Guilt-Free Versions of Your 25 Favorite Comfort Foods Slideshow
March 29, 2017
Celebrate the past while embracing a healthier future
Chicken Pot Pie
It’s warm, creamy, and topped with a buttery crust, but chicken pot pie is sadly far from a diet food — especially the frozen variety, which doctors absolutely won’t touch. A homemade version with lean turkey, low-sodium chicken stock, and diced vegetables tastes fresher, and won’t weigh you down.
Although delicious, easy, and comforting, a lot of packaged soups, instant ramens, and plastic foam noodle cups are loaded with sodium. This chicken soup is a low-calorie, hearty option thanks to the use of low-sodium chicken broth, lean chicken breast, brown rice, and collard greens, while still tasting just like what mom used to make.
Leave off the sour cream and handfuls of shredded cheese — this chili doesn’t even need it. This recipe calls for 92 percent lean ground beef and Greek yogurt to add creaminess and texture without extra saturated fat.
A properly made crab cake is not too greasy and is loaded with fresh crab meat, but sadly, many restaurants offer a poor version of this Chesapeake Bay classic. That being said, this lighter crab cake adaptation presented by Weight Watchers cuts down on the mayonnaise and bread crumbs while upping the crab meat.
With the proliferation of American-style Chinese takeout restaurants, dumplings have become as comforting as macaroni and cheese or apple pie, but sometimes these little meat pockets can be tiny purses of grease. Make your own delicately wrapped dumplings (technically called siu mai) filled with ground chicken, cabbage, water chestnuts, and fresh ginger.
Deep-fried foods tend to be incredibly high in fat and calories, and are sometimes fried in artery-clogging, hydrogenated oils. Skip all of that nonsense by making this Southern classic in the oven rather than the deep fryer. This particular recipe calls for a marinade of yogurt, garlic, cilantro, and jalapeño, which adds moisture, heat, and brightness to the chicken.
Green Bean Casserole
No Thanksgiving table setting is complete without a green bean casserole, but these iconic side dishes usually involve a canned cream soup and some oily, pre-packaged breaded onion pieces. This recipe calls for fresh snap peas and mushrooms, as well as lightly-fried onion rings.
It’s hard to make a healthy grilled cheese, but as long as you skip over the processed cheese slices you’re on the right track. This recipe calls for some sweet fig jam, tart apples, and nutty blue cheese, making for the perfect blend of flavor and texture.
It might be considered sacrilege to Southerners to use the word "grits" for anything but cornmeal, but this shrimp and quinoa imitation is healthier and comparable in flavor. The recipe isn’t light; it calls for cream cheese, bacon, and a little bit of butter, but the use of quinoa makes it considerably more nutritious than your average instant grit mix.
This Cajun specialty is beloved for its spice, smoke, and complex roux (and of course the andouille sausage), but you can still obtain these signature flavors without using meat or butter. This vegetarian gumbo is a great way to incorporate some veggies into your diet while still holding true to Creole flavors.
Maybe it’s due to the close association with greasy fast food, but the humble hamburger is often unfairly criticized. This healthier burger recipe uses a pound of lean ground beef as well as a half-cup of finely chopped mushrooms to cut down on the fat content, and is topped with a yogurt-based feta cheese spread rather than a slice of processed cheese.
Ice cream can be your break-up buddy, midnight snack, or summertime refreshment, but sometimes all that sugar and dairy isn’t appealing. Transform ice cream into a healthy, protein-infused treat with this easy-to-make recipe that uses just three ingredients: non-dairy yogurt, vegan protein powder, and nut butter. It’s as good (well almost as good) as the real thing.
Cheeses like ricotta and mozzarella make lasagna rich and creamy, but the addition of copious amounts of beef and Italian sausage can be overkill. Omitting meat and replacing it with fresh vegetables like eggplant, mushrooms, carrots, spinach, and basil adds a light earthiness that balances out the rich cheeses.
Macaroni and Cheese
Fortifying macaroni and cheese with some extra vegetables, like butternut squash, boosts the nutritional profile of this traditionally nutrient-bleak dish. The subtle sweet and earthy notes of butternut squash play perfectly with the extra-sharp Cheddar cheese. Low-fat milk and part-skim ricotta cheese cut down on the fat content without minimizing any flavor.
Mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food, but this smooth and silky side dish traditionally gets its creaminess from copious amounts of butter and heavy cream. This recipe cuts down on the dairy and also incorporates some parsnips to balance out the flavor of the potatoes, while simultaneously fortifying the dish with nutrients like folate, potassium, and vitamin C.
Meatloaf is a favorite food of Donald Trump and, naturally, also a favorite of many Americans in general. This comfort-food staple can suffer nutritionally from tons of breadcrumbs, ground beef, and a thick ketchup sauce, but this turkey meatloaf recipe doesn’t overdo it. At less than 400 calories per serving this can be part of a healthy dinner.
The worst part of pizza (from a nutritional standpoint) is the crust. Many pizza joints use cheap bleached white flour which is quickly digested into simple sugars and immediately absorbed into the bloodstream causing a spike in blood-sugar levels. Making your own crust out of cauliflower cuts down on the calories and fortifies your pizza with all the wonderful nutritional benefits of cauliflower.
Unless you’re trying to avoid red meat completely, pot roast can be part of a healthy dinner rotation. This recipe makes it easy by utilizing a slow cooker: Just add the beef shoulder, potatoes, carrots, and tomato cooking sauce and cook on low for six to eight hours.
A bubbling, cheesy quesadillas can be assembled by anyone with a microwave, and maybe that’s why it is so popular. Instead of stuffing the quesadilla with cheese, steak, and sour cream, this recipe calls for roasted eggplant, spinach, and pesto. It may not be traditional, but it’s delicious nonetheless.
A perfectly roasted bird is an easy way to impress company (or a date). This recipe requires only two ingredients: a quality chicken and some sea salt. After 50 minutes of roasting (and 10 minutes of resting), your chicken will have delightfully crispy skin and a moist interior.
Spinach Artichoke Dip
This is a classic game-day favorite, but in its traditional form, spinach artichoke dip is one of the worst foods you can eat. The appalling appetizer is all salt and fat, and is usually accompanied by a massive pile of chips. This healthy dip preserves that desirable gooey-cheesiness while eliminating some of the fat and calories by swapping in Greek yogurt, low-fat cream cheese, and water chestnuts, making it borderline healthy.
Tomato soup is a comfort food staple most often associated with Campbell’s and a grilled cheese, but this creamy avocado tomato soup is so unique and creative that it would make Andy Warhol blush. The luscious and silky texture of tomato soup is traditionally achieved with heavy cream, but the fattiness of the avocado acts as the perfect substitute.
Nothing screams brunch as loudly as a hot and crispy Belgian waffle, but when loaded with butter, syrup, and whipped cream this breakfast item takes on the nutritional profile of a decadent dessert. This waffle recipe scales down the sweet stuff by using fruit jelly and nut butter.