When temperatures drop, it's tempting to stay indoors, bundled up in cozy blankets, surrounded by satisfying comfort foods. But along with these foods come extra pounds, which can be tough to lose once the weather warms up. Fortunately, there are alternatives to winter's most fattening fare. Use the following guide to curb your seasonal cravings--and to keep your waistline in check.

1. Macaroni and cheese.

Made with full-fat cheese and milk, this classic comfort food can wreak havoc on your daily fat and calorie consumption. What's more, some restaurants are adding insult to injury by offering deep-fried mac and cheese--as if the old-fashioned kind wasn't bad enough!

Healthier alternative:

Prepare this dish with fat-free or low-fat milk and cheese. If you're baking it as a casserole, avoid adding high-calorie toppings such as bread crumbs or bacon. Also, lower the calorie count by consuming a smaller portion of mac and cheese and adding a seasonal salad and a dessert of fresh fruit.

2. Cream-based soups or chowders.

What could be better during the depths of winter than a steaming bowl of clam chowder or a hot, creamy soup? Although soup may have a reputation as a low-calorie meal option, heavy chowders and cream-based soups certainly don't fall under that category. A 12-ounce bowl of clam chowder from Au Bon Pain contains 337 calories and more than 20 grams of fat.

Healthier alternative:

Make your own chowder or soup at home, and substitute low-fat milk for cream. Vegetables can also add bulk to the dish without adding a lot of calories. If you prefer the convenience of canned soup, a one-cup serving of Healthy Choice New England Clam Chowder has just 110 calories and 1.5 grams of fat, and the brand's Chicken and Dumplings soup provides 140 calories and three grams of fat.

3. Pot pies.

A flaky crust plus a rich, gravy-like filling equals a cold-weather favorite. Made with either beef or chicken, plus potatoes, carrots, and onions, pot pies may sound healthy, but in reality, they're loaded with oil and fat. A Marie Callender's frozen Chicken Pot Pie packs a whopping 670 calories and 41 grams of fat, 14 of which are saturated fat.

Healthier alternative:

A hearty meat stew loaded with vegetables is a good substitute for high-fat pot pies. Add a whole-wheat roll or side salad, and dinner is served. If you can't resist the pot pie, treat yourself to a small serving, and pair it with plenty of vegetables.

4. Fried side dishes.

French fries, onion rings, and mozzarella sticks are tempting when the weather is chilly. But the health benefits of potatoes, onions, or cheese are far outweighed by the high fat content of these fried foods. A large order of Wendy's French fries has 540 calories and 26 grams of fat, and just one-quarter of an Outback Steakhouse Bloomin' Onion appetizer with dressing packs 577 calories and 33 grams of fat.

Healthier alternative:

At home, serve steamed vegetables as appetizers instead of fried items. Lower-fat French fries can be prepared in the oven instead of the deep-fryer. When dining out, order baked or grilled vegetables to accompany the main dish. Even fast-food restaurants are starting to offer healthier side items; many feature salads, baked potatoes, or fruit cups as an alternative to French fries.

5. Cheesecake.

It should come as no surprise that cheesecake is high in both calories and fat. Loaded with cheese, eggs, and sugar, this heavenly dessert can be a nutritional nightmare. One slice of Sara Lee New York-Style Creamy Cheesecake contains 420 calories and 31 grams of fat.

Healthier alternative:

Angel food cake is low in both calories and fat, and paired with berries and light whipped cream, it should satisfy anyone's sweet tooth. For a creamier treat, try pudding made with low-fat milk.