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When it's pouring outside and the wind is howling through the eaves, it's tempting to call in sick, curl up on the couch in front of the TV, wrapped up in a warm blanket with a big, steaming bowl of chili or mac and cheese in hand, and just indulge a little.
Click here to see the Comfort Food Alternatives Slideshow
But let's face it — once the weather starts to turn warmer again and it's time to get ready for swimsuit season, we certainly don't want to look like we've been indulging in comfort food all fall and winter. That's why The Daily Meal has come up with slimmed-down versions of a few favorites, as well as some alternatives to the usual calorie- and fat-laden dishes.
Love chicken pot pie, but can't face yourself in the mirror after stuffing your face with it? Then don't miss out on this Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie Soup, which dispenses with the most fattening elements — the crust, the butter, and the milk — but retains that familiar, comforting flavor.
Or perhaps the mention of that big, steaming bowl of chili caught your attention. In which case, do try the Vegetarian Chili from Tosca Reno, author of the Eat-Clean Diet series of cookbooks. Four different types of beans; toasted, smoky cumin; and a secret ingredient might make you forget all about the calorie- and fat-laden meat versions.
Last, but not least, Recipe Rehab, a healthy cooking show on ABC aimed at helping families transform their eating habits with healthier versions of down-home favorites, tackled fried chicken their first week, and we are happy to share a recipe for Baked Southern Fried Chicken with Barbecue Sauce from one of the chefs.
Will Budiaman is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.
This mouth-watering selection of the best vegan soul food recipes will have you drooling in no time and can be your foot in the door when trying to make any meat-eater acquire a taste for plant-based food. Delicious and healthier versions of cornbread, mac and cheese, pies and so much more!
It&rsquo time to break the misconception that hearty and satisfying comfort meals require animal-based ingredients.
Even though we&rsquore doing our best on this blog to showcase the fact that a vegan diet isn&rsquot just granola, chia pudding and salads all day long, there&rsquos still this idea that, if there are no animal products in a particular meal, it cannot be satisfying.
&ldquoSomething&rsquos just missing,&rdquo is what we often hear.
Well, if you know how to compose a delicious meal, it doesn&rsquot matter whether or not it has meat or cheese in it &ndash it&rsquoll just be tasty and flavorful comfort food.
Creating a chewy texture thanks to ingredients like jackfruit, tofu or seitan, these vegan soul food recipes don&rsquot make anyone miss their carnivorous counterparts!
This article was made to share the deep flavors originating from Southern American cuisine fused with traditional African American soul food dishes &ldquomade vegan&rdquo.
Winter can be rough on both body and soul. You&rsquore battling the cold-weather blues and all you want to do is cuddle under a warm blanket, re-watch The Office and eat all the warm cheesy carbs. But you&rsquore also feeling softer than usual and want to get back on the healthy bandwagon after indulging a little too much over the holidays.
If you&rsquore still trying to stick to your January diet but it&rsquos snowing outside and all you want to do is stick your face in a giant bowl of pasta Bolognese, you&rsquore in luck. You can have your stew and eat it too. We found the best lighter versions of your favorite winter comfort foods. We&rsquore talking hearty stews, warming soups and even chicken potpie! These comforting winter recipes taste great and won&rsquot derail your diet or undo those 45 minutes (impressive!) you put in on the treadmill last Sunday. These dishes will get you through winter &mdash body and soul intact.
Here are six classic comfort food recipes just waiting for you to cuddle up to. Just add cozy loungewear and your favorite guilty pleasure on Netflix, and you’re in vegan comfort food heaven.
Think of this mashed potato bowl recipe from Rabbit and Wolves as a one stop shop for vegan comfort food – it’s basically Thanksgiving in a bowl, but by all means, enjoy this year-round!
The “sides” are customizable to your taste, although as written with crispy tofu nuggets, vegan gravy, corn, and roasted veggies all ladled over creamy mashed potatoes is hard to beat.
Childhood? Is that you calling?
No roundup of vegan comfort food recipes would be complete without a mouthwatering vegan mac and cheese recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie.
This one is a time capsule straight back to childhood mac and cheese (in the best way!) but with exactly zero dairy or scary orange powder. Everyone will enjoy this mac and cheese – not just vegans!
Yes, it’s totally doable to make a bomb vegan grilled cheese from Bianca Zapatka!
If you haven’t tried vegan dairy products in a while, give them another chance – vegan cheeses these days are a far cry from the bland, rubbery substances of the past.
This ooey, gooey, vegan comfort food sammie gets a little upgrade with the addition of sautéed spinach, cream cheese, AND sliced cheese.
Was a classic chicken noodle soup your go-to when you felt under the weather or stressed out? This noodle soup from Cookie and Kate is the vegan comfort food version – promise you won’t miss the chicken.
Simple pantry staples like broth, pasta, carrots, celery, chickpeas, and spices all simmer together for a warming, grounding soup for your soul.
For when you just need to sink a fork into a big ole’ bowl of pasta, this vegan fettuccine alfredo recipe from Minimalist Baker can be on the table in less than 30 minutes.
This vegan comfort food recipe comes with all the salty, cheesy flavor of classic fettuccine alfredo, minus a lot of the calories and fat!
Regular lasagna is a comfort food for many, but also requires a not-insignificant amount of work and time in the kitchen.
This vegan lasagna soup version from Rabbit and Wolves is easier! Plus, there’s something undeniably grounding about cozying up to a warm bowl of soup when you need some comfort.
Feeling stressed? Do you tend to reach for comfort foods when you are under pressure? You might want to think again about the foods you eat when you are feeling stressed.
Certain foods can truly help to combat stress. When you experience stress, whether it&rsquos good stress or bad stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. When cortisol levels increase, cravings strike.
For women, those cravings typically involve carbs, especially sweets. When we consume sweets and carbs, different enzymes are then released&mdashand many of those can encourage the body to store fat.
This means that many of the so-called comfort foods we reach for can be making us fat. The fat that is stored tends to be visceral fat, the kind that surrounds organs and causes many health problems, particularly because it becomes belly fat.
Here are 13 foods that can promote calming feelings, some may come as a surprise, but they will all help to combat cortisol and keep you from storing fat. You will find that these foods give you extra energy and help you focus throughout your day.
Asparagus: This long veggie is tasty, though it might be an acquired taste for some. Asparagus is high in folate, and will help you to stay calm and feel good. It&rsquos great steamed or broiled, and you can eat as much as you want!
Avocados: This fruit is full of a compound called glutathione, which actually blocks the absorption of many fats that can cause free radicals to develop. Also rich in beta carotene, vitamin E and folate, this tasty fruit is great in recipes, salads or just eaten alone. Avocados contain plenty of healthy fats, and add a whole new dimension to many of your favourite foods.
Berries: All berries, and especially blueberries, contain high levels of antioxidants, which can improve your overall health. They contain tons of vitamin C, which is well known to combat stress and help reduce cortisol levels. Fresh or frozen, enjoy them plain, in salads, or in your favourite smoothie recipes.
Cashews: These healthy nuts can provide the crunch and salty relief that comes from many junk foods, without the ingredients that are not so good for you. Cashews are especially high in zinc, which can help control stress and make you feel great. Those with low zinc levels are at a higher risk for depression and anxiety, as well as other problems, so give yourself a great boost with a handful of this healthy nut. Great when plain, or add them to baked chicken recipes or salads for a nice touch.
Chamomile: You have probably heard of this calming plant as an ingredient in calming teas, but there are other ways to enjoy it, too. Supplements can help if you don&rsquot like tea, but tea is the quickest way to get the calming effects of chamomile into your system. Try it at bedtime to help soothe your nerves and help you relax.
Chocolate: What? Didn&rsquot we talk about avoiding sweets? Well, chocolate, especially dark varieties, can be helpful for reducing stress. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, and can help control stress levels. Enjoy in small amounts, and use this when you are really craving the sweets, instead of eating junk food or baked goods. A little bit of chocolate can actually help to control your weight, too! It helps to reduce the cravings for sugar that many people experience.
Garlic: Full of great antioxidants, garlic is often recommended to cure ailments and help prevent aging. It&rsquos all true. One of the primary compounds found in garlic and known to be very healthy is allicin, which helps prevent heart disease and cancer, and can help reduce stress, too. It boosts your immune system and can help increase concentration.
Grass-Fed Beef: Eating grass fed beef is very good for you&mdashit is lean protein rich in iron, omega-3 fatty acids and it does not have any of the added antibiotics or hormones found in other beef forms that are not so healthy. It can lower inflammation in your body and help to control or prevent obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression and other problems. It can also help your body to fight stress.
Green Tea: Again, filled with antioxidants, green tea is especially good for you because it contains a certain amino acid known as theanine. This can help you protect yourself against stress and cortisol, and can even help prevent certain kinds of cancer. Green tea helps to control weight and help with concentration and mental focus. Enjoy this beverage twice a day for good health!
Oatmeal: This old fashioned comfort food is so good for you! Reach for this in the morning, and you will boost your body with complex carbohydrates that combat stress, help control your weight and increase mental focus and concentration. Oatmeal contains beta-glucan, which is a soluble fibre that makes you feel very satisfied and helps to control cravings. Make yourself a big batch on the weekend, of the steel-cut variety for best results, and enjoy it every morning for the rest of the week!
Oranges: Sweet and tasty, and loaded with vitamin C and minerals, oranges are one of the greatest comfort foods. Reach for a juicy orange and you will automatically be boosting your immune system and helping your body be better prepared to handle any kind of stress. Because they are so portable, you can keep one with you all the time, just in case you find yourself with a craving that needs attention.
Oysters: This seafood treat is loaded with zinc. A small plate of only six oysters contains more than 50% of the recommended daily allowance of zinc. This not only helps combat stress, but can help control anxiety and depression, too. Experiment with raw and steamed varieties, and different flavours, but most enjoy them cold with a small squeeze of lemon.
Walnuts: Another healthy nut that is loaded with omega-3s and zinc, walnuts also contain alpha-lineolic acid, which can help boost your memory. Some studies even suggest that walnuts can actually reverse some memory loss. Enjoy plain, in recipes or tossed in your favourite salads.
Forget about reaching for fatty sweets and unhealthy carbs. Check out these options next time you have a craving, and you will not feel guilty&mdashinstead, you will feel healthy and energized, and ready to beat any stress that comes your way!
If you have an affinity for potato chips, you’ll be searching for something to fill that craving. Kale Chips are a great way to experience the crunchy saltiness of potato chips without the extra carbs from the potatoes.
These Celeriac Fries are sweet, nutty and crispy, and a great alternative to regular fries! For an added bonus, they are naturally vegan and gluten-free.
Turnip fries that taste just as good as your favorite crispy french fries but with fewer carbs and baked in the oven for a healthy, low carb side dish.
Whether they’re childhood favorites, restaurant staples, or party snacks, so many classic dishes seem inaccessible to those on a plant-based diet.
It’s easy for the herbivore at the table to start feeling left out, unable to partake in what’s supposed to be a bonding experience over everyone’s most beloved foods.
Thanks to the taste buds and kitchen skills of talented bloggers all over the internet, we’ve rounded up meatless and dairy-free versions of some of the most popular, most un-vegan dishes out there.
Not only do these recipes eliminate animal products, but many introduce healthier alternatives and nutrient-dense swaps for flavors that not only resemble, but maybe even surpass the originals.
From breakfast to dinner and everything in between, here are 35 dishes you never thought you could vegan-ize.
Chia seeds aren’t just a thickening agent in this breakfast classic they also provide protein, calcium, fiber, and omega-3’s, packing in a nutritional punch and the same fluffy-yet-chewy texture as the traditional version.
Pro tip: Get creative with how you top your toast, using ingredients like peanut butter, berries, or an airy coconut whipped cream.
Think you need milk and butter to make pancakes the highlight of your weekend? Think again.
If you’ve got 20 minutes and an eager audience, this is the recipe for you. The secret to all that fluffiness comes from, believe it or not, a splash of apple cider vinegar, which reacts well with the baking powder.
Pro tip: Grab a bag of vegan chocolate chips and toss them in the batter.
It resembles that greasy-spoon staple we all love, but this fresh, veggie-packed meal is actually made of gluten-free chickpea flour instead of beaten eggs.
Just like regular omelets, feel free to customize it with whatever produce you’ve got on hand, from spinach and mushrooms to onions and tomatoes.
Sure, it may not taste exactly like a typical omelet, but with its subtle nuttiness and savory bite, this is a tasty a.m. treat in its own right.
Nothing screams comfort more than a bowl of breakfast hash, and this recipe proves you don’t need dairy to glue all the ingredients together.
Once the potatoes, veggies, and spices are cooked to perfection, heat up a veggie burger and crumble it over the top for a bit of extra protein. You can also top with avocado, salsa, and a little homemade cashew “cheese.”
If you assumed that going vegan meant never being able to enjoy this quintessential brunch favorite again, we’ve got your back.
Tofu replaces the egg, while a vegan take on Hollandaise gives the dish its familiar “Benedict-y” flavor. Take it a step further by topping the whole thing with sliced avocado for a pop of green color and healthy fat.
The idea of making an anchovy-studded, cheese-and-egg-yolk-infused Caesar salad vegan seems inconceivable, but this whole-foods-filled version suggests otherwise.
Satisfyingly salty Kalamata olives step in for the anchovies and blended cashews provide the creaminess of the missing yolks.
Whisked together with other classic Caesar salad ingredients, it’s now this blogger’s go-to salad dressing. Try it out and it could become yours, too!
Make lunchtime your most fun meal of the day with this vibrant, produce-packed Cobb salad. Hearts of palm tossed with turmeric make a clever imitation of chopped hard-boiled eggs.
Crisped tempeh also mimics the savory bite of bacon bits, and mandarin oranges add a refreshingly juicy twist. Line them all up on a bed of spinach for a kaleidoscope of colors and nutrients.
Thinly sliced eggplant masquerades wonderfully as bacon for a meat-free version of this deli classic. The rest is nothing but an assembly job that comes together quickly and easily.
Use whatever bread, lettuce, and tomato varieties you like best for a sandwich that’s forgiving and flexible, but still so, so good.
Nothing beats a simple but satisfying sandwich for lunch, and this one, reminiscent of a brown-bag staple, more than fits the bill.
Using chickpeas instead of chicken, the low-glycemic legumes are mashed with hummus or tahini, carrots, and celery for a filling that’s part smooth, part crunchy.
Lather a generous layer between slices of thick whole-wheat bread for a hearty and super-tasty midday meal.
Another effortless and fairly fast preparation for busy weekdays. Mashed avocado spread onto bread and then browned in a skillet not only gives this sandwich its “melty” factor, but racks up its nutritional profile as well with fiber, potassium, and monounsaturated fats.
The roasted red peppers this recipe calls for can be found in the pickle section of most grocery stores. Add some “coconut bacon” (essentially seasoned and toasted coconut flakes) for some crunch and added satiety.
The result is unique, wholesome, and almost too pretty to eat!
This blogger forgoes soy substitutes more commonly found in veggie dogs, opting instead for vital wheat gluten and flax (both found in the organic aisle) to serve as binding agents.
Oatmeal, beans, and a variety of spices round out the ingredients for a tender yet substantial filler for your hot dog bun. All you need next is a good sports movie on Netflix.
Sautéed mushrooms make a meaty filling for this occasion-worthy ravioli dish, and are a welcome departure from cheese. When the whole shebang is blanketed in a luxurious, coconut-milk-based sauce, there’s no missing the dairy here!
Make an event of it by rolling out the pasta from scratch (the link includes step-by-step directions). Or, if you’re in a pinch, spoon the mushroom mixture into store-bought pasta shells instead.
Take street food in a new direction with this vegan version of tacos.
Fiber-filled black beans, cubes of lightly roasted butternut squash, and pico de gallo are folded into soft corn tortillas and topped with a tofu-based cilantro cream for a dollop of protein.
It’s a colorful, nutritionally loaded way to quench a craving, especially when food trucks are out of reach.
A popular stand-in for cheese, cashews go for a spin in the food processer to form the “ricotta” in this non-dairy eggplant Parmigiana, giving the dish an uncanny resemblance to the look and flavor of the original.
Make it in the summer when fiber-rich eggplant and vitamin-filled tomatoes are in their prime. Or save this recipe for a warming meal in colder months. Either way, your craving for pasta will be satisfied.
Lasagna is a comfort food favorite for many, but with tiers of veggies nestled between the pasta sheets, this one is a winner in the nutrition department, too.
The ever-reliable cashew steps in yet again for the cheese, this time infused with lemon and basil for even deeper flavor. Try crumbling in some pre-cooked veggie burgers (even better if they’re homemade) between the layers for some extra protein.
From the bacon to the peas to the silky texture, all the bases are covered for a classic carbonara while keeping it vegan.
Gluten-free penne and smoked, pan-fried tempeh (a meat-replacing soy protein) are swathed in a sauce built from cashew butter, tahini, and almond milk instead of Parmesan and eggs. It may even rival the original.
First, blend superfood spinach with calcium-rich tofu for a dose of iron, then gently pack the mix into jumbo conchiglie pasta.
Slather with a tomato sauce that’s brimming with cholesterol-fighting lycopene, Cheng HM, et al. (2017). Tomato and lycopene supplementation and cardiovascular risk factors: A systematic review and meta-analysis. DOI: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2017.01.009 and these may just be the most nutritious stuffed shells out there. Don’t forget to flavor with plenty of garlic for even more healthful tastiness!
This version takes advantage of summer’s produce bounty, including eggplants and the “holy culinary trinity” of carrots, onions, and celery.
Not feeling the slow-simmered, swoon-worthy sauce over pasta? Enjoy it atop brown rice, or amp up its protein content by serving it over quinoa. The eggplants and mushrooms replace the meat like nobody’s business.
Firm tofu holds up impressively well in these herbivore-friendly enchiladas, which are accompanied by black beans and spinach for a multicolored trifecta of iron and fiber.
Use small corn tortillas and top it all off with whatever you fancy: avocado, sliced radishes, maybe even a splash of fresh lime juice.
Pro tip: If you’re in a pinch for time, swap the homemade sauce for store-bought.
No comfort food roundup would be complete without vegan mac and cheese. It’s pretty magical what can happen when you warm up nutritional yeast, potatoes, cashews, vinegar, and spices, then pour it all into a blender.
Stumped? We were too. But it becomes creamy, irresistible cheese sauce — without the cheese, obvs — and it’s freakin’ genius. Pour it over your favorite noodles, and you’re in a dairy-free dream.
No scary meat substitutes here! These plant-based nachos are actually a wholesome option for snack time, stacking tomatoes, black beans, and corn onto baked tortillas.
Drizzle them with a vegan sauce that looks as fluorescently yellow as the regular stuff, but is made with the natural goodness of cashews and nutritional yeast.
Pro tip: We recommend taking the blogger’s suggestion to serve these up with diced avocados for additional creaminess.
Is there anything cauliflower can’t do? Low carb rice, crust, gluten-free breadsticks, the list goes on and on. And now: pizza bites!
Made like mini muffins, the ingredients in these snacks are held all together by a chia seed and water mixture, instead of eggs. Chickpeas, herbs, and dairy-free cheese bring home the satisfying pizza taste you love.
Don’t forget to dunk these in warm marinara sauce!
This blogger surprised even herself with how authentic this bar food favorite tastes, despite ditching the mayo, cheese, and sour cream.
A combination of almond milk and — you guessed it — cashews creates a velvety, almost gratin-like consistency into which the artichokes and the spinach are gently mixed. Creamy without the cream. Who knew?
Yep, you read that right: vegan Buffalo wings. In this recipe, cauliflower florets are tossed with almond meal, breadcrumbs, garlic and, of course, a generous helping of Buffalo sauce.
By the time you’re done figuring out what game to watch, and chopping up celery to share the plate with your “wings,” they’ll will be done baking in the oven. Come game day, the real winners are these bad boys right here.
An old potluck standby, stuffed mushrooms get a nutritional makeover as tofu replaces cream cheese and chopped pecans sub in for the Parmesan topping.
Both swaps increase the whole-foods factor while preserving the dish’s nostalgia-inducing flavor. Bake them up for a batch of miniature pre-dinner morsels that are tasty, not to mention pretty adorable.
It’s nutritional improvement enough that these poppers are baked instead of fried. It’s also free of corn and soy, and includes the option for gluten-free breadcrumbs to coat the jalapeños, making it one of the most allergy-aware recipes on this list.
Pair them with the blogger’s dip recipe for a snack that’s as mouth-watering as its non-vegan counterpart.
Cheesecake: it really can be made vegan!
Unlike some other recipes, which can contain unrecognizable filling ingredients that make us squeamish, this one uses the trusty, no-bake combo of cashews and coconut cream.
Swirl in some blueberries, frozen or fresh, for a gorgeous, purple-tinted “cheese” layer atop a traditional graham cracker crust (double-check that the crackers don’t contain honey). This cake is just waiting to be sliced into.
We’ve all eaten cookie dough straight from the mixing bowl, salmonella be darned. But the best thing about vegan cookie dough is that there’s no risk of adverse effects from consuming raw egg.
And while most cookie batters are baked into a final product, this one, as the blogger puts it, “you’re supposed to eat by the spoonful.” Better yet, by using chickpeas (don’t worry, you can’t tell) and nut butter as its base, this sweet treat provides a mid-afternoon protein boost.
Few cravings are as strong as one for an old-fashioned milkshake — even vegans aren’t immune to it. Next time it strikes, go all out with this dairy-free, cake-batter-flavored version.
Frozen bananas, coconut butter, and coconut milk combine to create that thick, spoonable texture and offer healthy fats for staying power.
A splash of vanilla, a spattering of rainbow sprinkles (because let’s be honest, everything’s better with sprinkles on top), and you’re on your way to slurp-tastic satisfaction.
Please make sure that your sprinkles are, in fact, vegan. Sometimes they contain confectioner’s glaze made from shellac, which are beetle secretions.
Fluffy cake. Espresso sauce. Cashew coconut cream. What more can anyone ask for? Well, a fork, maybe.
Traditionally, this dessert is anything but vegan, with ladyfinger cookies, cheese, eggs, and cream. Yet somehow, this blogger did the impossible: a classic European dessert with a vegan twist, all without refined cane sugar.
You may need to put in a little extra effort into this recipe, but it’ll all be worth it in the end. (You heard the part about espresso sauce, right? Glad we’re on the same page.)
Four little ingredients are all that stand between you and this luscious mousse. Go for 60 percent or darker antioxidant-packed dark chocolate to bring out the best of this recipe.
The chocolate and avocado (you read that right) are whipped with shavings of orange zest and a touch of non-dairy milk into a glossy, citrus-tinged concoction. With this in your repertoire, dessert is always a good idea.
They’ll bring back childhood memories, but these Twinkies are all grown up when it comes to what they’re made of.
Wheat flour is traded in for spelt, a grain dense with iron, fiber, and phosphorous. Pipe the cakes with a banana-macadamia cream and you’ve got yourself a sophisticated upgrade on a snack from the good old days.
Paying homage to a beloved candy bar, this vegan spin on Snickers looks strikingly like the real deal and contains all-natural ingredients to boot.
Dates are an ideal replacement for the caramel coconut oil and peanuts form the nougat and the sticky, sweet, and chewy layers are encased in a thick coating of flavonoid-filled dark chocolate.
Our mouths are watering just looking at the pictures.
In this blogger’s playful (and pretty!) update on a signature summer drink, coconut milk plays the starring role yet again — and why wouldn’t it?
Its richness is perfect for achieving that fluffy-yet-silky ice cream consistency without the fuss of a machine. A burst of freshly squeezed orange juice and a squirt of maple syrup provide a sunny sweetness without being cloying.
OMG, remember oatmeal cream pies? We can just hear the recess bell now…
Another retro treat is revisited in this recipe. This time, soaked cashews, apple cider vinegar, and maple syrup create a vegan “cream” sandwiched between two chewy oatmeal cookies, sweetened up with coconut sugar.
If you can spare 45 minutes of prep and cook time, you can enjoy these epic childhood treats, vegan-style. Now all we need is a vegan Star Crunch recipe, and adulting is a lot more fun.
Omnivores don’t get to have all the fun. With meat-like substitutes, dairy-free creams, egg-like tofus, and cashews, cashews, cashews, vegan comfort food is not only possible, but totally delectable.
We’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not these comfort foods are better than the originals. In the meantime, we’ll just be over here grabbing another slice of blueberry cheesecake…
Hilary Lebow is a writer, certified yoga instructor, certified personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist, and certified nutrition coach. When she’s not working, she can be found in nature with her two dogs or planning her next travel adventure.
As the weather gets chillier, cravings for cool, fresh ingredients diminish as those urges to eat ooey gooey warm goodness take over. Sugary oatmeal for breakfast? Sure, why not. Creamy soup for lunch? Don&rsquot mind if we do. Casserole for dinner? Delicious!
Thankfully, craving comfort food doesn&rsquot have to mean benching a healthy diet. Here are 32 classic comfort foods rethought with a balanced diet in mind. Bon appétit!
It&rsquos a classic childhood favorite, but when those cravings hit as an adult, throw in a load of fresh veggies to justify the choice. Spinach, tomatoes, peas, and broccoli make awesome additions. Extra credit for skipping the boxed mixes and making it all from scratch.
Ground beef, mashed potatoes, and cheese. What&rsquos not to like? The trick with making this one healthier is to mix healthier stuff in with the potatoes (like cauliflower or parsnips) and fill the inside with plenty of veggies. Plus, with those subs made, you can still keep the full-fat butter and a little cheese without feeling so guilty!
Most family Thanksgivings wouldn&rsquot be complete without this classic casserole. Trouble is, the cream of mushroom soup base and crunchy fried onion topper make it not such a healthy choice. Instead of using classic canned soup and those pre-packaged fried onions, opt for a low-sodium soup (or make your own), throw in some extra fresh mushrooms, and make your own crunchy onion topping.
Mamma Mia! There&rsquos nothing quite as comforting as a big bowl of spaghetti and homemade meatballs with tomato sauce. Instead of going for the classic pasta, take the healthier route and opt for whole-wheat or spaghetti squash as an alternative. As for the meatballs, try turkey as a substitution for classic beef, and make the sauce from scratch, too, to avoid any added preservatives, sugar, and sodium.
Rather than overload on carbohydrates with classic mashed potatoes, try a substitute that&rsquos a little lower in carbs and much higher in protein (and antioxidants). This &ldquomock cauliflower&rdquo mix of mashed cannellini beans and cauliflower has the same texture as classic mashed potatoes, but with benefits far outweighing those of the original.
The mix of pork and beef that goes into a classic meatloaf isn&rsquot exactly the healthiest choice of protein. And the white bread doesn&rsquot help either. Swapping in lean ground turkey and using oatmeal instead of white bread reduces the amount of fat in the dish and ups the fiber. Feeling creative? Throw some veggies in the mix: Grated carrots and finely minced onion and bell peppers can really raise the &ldquowow&rdquo factor.
There are few things more simple and comforting than a whole roast chicken straight from the oven. Those birds from the grocery store are often dripping in excess fat, but it&rsquos easy to make your own perfect bird at home with extra veggies and less added fat. Try this easy recipe that pairs a bird with sweet potatoes, corn cobs, onions, garlic, rosemary, and lemon. It&rsquos easy to throw together, and the only added fat is a hearty drizzle of heart-healthy olive oil.
What BBQ would be complete without some baked beans? Unfortunately, all the slab bacon and brown sugar can make for a not-so-healthy side dish. Try this healthier version using &ldquoliquid smoke&rdquo flavor instead of bacon, and a drizzle of agave for sweetness instead of brown sugar.
Contrary to the looks of those greasy pies hanging out in the local pizza parlor window, pizza can make a healthy meal &mdash when it&rsquos done right. Choose a whole-wheat, tortilla, or cauliflower crust, and pile the veggies on high. Also opt for a strong-flavored cheese so the pie requires less of the melty stuff to get full flavor. (Check out 74 more ways to make pizza healthier here!)
This particular healthier chicken pot pie recipe has been a favorite in my house for years. Instead of doing the traditional &ldquocrust on top,&rdquo this recipe calls for individual puff-pastry squares prepared separately from the pie &ldquofilling.&rdquo The filling is cooked on the stovetop and can be eaten alone, or with the puff pastry side. Plus, it&rsquos packed full of veggies (the recipe calls for summer squash and snap peas, but feel free to get creative with winter squash and other greens). Consider swapping out the heavy cream for low-fat milk, too.
It&rsquos football season, people! What get together is complete without some home cooked chili? This turkey chili with chipotle and chocolate gives all the rich flavor of traditional beef chili with less fat. Plus, it&rsquos packed with protein-rich beans along with onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes. The unsweetened cocoa powder also gives all the benefits of chocolate (tons of antioxidants) without all the sugar in a chocolate bar.
Sorry, kids. You&rsquore not getting away with a &ldquohealthy&rdquo deep fried chicken here. But, there is a way to make faux fried chicken in the oven and keep all the deliciousness intact (plus, it&rsquos Paleo!). What&rsquos the secret? Coconut oil and almond flour. Brown in a pan, finish in the oven. Crispy and delicious drumsticks will emerge after about 20 minutes!
Is there a more quintessentially middle-school meal than the classic sloppy Joe? Made with some Manwich, perhaps? Instead of the classic red meat and tomato sauce mix on a white hamburger bun, try swapping in turkey meat, and serving it open-faced on half a whole-grain bun. Bonus: Make your own tomato sauce with as many veggies as possible &mdash carrots, onion, bell peppers, spinach, and mushrooms are sure to be a hit.
Chicken and dumplings might be one of the most comforting meals out there. Seriously, what&rsquos more delicious than a cream-filled stew base with floating pillows of dough? Make it healthier by opting for lean chicken breasts only and packing the dish with extra veggies (more peas, please!). As for the dumplings, try making the dough withwhole-wheat flour and throw in some chopped herbs for extra green (and flavor).
Yes, indulging in a greasy, fat cheeseburger on a classic brioche bun is OK every once in a while. But for those more frequent burger urges, try something a bit healthier to fill the craving. These black bean and quinoa burgers are packed with protein and fiber. Throw these patties on a lettuce bun with some chopped sliced tomato and avocado and a dollop of homemade ketchup and you&rsquove got yourself a winner! Throw on a slice of sharp cheddar if you&rsquore feeling indulgent.
Instead of classic lasagna noodles (which, lets face it, often take more work than it&rsquos worth!), try layering thin strips of zucchini or eggplant. Also opt for homemade sauce, and throw some extra chopped veggies into the filling (whether it&rsquos a vegetarian or meat lasagna).
Rather than gorge on a cone of classic fried spuds, try swapping in sweet potatoes. These orange cousins to classic taters are packed with carotenoids, which are great for improving eye health.
Bad news, friends: There will be no Wonderbread or Kraft singles in this recipe. To make the classic grilled cheese a bit healthier, choose whole-grain bread, toast in a dry pan (no butter or oil), and use a flavorful, high-quality cheese (so you don&rsquot need to pile it on to get the great flavor). If that&rsquos not healthy enough for ya, serve with a salad on the side, or add veggies to the sammie too.
A big plate of fiery hot chicken wings makes just about any sports-watching event more enjoyable. Unfortunately, their deep-fried preparation and unnecessary breading make them not such a healthy choice (not to mention how easy it is to eat plates full without looking back). Instead of going the fried route, try broiling wings without breading, relying just on hot sauce and some lemon juice for flavor.
A classic short stack? Simple carb central, and not exactly the most exciting item on the breakfast menu. Amp them up with Greek yogurt, and you have something a bit more interesting (for the taste buds and waistline). Plus, the Greek yogurt is so flavorful, these cakes don&rsquot require nearly as much maple syrup as classic versions (though we don&rsquot blame you if it&rsquos still habit to pour it on heavy!). Add chopped fruit or nuts to this mix for a more interesting outcome.
Whoever first thought to make egg-soaked bread a hot breakfast item has our hearts forever. Boost this breakfast classic by using whole-grain cinnamon raisin bread, egg whites, and plenty of fresh fruit to top the whole thing. An extra sprinkle of cinnamon won&rsquot hurt, either!
Apple pie is just one of those things that will always scream &ldquocomfort.&rdquo Cooking the pie filling in the actual apple is a great way to cut back on excess crust, but still get all the great flavor and texture. After scooping out the centers of the apple, cook the filling, refill the cored empty apple skins, and top with a few strips of crust. Voilà! Apple pie in apples.
This recipe makes it easy to fill that indulgent coffee cake craving without making an entire pan (and risking accidently nibbling down the entire thing by the end of breakfast). It&rsquos simple: Combine all the ingredients in a mug, microwave for a minute or two, and enjoy! Feel free to double fist with this one, too &mdash just make sure the second mug is for coffee and not another cake!
It&rsquos the go-to for heartbreak, disappointment, and plain old depression, so how dare we ruin it and reveal that the ice cream sundae can be made healthy? We promise you won&rsquot regret swapping in pure banana ice cream, fresh fruit and roasted nut topping, and pure dark chocolate or natural peanut butter drizzle for the classic fixins&rsquo.
A southern classic, cornbread has become an icon for all things comfort food. Topped with a pat of butter and drizzle of honey? Even better. When craving this corn classic, steer clear of too much butter and unnecessary white flour filler. Instead, opt for a recipe like this one, using just six easy ingredients: pure cornmeal, baking powder, salt, eggs, milk, and just a little vegetable oil.
At Greatist, we&rsquoll take any excuse to add avocado to a recipe &mdash and brownies are the perfect opportunity. Black bean brownies with avocado frosting take it even a step further by offering an extra dose of protein in addition to the awesome monosaturated fats from the avocado. (We promise, your friends will never guess the main ingredients in this recipe!)
The simpler cousin to apple pie, crisp is another great way to enjoy the season&rsquos freshest apples and satisfy that sweet tooth. Simply toss apple slices in a bit of sugar, layer in a glass dish. Top with an oat crumble topping, bake for a few minutes, and voila! Cut back on sugar and butter amounts and add some extra cinnamon spice to make this recipe a bit healthier.
This simple pumpkin pie custard is perfect for filling that common autumn craving for pumpkin pie. Missing the crust? Sprinkle some crushed graham crackers over the top, and all is well again! The custard is super simple, simply combining pumpkin, milk, eggs, and spices to create the perfect crust-less treat.
We had to throw pumpkin back into this list somehow! Adding pureed pumpkin to waffle (or pancake) mix is a great way to sneak in another serving of veggies. Add some protein powder , too, and you have a super-healthy way to start any day.
The easiest way to amp up chocolate chip cookies? Add quinoa, flaxseed, and banana, and opt for dark chocolate chips.The quinoa adds a dose of protein and banana gives the cookies sweetness without much added sugar.
Everyone deserves to indulge on their birthday, but that doesn&rsquot mean it&rsquos a pass to gorge on leftover cake all week long! The best way to celebrate with style and not feel guilty later is to pack that cake full of produce. A harvest cake (this one&rsquos filled with carrots, zucchini, beets, walnuts, and raisins) is a great way to fit in another serving of veggies and satisfy that sweet tooth without ruining that healthy-eating streak.
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Spiralize, then treat like angel hair: Cook until barely tender, 1 to 2 minutes, then drain. Try with sesame and chiles, lemon, butter, and herbs or in &ldquopasta&rdquo salads.
You can also shave zucchini or cukes into skinny planks, sprinkle with salt to draw out some of the moisture, let sit for about 10 minutes then pat dry. Then roll up around sautéed mushrooms, cheese, or ground cooked chicken. (If the planks seem too stiff to roll without breaking, try microwaving for 20 to 30 seconds first.)
Spaghetti squash is an obvious choice because once cooked, its flesh is easily separated into strands that look and act (almost) like you know what. Its somewhat neutral flavor is a good foil for many different types of sauces. Don't forget to check out our other spaghetti squash recipes!
Other starchy vegetables like butternut squash and sweet potatoes also make great subs for spaghetti. (Try doing half pasta and half vegetable if you don't want to fully commit). You could also roughly chop them then pulse in the food processor until pea-sized. Simmer with a cheesy sauce or toss with sautéed garlic and spinach.
Eggplant isn't just for eggplant recipes &mdash it's also perfect for using in lasagna and layering into baked casseroles. Thinly slice into planks with a mandoline then pan-sear until softened. You could also try salting the slices to dry out the moisture, then pat dry and layer in raw. (Our test kitchen is partial to this Benriner mandoline).
Roasted or steamed then thinly shaved with mandoline, beets make beautiful &ldquoravioli&rdquo layered with goat cheese or mozzarella and drizzled with herbed olive oil.
In general, cook them per package directions, then use as you would macaroni &mdash think tomatoes and ground beef &mdash or try instead of orzo, say, with mushrooms and caramelized onions.
Both farro, especially the quick-cooking type, and barley would be terrific in recipes like minestrone soup. Or try either as a sub in your favorite macaroni and cheese recipes.
Quinoa, (and its relative, millet) is actually a seed with a slightly vegetal flavor. It's high in protein yet surprisingly not heavy. Tossed with broccoli and cheese, it's as comforting and delicious as can be. Even for something that's not pasta!