the following easy tips.
  1. Swap traditional pork bangers for lean and highly flavoursome venison sausages, says nutritionist Rachel Love. “Game meats contain omega-3 fatty acids, which diminish the production of prostaglandins – which are hormone-like substances associated with inflammation in the body.” Venison also delivers a hit of Vitamin B12 to keep your metabolism revved up, so bang ’em under the grill.
  2. Boil up some cauliflower and diced sweet potato. Both provide slow-releasing carbs for sustained energy, and are good sources of potassium – an essential electrolyte for muscle recovery. They also provide a potent blend of antioxidants, says Love. The cauliflower is rich in Vitamin C, which aids the absorption of the fatigue fighting iron found in sweet potato. Mash the veg up with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, which contains oleocanthal, a natural anti-inflammatory that helps ease muscle soreness.
  3. Slice up a few leeks and fry them in half a tablespoon of olive oil until golden brown. These green nutritional giants provide allicin, an antibiotic that may help reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Use them to top your upgraded bangers and mash.

Mac n cheese

Carb-loading doesn't get tastier than mac n cheese – or healthier, if you follow these tips for a more nutritious dish…
  1. Runners have long relied on pasta’s carbs to replenish glycogen stores – but, made from refined white wheat flour, white pasta has had its fibre and much of the nutrient-packed original grain removed. So use wholewheat pasta, which is loaded with fibre, B vitamins for energy metabolism, and disease-fighting phytochemicals.
  2. “Slash the fat and saturated fat content of the sauce by using 1% fat milk and reduced fat cheddar,” says nutritionist Sian Porter. Adding fat-free Greek yoghurt – which has twice the muscle-building protein of ordinary yoghurt – will replicate that rich, creamy texture and deliver a calcium boost for your bones. Heat on the hob until it thickens, adding a tablespoon and a half of flour plus a spoonful of dijon mustard for flavour.
  3. Combine the cooked pasta and sauce, and toss in a few handfuls of cooked broccoli and red peppers for a hefty dose of antioxidants, including Vitamin C which assists in the creation of collagen to fortify bones, tendons and ligaments. Pour the lot into a heatproof dish. “Cut fat and add extra flavour and texture by topping with a mix of breadcrumbs and Parmesan instead of more cheddar,” says Porter. Place under a grill until browned, plump up the sofa, tee up Sky Plus and tuck in.

Fish and chips

Transform this British seaside favourite into a satisfying and healthy post-run treat.
  1. Skin-on chunky chips pack a more nutritious punch than regular chips thanks to the cocktail of healthy mineral they contain. The potassium in potato skins contributes to a healthy metabolism, while niacin help your cells to break food down into fuel. The skins also contain iron, which boosts the red blood cells that carry oxygen o helps to carry oxygen around your body.
  2. White fish like haddock and cod are a great source of protein, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which boosts cardiovascular health. Preserve these healthy benefits by creating a light batter using cornflour and egg whites before frying in sunflower oil at 200C. This oil is low in saturated fats, important in reducing the risk of heart disease.
  3. Whip up a healthier version of classic mushy peas by boiling a handful or two of frozen peas for three to four minutes then draining and mashing up with a tablespoon of crème fraiche. This dairy product will give your body the calcium it needs to build strong bones and protect against injuries like stress fractures.

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