10 Comfort Foods Made Healthy

With the cold weather it may be tempting to hunker down and eat all the comfort foods that you crave. But what about your New Year resolution to eat healthier? Here are some recipes for classic comfort foods that are full of flavor but also healthier for you. So get comfortable and hunker down for the cold that never seems to end. .

Meatloaf

Chicken & Turkey Meatloaf

Photo: Brian L

Meatloaf traditionally is made from a mixture of ground meat, binding agents and seasonings, which means it can be easily modified as long as you maintain these key aspects. Swap in lean proteins and oatmeal or whole wheat bread as your binding agent. If you’re feeling extra healthy, vegetables can be added in as well like in this Mexican inspired meatloaf.

Mashed Potatoes

The perfect accompaniment to a deliciously moist meatloaf are fluffy and melt in your mouth mashed potatoes. Often they come loaded with cream, butter, cheese, sour cream and other fatty (but flavorful) additions, not to mention all the carbohydrates. Make mashed potatoes with low fat milk instead of cream, or go dairy free by vegetable or chicken broth. You can also opt to leave the skin on the potatoes for the extra nutrients that are in the skin. You won’t get perfectly smooth potatoes, but you can get satisfaction that you’re eating something with a bit more nutritional content.

garlic olive oil kale mashed potatoes

Photo: Stacy Spensley

For flavor, try adding garlic and other herbs instead of relying on salt. You can opt for a simple baked potato or these smashed potatoes which offer a slightly healthier take. Or skip the potatoes entirely and try mashing cauliflower, celery root or parsnips and carrots

Macaroni and Cheese

There is something just so comforting about a big bowl of oozy, gooey, and steaming macaroni and cheese, but there aren’t many nutrients in just pasta and cheese. Fortunately, there are ways of making this indulgent dish a little bit healthier. Use whole wheat pasta or another kind of grain such asquinoa (or maybe freekeh?) to add a little bit more fiber to the dish.

Spinach Mac & Cheese

Photo: Julia Frost

A serving or two of vegetables will add more nutrients as well. Vegetables like peas, mushrooms, spinach and broccoli are great options. Another way to make this dish a little lighter is to change the sauce. Instead of using purely cheese, add in a little Greek yogurt to make the sauce. Or use vegetables such as cauliflower, avocado or pumpkin to create the creamy element of your sauce and use less cheese. Picking stronger flavored cheeses can also mean you can use less of it and still have all the flavor.

Fried Chicken

Oven 'Fried' Krispie Chicken

Photo: Kitchen Life of a Navy Wife

There is nothing better than biting into a crispy and juicy piece of fried chicken. The bad news is that no matter what you do, there is no way of making this comfort food completely healthy. The best you can do is to try making them in the oven. It won’t have the same crunch to it, but you can get close by baking the chicken pieces on a rack. Also, remove the skin of the chicken pieces and you cut the amount of saturated fats that you consume. To take it a notch further, try using Greek yogurt in the coating of your chicken and experiment with different breading options.

Fries

italian fries

Photo: Tracy Benjamin

Like fried chicken, it is hard to completely replicate the crispy exterior and soft pillowy centers of a well fried fry. You can bake them in the oven over a rack for a similar crunch. Experiment with different vegetables for your friends. Sweet potatoes, zucchini and eggplants all make a great alternative to potatoes.

Pizza

There are plenty of ways to make pizza healthier instead of the greasy, oily mess that you see at the pizza shop. It all starts with the crust. Try making a whole wheat crust, or use different breads to act as your base. Tortillas, English muffins and pita breads all make a great foundation – the perfect size for a personal pizza. You can even use vegetables like zucchini, as your base.

Shaved aspargus pizza IV

Photo: Gwendolyn Richards

For the sauce, you can stick with traditional tomato sauce or try something more flavorful like BBQ sauce, pesto or olive tapenade. Using just a little bit can bring a lot of extra flavor to your pie. With your toppings, pile high your favorite vegetables and add in a little lean protein like  chicken sausage or tofu. Pick stronger flavored cheese, like goat cheese or Gorgonzola, so you don’t need as much, but still have a lot of flavor.

Lasagna

Mmm... lasagna

Photo: Jeffrey W

Instead of using noodles, try layering layersof eggplant or zucchini as the noodles for your lasagna. Make your own tomato sauce and put even more vegetables into the layers between your layers of noodles. Try using Greek yogurt as your cheese mixture.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn’t like a good chocolate chip cookie? Everyone has their favorite kind, whether you like them chewy or crispy, with chips or chunks, but either way, these cookies are full of butter and sugars that you don’t need. Through the addition of healthier ingredients and the removal of not good for you ingredients, you can create a healthier treat.

Love From The Oven oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe

Photo: Christi

Use oats, whole wheat or quinoa flour as the base of your cookie. Instead of sugar you can use honey, molasses, maple syrup or agave syrup as your sweetener. To keep the moistness of a good cookie, great substitutes would be Greek yogurt or

applesauce. And of course, use dark chocolate instead of milk. Try this one – they’re almost good enough for breakfast! If you want to try something completely out of the box, try adding some chocolate chips to our two ingredient cookies.

Pancakes

pancakes | tortitas

Photo: Juanelos

Pancakes for a leisurely Sunday breakfast? Yes please! Avoid too many carbohydrates

by substituting some Greek yogurt. Experiment with different flavors of yogurt for extra flavor in your pancakes. Or you can substitute with oat flour or bananas. Try putting in different cut up fruit and nuts in your pancake mix as well.

Brownies

Fudgy Black Bean Brownies (Really!)

Photo: Bobbie Bowers

Fudgy, chocolaty goodness can always be found in a brownie. Lighten up this favorite by putting an avocado into the mix. The natural creaminess of the avocado will keep the fudginess but with healthier fats. You can even try making them from black beans.

There are plenty of ways to lighten up your favorite comfort foods. It is simply the case of finding a wholesome and healthier option to substitute into the recipe.

What are your favorite comfort foods?

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