When you realize you don’t have to choose between food that’s good for you and food that tastes good, life is good.
And every now and then, it’s time to eat a meal that brings back memories of the family cooking you grew up with. That food is called comfort food for a reason – it’s delicious and makes you feel good.
But as a health-conscious adult, you may be wary about eating these traditional favorites because of what havoc they might wreak on your diet.
Well, worry no more. This list of 8 low-calorie comfort food favorites will bring back the memories without bringing on the pounds.
It’s hard to find a heartier comfort food than steak, gravy, and mashed potatoes. Fortunately, this recipe keeps the calories in check and won’t leave you feeling like you just stuffed yourself at a Texas steakhouse.
- 4 (4-ounce) boneless sirloin steaks, trimmed (about 1 inch thick)
- 3/8 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 (8-ounce) package sliced cremini mushrooms
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1 (24-ounce) package refrigerated mashed potatoes
- 1/3 cup chopped chives
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Sprinkle steaks evenly with 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Add steaks to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove from pan; keep warm.
- Add mushrooms to pan; cook 5 minutes or until tender and beginning to brown, stirring frequently. Combine wine, 1/2 cup water, flour, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon salt; stir well with a whisk. Add wine mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until thick; stir constantly. Remove from heat.
- Prepare potatoes according to package directions. Stir in chives and garlic powder. Place 3/4 cup potatoes on each of 4 plates. Top each with 1 steak and about 1/4 cup mushroom sauce.
No list of comfort food is complete without a mention of macaroni and cheese. That’s why I’ve included this wonderfully delicious – and healthy – version of the ever-popular dish.
- 3 cups frozen cauliflower florets
- 4 1/2 oz. (about 1 1/4 cups) uncooked high-fiber elbow macaroni
- 1 cup diced onion
- One 7-oz. can diced green chiles, drained
- 2 tbsp. chopped jarred jalapeño slices (about 10 slices)
- 2 tbsp. fat-free sour cream
- 4 wedgesSwiss cheese
- 2 slices fat-free American cheese
- Place cauliflower in a large microwave-safe bowl; cover and microwave for 3 minutes. Uncover and stir. Re-cover and microwave for 2 – 3 minutes, until hot. Drain excess liquid. Roughly chop cauliflower, return to the bowl, and cover to keep warm.
- In a medium-large pot, cook pasta per package instructions, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta and stir into cauliflower. Cover to keep warm.
- Bring a skillet sprayed with nonstick spray to medium-high heat. Cook and stir onion until softened and slightly browned, 4 – 6 minutes.
- Add cooked onion, drained chiles, and jalapeño to the cauliflower and pasta. Stir well, and re-cover to keep warm.
- In a medium microwave-safe bowl, mix sour cream, cheese wedges, and cheese slices, breaking the wedges and slices into pieces as you add them. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir well. Microwave for another 30 seconds, or until cheeses have melted. Stir well.
- Add cheese mixture to the large bowl and thoroughly stir. Enjoy!
This recipe for mashed potatoes is unbelievably simple. By using chicken broth instead of butter to mash the potatoes, not only will you end up with a much healthier dish, you’ll also enjoy the flavor more than ever.
- 6 cupspotatoes, peeled and cut
- 1(14 1/2 ounce) can chicken broth(regular or reduced fat)
- Salt and pepper
- Boil potatoes until tender and drain well.
- Combine potatoes and broth in a bowl and mash to desired consistency.
- Season with salt and pepper if desired.
There sure are a lot of potatoes involved in comfort food. And usually, shepherd’s pie is topped with a mashed potato crust – but not this time. This recipe replaces the potato topping with a delicious squash puree and ensures perfectly sized servings you won’t have to feel guilty about enjoying.
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 12 ounces 93%-lean ground beef
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
- 6 ounces baby spinach, chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, divided
- 2 12-ounce packages frozen winter squash puree, thawed
- 1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
- Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, stir in beef, flour and tomato paste, and cook, stirring, until the beef is mostly browned, about 3 minutes. Add broth, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broth is the consistency of thick gravy, about 4 minutes. Stir in spinach, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder; cook until the spinach is just wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
- Place squash in a fine-mesh sieve and gently press on it to extract excess liquid. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder. Divide the meat mixture among four 10-ounce broiler-safe ramekin Top each with about 1/2 cup of the squash. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet.
- Broil until heated through and bubbling around the edges, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and broil until it is just melted, about 3 minutes more.
No family barbecue or holiday dinner went without a huge amount of baked beans. But typically, they can be some of the unhealthiest sides on a dinner plate!
Not this time. This recipe has somehow found a way to supplement the flavor with low-calorie ingredients that still taste just as great as you remember them.
- 2 tablespoons cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups Vidalia onions, finely chopped
- “Real Salt” or Himalayan salt, to taste
- 2 small cans (8 ounces each) organic tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon organic Worcestershire sauce
- 4 tablespoons liquid smoke
- ¾ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 2 cans (15 ounces each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high; add the onions and sauté 5 to 6 minutes or until onions caramelize. Season onions with salt to taste. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning. Transfer beans to a casserole dish.
- Bake beans for 50 minutes, or until thick.
6. Skinny Pizza
Pizza is timeless. There, I said it.
But ever since I started paying close attention to the food I eat, I’ve had to severely limit the amount of pizza I ate. If I wasn’t careful, I’d find myself stressed out and ordering delivery pizza every week!
This recipe, on the other hand, makes pizza low-calorie and low-stress.
- 1 packet (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
- 3 cups spelt flour, divided, plus more for dusting
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp olive oil, divided
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce, divided
- 1/2 cup chopped broccoli, divided
- 1/2 cup sliced red bell pepper, divided
- 1/2 cup sliced red onion, divided
- 2 cups fresh grated mozzarella, divided
- Fill a bowl with hot water; let sit 2 minutes. Discard water. Combine yeast, 1 tbsp flour, sugar and 1/4 cup warm water; let stand until bubbly, 5 minutes.
- In another bowl, mix 2 1/2 cups flour and salt; make a well in center. Stir in yeast mixture, 1 tbsp oil and 3/4 cup hot water until dough is sticky and starts to come away from bowl sides.
- Coat hands with flour. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough until elastic, 8 minutes; form into a ball. In another bowl, add remaining 1 tsp oil; roll dough in oil to coat.
- Seal bowl with plastic wrap; set in a warm place until dough doubles in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Place dough on a floured surface; cut in half. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll each piece into a 10-inch circle. Pinch edges to form a crust.
- Heat oven to 500°. Place a pizza stone on bottom rack (or use an inverted baking sheet, not heated). Set each crust on a sheet of parchment paper. Top each with 1/4 cup tomato sauce, 1/4 cup of each veggie and 1 cup mozzarella.
- Cook pies one at a time on stone until cheese melts and crust is golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Cut each into 6 slices.
This recipe shows definitively that you can eat a baked potato and not go up in belt size. This classic comfort food is stuffed with an awesome mixture of lean ground beef and broccoli, along with reduced-fat cream and cheese.
- 4 medium russet potatoes
- 8 ounces 90%-lean ground beef
- 1 cup broccoli florets, finely chopped
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, divided
- 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 3 scallions, sliced
- Pierce potatoes all over with a fork. Place in the microwave and cook on Medium, turning once or twice, until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, brown meat in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Increase heat to high, add broccoli and water to the pan, cover, and cook until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the broccoli; add to the meat.
- Carefully cut off the top third of the cooked potatoes; reserve the tops for another use. Scoop out the insides into a medium bowl. Place the potato shells in a small baking dish. Add 1/2 cup Cheddar, sour cream, salt and pepper to the potato insides and mash with a fork or potato masher. Add scallions and the potato mixture to the broccoli and meat; stir to combine.
- Evenly divide the potato mixture among the potato shells and top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Microwave on High until the filling is hot and the cheese is melted, 2 to 4 minutes.
If you would have told me before I found this recipe that beef stew could be healthy, I would have raised an eyebrow. I may have even called you crazy.
There’s more fiber and far less sodium in this version of the comfort food classic than I thought possible. And now, this low-calorie beef stew recipe has made me believe that anything is possible.
- ¼ c all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp paprika
- 1 lb lean stew beef (round or chuck shoulder), cut into cubes
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 med onion, chopped
- 1 rutabaga or turnip (10 oz), peeled and cubed
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 russet potato (12 oz), cubed
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
- 1 package (10 oz) frozen green peas
- Put flour, paprika, and ¼ tsp each salt and pepper in a large zip-top bag. Add beef and shake to coat well.
- Heat 2 Tbsp of the oil in a large saucepan or pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to plate, leaving juices in pot.
- Add remaining 1 Tbsp oil to pot. Add onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add rutabaga, carrot, and potato and cook until vegetables soften slightly, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in tomato paste and cook 1 minute longer. Add wine, bring to a boil, and reduce 3 minutes. Add broth and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until meat is tender, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Add peas and cook 5 minutes longer.
- Remove from heat and let rest at least 15 minutes before serving.
See, food can be both decadent and rich and healthy.
But I know you may still be in shock from seeing some of these recipes. So why don’t you relax, sit down with your family, and try one just to see for yourself?
Which of these healthy recipes will you try first?