When it’s freezing or you’ve got the flu or you’re recuperating from a new year extravaganza, every activity seems like way too much effort — even putting together and eating a meal. It may be a new year, but that still means you wish you could nap in a pillow fort all day and have mom bring you bowls of hot chicken soup. While that’s obviously not happening, why not do it for yourself? Embrace cups of cocoa and comfort foods! Be a grown up later. For now, enjoy your pudding!
Here is my go-to guide of foods so mushy and soft, you won’t even have to chew. The recipes are easy, the ingredients are inexpensive, simple and healthy, and every single dish (except the pita bread) is gluten-free.
This one is the ultimate winter staple. My favorite kind to mash are Yukon Golds but I like to change it up with sweet potatoes, the slightly healthier version. Most people put a stick of butter in (and brown sugar for the yams) but when you’re sick, you often lose your tastebuds and can go the low-calorie version by just adding a small pad of butter or smart balance at the end. I actually prefer the taste of almond milk to regular, which is an easy dairy-free substitute.
This is the easiest, most protein and nutrient-rich, vegan soup to make if you live anywhere near a Japanese grocery. When you order it at a restaurant, it’s mostly just broth (which, though salty, isn’t bad, ’cause miso is soy-based) but at home, I load it up with tofu and seaweed. All you have to do is boil water on the stove, add miso paste, cubed tofu and freeze-dried Wakame seaweed, which is the kind made for soup and will last forever in your cabinet. So much comfort.
So simple. So soothing. I like to get a big tub of Green Valley Organics Lactose Free plain yogurt, but whatever you get, try a plain variety and add raw honey or natural maple syrup. All the minerals and enzymes and good bacteria in a cup of this combo are great for picking your immune system back up and calming your stomach.
When you’re not in the mood to be crunching raw fruits, a jar of this baby-food-for-adults goodness is a smart thing to stock your cabinet with.
Polenta & Sour Cream
This was my grandma’s go-to feeling-under-the-weather dish. (I think her mom made it for her too.) You can find a package of ready-made polenta almost anywhere, or for about $2, you can get a year’s supply of “Old Fashioned Stone Ground Yellow Cornmeal” and just add water. (Specifically, you follow the timing on the bag, mix with cold water, pour into a saucepan and stir under low to medium heat until the water evaporates and the meal thickens). Cornmeal has almost no flavor on its own (it’s more of a texture thing) so add salt and butter liberally and a blop of sour cream on top, or cottage cheese for protein, or Tofutti’s Lactose-Free Better Than Ricotta Cheese, which, I will admit, is an acquired taste.
Hummus on Warm Pita Bread
I lived on this dish after my last bad cold. But it’s a great food no matter how you’re feeling. Hummus is one of the anchors of the Mediterranean diet, which is super heart-healthy and full of good fats. There are a ton of different flavor variations and brands so it’s easy to find favorites. I like to add avocado, the king of healthy fat, antioxidant rich, and chock-full-o-vitamins.
The Incredible Edible Egg can be made almost any way: scrambled, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, deviled, sunny-side up, into a frittata, an omelet, or a crustless quiche. It’s a filling, fluffy whole food and a really good way to start out a day, even a day that’s spent marathoning movies, curled up on the couch.
The food that requires a spoon and a mouth and very little else. It’s sugary and dairy-rich but it tastes like childhood and what could make you feel better faster than that!
* This list has also been my go-to guide for strep throat, route canals, and the insane week after I got my wisdom teeth taken out. Also adding it to basically just all 52 weeks in 2015. Comfort food glory, here we come.