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Lightened Comfort Food: Chicken Pot Pie

As the temperatures drop, we begin to crave creamy and comforting meals. Creamy warm crock-pot dinners, tender beef pot roasts, cheesy pasta dishes and many more delicious winter foods always come to mind when the weather begins to change.

But sometimes we want to enjoy the comforts of winter food without the added pudge around our waistline.

Chicken pot pie is one of my all-time favorite things to eat during the winter season. It's got everything I love: chicken, cream, pastry, soft vegetables and lots of butter. Here is a way to take this calorie- and fat-heavy meal and make it light but still tasty.

Three things make chicken pot pies calorie-heavy: the pastry, cream and butter (they go hand-in-hand), and the starchy vegetables.

Instead of using a thick pastry dough to cover the tops and sides of the chicken pot pie, place either a puff pastry sheet or phyllo sheets on top of the dish. Placing the pastry on top rather than all around will significantly reduce the calories and fat grams of the overall dish.

Yes, the cream-based pot pie is so delicious and probably the best part of the entire dish, but you won't sacrifice flavor if you substitute a lower fat base for the heavy cream. Low-fat milk, 1 or 2 percent significantly drops the calories and fat grams in your chicken pot pie, but still offers a great amount of flavor. With a little bit of all-purpose flour mixed into the milk, you'll be able to thicken up the sauce and have a creamy but healthy base for your pot pie.

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You can also substitute a can of cream of chicken -- or cream of mushroom or celery if you're making a vegetable pot pie (even healthier) -- for the creamy base. Light sour cream or non-fat Greek yogurt can thicken up the sauce as well.

Finally, add less starchy vegetables and more colorful ones to your pot pie. Instead of potatoes, peas and corn, try adding other vegetables like green beans, mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions or bell peppers. If you're going to add a starchy vegetable, steer clear of potatoes, because they are loaded with carbohydrates and wasted calories.

Also make sure to use white meat chicken and have a balance of 30% chicken, 70% vegetables in your pot pie. The more vegetables, the better!

You definitely can make a lighter chicken pot pie this year. When you're craving comfort food, remember, there's always a way to have what you want without packing on the pounds.

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