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How to Make Comfort Foods Better for You

Created January 10, 2017
You can have comfort food without the guilt! With these tips you’ll learn how to give classic comfort foods a healthified twist without sacrificing flavor.

There are times when nothing seems to satisfy like good old-fashioned comfort food. Unfortunately for us, these foods usually have an unhealthy profile: too much fat, too many calories and too few nutrients. Is there a way to soothe the soul with these delicious treats while taking care of the body’s nutritional needs as well? You bet, there is.

Swap smart. “Small changes to traditional recipes can still give you the delicious taste you want, while offering more fiber, vitamins and minerals, and fewer calories and less saturated fat,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Choose light and low. Pick up low-fat cheeses for tacos and pasta dishes, and choose low-sodium broth for soups and stews. Use light, trans fat-free margarines instead of butter, and reduced-fat sour cream instead of the regular version in your mashed potatoes. (Or Blatner suggests making your mashed potatoes with low-sodium broth and dried rosemary instead of dairy ingredients.)

Boost fruits and veggies. Pump up the veggie quotient in such recipes as stews, chicken pot pie and chicken noodle soup by adding pureed cooked veggies — carrots, sweet potatoes and squash. Add lots of chopped broccoli to macaroni and cheese for a new classic. And top your small slice of cheesecake with lots of fruit.

Make it lean. Skin poultry before adding it to soups, and use turkey or chicken breast meat. For stews, chunk up lean cuts of meat  — top, bottom or eye roasts — and use less than the recipe suggests.

Go for whole grains. Replace traditional pastas with varieties made from whole grain and regular bread crumbs with whole wheat panko. Use brown rice instead of white and whole wheat flour for crusts.

Comfort, Reborn

To show you how easy it is to remake the classics, here we give three of the most popular comfort foods a better-for-you makeover.

  • Use whole wheat noodles.
  • Load up on veggies: spinach, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, carrots and artichokes.
  • Choose lean turkey breast or frozen soy crumbles.
  • Use less ricotta cheese and blend in low-fat mozzarella.
  • Select a low-fat tomato sauce.

French toast
  • Use cooking spray instead of oil or butter to brown the toast.
  • Make it with whole wheat bread.
  • Dip the bread in 2 parts egg substitute to 1 part whole egg.
  • Use skim milk instead of whole milk.
  • Top with fresh chopped peaches or sliced berries instead of syrup.

  • Use whole wheat flour for the crust.
  • Cover it with plenty of low-calorie sauce and veggies.
  • Sprinkle it with a small amount of low-fat mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
  • If you need a meat topper, try turkey pepperoni or turkey sausage.

Looking for even more better-for-you meal ideas? Check out Betty's newest cookbook, "300 Calorie Comfort Food: 300 Favorite Recipes for Eating Healthy Every Day."

Want to learn more health and diet tips? We’ve got ‘em!