5 Guilt-Free Comfort Foods

When people feel stressed or depressed, they often reach for fatty comfort foods to alleviate the distress, and a recent scientific study uncovers why. Researchers at the University of Leuven in Belgium found that consuming fat reduces negative emotion. The study discovered that participants who received fatty acids through a feeding tube were about half as sad as participants on a placebo.

When overwhelming emotions threaten to derail your diet, try a dose of healthy comfort foods. Make a cup of tea, and wrap yourself in the cozy comfort of these homemade, guilt-free alternatives.

Mac and Cheese Please

Butternut squash has over 200 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin A, 10 percent omega fatty acids, and is loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants. For a healthier mac and cheese, substitute some of the cheese with frozen, pureed butternut squash, and use low-fat milk.

The Magic of Muffins

Healthy muffins can be moist, tender and delicious snacks that you can feel good about eating. Fat keeps muffins moist and tender, so use heart-healthy canola oil instead of butter. Using whole grain pastry flour will help add fiber, and create a lighter texture; fruit purees lend moisture, a tender crumb and acts as a natural sweetener.

Creamy Creamless Soup

You don't need to add cream, butter or cheese for a rich, velvety soup. Achieve silky smooth results by using a blender to puree vegetable soups. For a luscious soup, whisk an egg and slowly add broth before adding it to the pot. Mash white beans and stir into broths for lean protein and full-bodied texture.

The Scoop on Dips

Use buttermilk, low fat mayonnaise, or yogurt as a base in healthy dips. Salsas, bean dips and guacamole are loaded with nutrition and fiber. Try a pureed edamame with silken tofu makes a fresh and creamy dip.

Tips on Chips

Believe it or not, kale makes one addicting chip. Simply strip the leaves from the stalk, toss them with a little olive oil, a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper—pop them into a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

After a few of these healthy indulgences, you may find your spirits lifting, as well as your energy.

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Judi Sheppard Missett, who turned her love of jazz dance into a worldwide dance exercise phenomenon, founded the Jazzercise dance fitness program in 1969. The workout program, which offers a fusion of jazz dance, resistance training, Pilates, yoga and cardio box movements, has positively affected millions of people. Benefits include increased cardiovascular endurance, strength and flexibility, as well as an overall "feel good" factor.  For more information go to jazzercise.com or call (800) FIT-IS-IT.

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