Words and Photo by Sierra Pedro

As winter continues, bundling up with a hot mocha, eating macaroni and cheese for every meal, and parking yourself in front of the TV for the entirety of February might sound tempting, especially during stressful midterms. But with most of us searching for healthy alternatives at the start of the new year, indulging in all the comfort foods may leave us at an inner battle with ourselves. Luckily for us, most Eugene restaurants offer a multitude of healthy, comfort food options. For vegan, non-GMO options, I recommend trying Laughing Planet Cafe, Cornbread Cafe, or Lotus Garden Vegetarian Restaurant. For those who don’t eat out regularly, the good news is that with just a few substitutions, you can indulge in delicious homemade comfort food without compromising any new year’s health resolutions. We even have a few suggestions worthy enough for a strict paleo diet that excludes dairy, sugar, and grains. Here are a few easy, clean-eating tips and recipes that won’t break the bank:

Breakfast Hash Skillet – The “Sunday Morning” Breakfast

This is my personal all-time favorite breakfast for those lazy mornings when I have an hour to prepare a meal. To make this dish, invest in an iron skillet, fry some potatoes and breakfast turkey sausage with onion, garlic and spices (I prefer using sweet potatoes), then add 2 eggs on top and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes until the egg whites gloss over. Add some avocado, salsa or verde sauce before serving.

Banana Pancakes – The “On-The-Go” Breakfast

Flourless, paleo-approved pancakes are incredibly simple and quick. Mash one large banana and two eggs together, then add ½ teaspoon vanilla extract and a dash of cinnamon. Then either top with maple syrup, strawberries and blueberries, or almond butter and bananas for a more paleo version.

Bacon-wrapped Brussel Sprouts – The “Paleo Party” Appetizer

Doing dinner with friends can be difficult during times of strict eating. Fortunately, there’s one food most everyone can’t resist: bacon. Wrap brussel sprouts in bacon strips (for the healthiest version, purchase uncured, lean bacon at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods), place in an iron skillet, season with a pinch of cayenne pepper and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until crispy, then stick a toothpick in each one and place on a party platter.

Healthy Substitution Tips – This, Not That:

  1. Instead of pasta noodles, try roasted spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini noodles.
  2. Instead of russet potatoes, try sweet potatoes for recipes like fries, hash browns, and potato chips.
  3. Instead of candy, try satisfying your sweet tooth by freezing grapes, blueberry, or vanilla yogurt bites.
  4. Instead of store-bought pasta sauces, try making your own by mixing one can tomato paste with two cups of water and adding oregano, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Instead of cooking with vegetable or canola oil, try organic and unrefined coconut oil.