Tasty Tweaks for Cooking Up Healthy Comfort Food

Victoria Le Maire

by | Read time: 4 minutes

It’s no surprise the overwhelming news of late has elicited boatloads of stress for humans worldwide. While we can’t control the news, we can control the way react to it – including how we seek comfort. While you’re sheltering in place to do your part, consider the following information to inspire you to stick with your health goals.

Healthy Homemade Spaghetti Squash with Creamy Tomato Sauce & Parmesan Cheese | Vitacost.com/Blog

According to the CDC, one way stress presents itself during an outbreak is a change in personal eating patterns. Chances are, people are triggered to seek out comfort foods in attempt to lift their spirits or evoke positive memories. Usually, these foods are high in calories and fat, which can interfere with health goals set prior to the stressful period of time.

Many adults report engaging in unhealthy eating behaviors as a result of stress and say that these behaviors can lead to undesirable consequences, such as feeling lazy, sluggish and badly about their bodies.

A helpful way to help cope is to take care of your body. Aiming to eat healthy, well-balanced meals should become a priority during this unprecedented time.

That being said, traditional comfort foods still have a place in a healthy diet. Here are some helpful tips for modifying recipes to make them lighter, boost the nutrition and still enjoy the dishes we know and love.

1. Choose smart carbs

Carbohydrates have, unfortunately, been demonized in the media since many diet trends tend to eliminate them. But, the fact is, you can (and should!) consume healthy, “smart” carbs.

You’re most likely stocking up on shelf-stable pantry essentials right now. Use these ingredients to cook guilt-free comfort food! For example, use whole-grain pasta to make a creamy tuna casserole. You can also replace white rice with brown rice in stir fry dishes. For a real treat, serve yourself a sloppy joe on a piece of baked sweet potato rather than the traditional bun. Feel like baking? Use whole wheat flour rather than white flour.

Here are a few more smart carb choices:

2. Add vegetables

Including veggies in your comfort food recipe is a simple way to bump the nutrition and add volume to your dish. If you’re using a store-bought tomato sauce to prepare a classic spaghetti dish at home (with spaghetti squash!), this is your chance to add vegetables without interfering with taste. Whether they’re fresh, frozen or canned, finely chop vegetables on-hand (like mushrooms and zucchini) and add it to the jarred sauce.

Craving grilled cheese? Choose whole-grain bread and stuff it with your favorite veggies. Another idea is to add canned pumpkin to pancake batter (you’ll thank us for this one!).

Here are some ideas for vegetable swaps + recipes:

 3. Keep the flavor, cut the fat

Typical go-to comfort food ingredients include cheese, sauce and cream. You can easily lighten up these heavy foods while keeping the comforting taste and textures intact.

To make a soul-warming sauce, heat low-fat cheese with low-sodium broth instead of cream. This helps retain flavor while creating a lighter option to enjoy. Alternatively, you can replace butter and cream in any recipe with nonfat Greek yogurt. This helps decrease the overall fat in your recipe and boost the protein content to leave you satisfied.

Choose a hard cheese in place of soft cheese. These cheeses are strong in flavor, meaning you won’t have to use as much and can still enjoy the dish. Cheeses that pack a tasteful punch include Parmesan, Romano and feta.

Feeling festive? Taco Tuesday can remain a tradition in your household. Simply consider swapping monetary jack cheese for goat cheese – a little bit goes a long way. On that same note, add a dollop of Greek yogurt on top of your nachos, tacos and burritos instead of sour cream. Don’t forget the hot sauce!