These days, your wallet sure feels slimmer, but what about your waistline? Stress over your bank account and mortgage payments may make you want to reach for a big bowl of gooey mac 'n' cheese, but a faltering economy doesn't have to derail your diet. When times are tough, people want high-calorie comfort foods. When the craving hits, try my favorite tricks first: take a bath, do some stretching, or take some deep breaths. But if you still feel the urge, be sure to invest your calories wisely. Here are some of my figure-friendly comfort foods.

  • High-volume, low-calorie foods like soups and stews fill you up fast. Add potatoes, veggies, and low-sodium broth, and you have a week's worth of meals for only a few bucks. Plus, studies show that dieters are less likely to overindulge if they start their meal with a low-fat soup.



  • Eggs are easy on your diet and your budget. Two large eggs have around 150 calories. Combine with a sprinkle of low-fat cheese and whatever veggies are on sale, and you have a gooey treat that won't break your calorie bank.



  • Frozen veggies can bulk up your dinner while slashing your supermarket bill. Add them to a hearty pasta dish for minimal calories but maximum satisfaction.



  • Don't fret if you find yourself reaching for less expensive cuts of darker meat. They may be fattier than what you're used to, so just scale back on portion size.



  • Hit up bulk stores with a group—but be sure to bring only your healthy-minded friends along. It's hard to beat prices at retailers like Costco and BJ's Wholesale, but few families can go through a big bushel of bananas before they go bad. You won't feel guilty loading up on your favorite fresh produce if you're splitting the cost. But steer clear of processed-food aisles: Just because there's a deal on an economy-size box of Oreos doesn't mean you should fork over the cash.



  • Nix that expensive Starbucks habit. Instead of ordering a $4 cappuccino, make yourself a cup of coffee at home. Use a whisk to whip up some steamed skim milk on your stove top, and add a dash of cinnamon. Spices like cinnamon are low-cal and low-cost, plus they're full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, making them a great investment for your long-term health.


Use your scaled-down budget to focus on healthy foods you really enjoy, instead of masking your anxieties with handfuls of M&Ms. Even if your bank account is in bad shape, that doesn't mean your body has to be too.
Last updated: Oct 22, 2008