Your 10 Favorite Comfort Foods, Gone Light

 by Valerie Cogswell

Rich in carbs and fat, classic comfort food is both delicious and satisfying. While these foods can provide comfort when we're in a bad or sad mood, they can also contribute to packing on the pounds.


Rich in carbs and fat, classic comfort food is both delicious and satisfying. While these foods can provide comfort when we're in a bad or sad mood, they can also contribute to packing on the pounds. Knowing how to make simple swaps, such as building rich flavor with low-calorie ingredients like fresh herbs or creating creaminess with puréed veggies, can help keep the comfort in your meals without forcing you to backtrack on weight-loss goals. Read on for 10 "lighter" versions of your favorite comfort foods that all incorporate a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat to help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you energized throughout the day.

1. Grown-Up Grilled Cheese

The average grilled cheese is made with nutritionally void white bread and processed cheese slices, but this souped-up version is full of flavor and good nutrition. Fortify your sandwich with healthy substitutes, such as replacing processed cheese with part-skim, all-natural mozzarella cheese and high-fat mayonnaise with Greek yogurt. A handful of spinach adds beneficial fiber, vitamins and minerals, while the garlic aioli gives it a sophisticated taste that ties it all together. And swapping white bread for a high-fiber, low-carbohydrate tortilla helps fill you up and keep blood sugar levels more stable. CALORIES PER SERVING: 229.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Info

2. Farmers Market Meatloaf

Loaded with colorful vegetables, lean ground turkey and rich flavors like garlic, Worcestershire sauce, extra-sharp cheddar cheese and fresh herbs, Farmers Market Meatloaf will satisfy your comfort-food cravings. These mini meatloaves have a great balance of lean protein, fat and fiber-rich carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar levels and mood steady while helping you burn fat, build lean muscle and boost your energy. You can serve this with your favorite vegetable on the side for a complete meal. CALORIES PER SERVING: 319.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Info

3. Apple Crisp a la Mode Smoothie

This smoothie includes all of the flavor of a traditional apple crisp without the excess fat and calories. Vanilla protein powder adds a boost of muscle-building protein and helps to balance the natural carbohydrates in the smoothie to keep your blood sugar levels steady. You'll even rack up your daily fiber requirements with whole oats and apples. And the skin of the apple has special benefits as well -- so leave it on. Research has shown that various compounds in apples -- ursolic acid found in the skin and non-digestible compounds including fiber and polyphenols -- may actually help with weight loss. CALORIES PER SERVING: 317.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Info

4. Creamy Parmesan Cauliflower Purée

Forget mashed potatoes. Creamy Parmesan Cauliflower Purée is just as rich and satisfying without all of the excess fat and carbohydrates of traditional mashed potatoes. Loaded in vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and anti-inflammatory properties, cauliflower may even help prevent cancer thanks to its sulfur-containing compounds. It's also very low in calories -- a medium head contains just 150. Chef's tip: Use a food processor to achieve a perfectly creamy purée. Serve this high-quality vegetable with a protein like roasted chicken or a lean cut of beef for a balanced meal. CALORIES PER SERVING: 109.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Info

5. Not Your Average Shepherd’s Pie

A traditional Shepherd's pie contains carb-loaded potatoes and high-fat cream. Lighten up this classic dish by swapping mashed potatoes for creamy parsnips. This root vegetable provides a unique sweetness that potatoes lack, along with fiber, folate, potassium and manganese. Red wine, tomato sauce, sauteed veggies and fresh herbs provide deep, rich flavor without all of the excess fat. CALORIES PER SERVING: 296.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Info

6. Homemade Tomato Soup

While canned tomato soup relies heavily on tomato paste and high-fructose corn syrup for flavor, Homemade Tomato Soup with mascarpone cheese and basil uses all-natural tomatoes and only a tablespoon of tomato paste for a healthier, more satisfying soup. According to the American Cancer Society, several studies suggest that diets high in certain vegetables, including tomatoes, may be linked with a lower risk of prostate cancer, especially when it's more advanced. Chef's tip: Because tomatoes are the star of this recipe, it's important to use ripe, juicy ones. CALORIES PER SERVING: 152.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Info

7. Sausage, Peppers and Onions

A balanced dinner on a busy weeknight can be a challenge to pull off. Pre-cooked chicken sausage is an easy solution: It's a lean source of high-quality protein and takes only minutes to prepare. While traditional sausage can be high in fat, nitrates and preservatives, there are many all-natural chicken sausages available that are lower in calories and saturated fat and are free of preservatives. Colorful bell peppers provide not just texture to the dish, but also powerful vitamins like C and K as well as fiber and folate. Serve this hearty dish on top of fiber-rich brown basmati rice or whole-wheat (or gluten-free) pasta for a balanced, satisfying meal. CALORIES PER SERVING: 221.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Info

8. Fudgy Brownies

These are not your average brownies. Rich in fiber and antioxidants, these fudgy, decadent brownies are an ideal healthier alternative to the traditional store-bought boxed version. The Grain Berry Very Fudge Brownie Mix, found in the baking aisle at your local supermarket, is made with whole wheat, meaning it contains the wheat germ, endosperm (starchy inner layer) and wheat bran for three grams of fiber per serving. Heart-healthy roasted walnut oil is used in place of vegetable oil and a few tablespoons of Greek yogurt are stirred in for added richness. This is one brownie you can feel good about. CALORIES PER SERVING: 165.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Info

9. Feel-Better Chicken Soup

With cold and flu season on its way, it's important to have a simple yet satisfying chicken soup recipe on hand. Feel-Better Chicken Soup is balanced in protein, carbs and fat to help stabilize your blood sugar levels and keep your energy up. Research suggests that chicken noodle soup may help to fight colds by keeping white blood cells in place to help fight infection, while other research has shown that it may improve the function of the tiny hairs in our noses, which help block infection from getting in. Adding a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of sugar at the end of the cooking process packs a flavorful punch. Even if you're not under the weather, this soup makes a delicious and healthy staple meal all season long. CALORIES PER SERVING: 157.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Info

10. Gelato Sundae

How can warm strawberry sauce floating on creamy gelato with toasted almonds and chocolate be good for you? The secret is filling your bowl with all-natural, nutritious ingredients. Forte Gelato is a creamy, low-fat alternative to ice cream, with 15 grams of protein per serving and 45 percent of your daily calcium requirements! Top your sundae with toasted heart-healthy almonds, vitamin-C-rich strawberries and just a hint of antioxidant-packed dark chocolate. The end result? A decadent and healthy dessert that won't weigh you down. CALORIES PER SERVING: 326.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Info

What Do YOU Think?

What's YOUR favorite comfort food? Did we have a "lighter" version available? Are you inspired to create any of these meals in your kitchen? What other comfort-food recipes do you think need a healthy makeover? Let us know here!

Related: 14 Protein-Packed Breakfast Recipes


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