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Recipes

13 healthy comfort food recipes

Small tweaks—baking where you can, sneaking in some extra veg—make comfort food feel even better.

13 healthy comfort food recipes

Photo: Erik Putz

Crispy Baked Fish and Chips

Fish and chips are hands down one of the tastiest comfort foods out there, but let's be completely honest – they're not exactly doing your body any favors.

Not only are they loaded with sodium, calories, and fat, but those frying oils are a total no-go for your heart health. In fact, a 2023 article from The Cleveland Clinic found that when you fry breading, it soaks up all those fats like a sponge. So not only are you getting extra calories from the breading itself, but you're also getting a heaping helping of unhealthy fats. Sigh.

If you're tired of sacrificing flavor for health, this recipe is a game-changer. It's a healthier take on a classic fish dish that still delivers on the crispy, indulgent taste you crave.

No deep-frying required, just a light panko coating that keeps the fish moist and flavorful. Plus, you can use any type of fish you like, and there's even a healthy tartar sauce recipe to round out the meal.

Get the recipe: Crispy Baked Fish and Chips

13 healthy comfort food recipes Photo: Roberto Caruso

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes with Icing

Zucchini and chocolate? Hmm, not exactly the first flavor combo that comes to mind when you’re craving something sweet.

But this recipe is about to change your mind. Chocolate provides that rich, indulgent flavor you crave, and the grated zucchini adds this amazing moisture and density that you wouldn't expect.

Another great thing about this recipe? The grated zucchini just melts right into that chocolatey goodness, so your kids will have no idea they're actually getting some veggies in with every bite.

According to a 2018 article published by the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, zucchini is actually a nutritional powerhouse, packed with nutrients like potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C. So, you can feel good about sneaking those greens into their treats.

Get the recipe: Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes with Icing

13 healthy comfort food recipes Photo: Jodi Pudge

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Kale Pesto Mac & Cheese

According to data published by the American Heart Association, kids should have at least four to five servings a day. If you're looking to boost their daily intake, here’s a tasty trick: try this mac and cheese recipe that incorporates kale as the main attraction!

Why kale? Well,in case you didn’t get the memo, this leafy green is a total nutritional rockstar. According to the U.S. The Library of Medicine, kale has all the essential vitamins and minerals, like A, C, K, calcium, and potassium.

But don’t worry – this mac and cheese still packs all the classic flavors and textures that kids adore. You’ve got your trusty macaroni noodles, a blend of three delectable cheeses, and a crispy breadcrumb topping. We have a feeling your little ones are going to be begging for seconds once they get a taste.

Get the recipe: Kale Pesto Mac & Cheese

13 healthy comfort food recipes Photo: Andrew Grinton

Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Mash

There’s nothing quite like a homemade shepherd’s pie to hit the spot on a lazy Sunday. But let’s be honest, this tasty and hearty dish can contain high amounts of calories and fat, so it’s not exactly the healthiest option for the little ones.

However, that’s where this recipe comes in! It’s got the same mouthwatering flavors as the original, but it swaps out those carb-loaded potatoes for some cauliflower. It’s also way lower in calories and fat, but it still delivers a solid amount of protein.

FYI: Nutritious cauliflower is a great imposter—it can be puréed into a creamy sauce, blitzed into rice or smashed like a potato. So, why not get creative and use it for dishes like fried rice, pizza crust, or risotto. The options are endless when you start thinking outside the (cauliflower) box.

Get the recipe: Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Mash

ramekins with shepherd's pie Photo: Erik Putz

The New Tuna Casserole

Casseroles are such a clever way to get picky eaters to actually enjoy their food. And with this recipe, you can easily hide all kinds of nutritional ingredients, like tuna for protein and a variety of nutrient-dense veggies, and they’ll be none the wiser.

This light dish has all the necessary elements for a flavorful meal—pasta, sweet frozen peas and a crunchy topping. However, it’s also easy on the wallet as it uses canned tuna and frozen peas.

Another perk? Dishes like this are perfect for making in big batches. So, you can whip up a ton of it and have easy, reheatable meals on hand for the whole workweek. Talk about a convenient and delicious solution to those busy weeknights!

Get the recipe: The New Tuna Casserole

13 healthy comfort food recipes Photo: Roberto Caruso

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“Fried” Chicken and Coleslaw

No need to rub your eyes, my friend. It's true – there's a healthier take on fried chicken out there, and this recipe is the living, breathing evidence.

You know how much we all love that crispy coating on fried chicken? Well, this version uses corn flakes instead of the typical breading, so you still get that satisfying crunch without all the fat and calories. And the chicken is baked, not deep-fried, so you can indulge without feeling guilty about it later.

While your chicken is baking away in the oven, why don't you whip up a quick and easy coleslaw? All you have to do is toss some Napa cabbage with a bit of oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. It's seriously that simple.

Get the recipe: “Fried” Chicken and Coleslaw

crispy breaded drumsticks with coleslaw Photo: Erik Putz

Lentil and Beef Mini Meat Loaves

Ah, meatloaf! How doth we adore, though thy consumption may oft prove grievously unhealthy.

But that’s not the case with our meatloaf recipe. Instead of going overboard with the meat, this meatloaf recipe mixes it up with equal parts lentils and ground meat, giving you a nice, hearty texture.

By adding lentils, you're also getting a nutritional jackpot. According to information published by the Cleveland Clinic, lentils contain fiber that aids the digestive system, improves heart health, and helps lower blood pressure.

But that's not all – these little legumes are also high in protein. In fact, just half a cup of cooked lentils contains 140 calories and a whopping 12 grams of protein.

Get the recipe: Lentil and Beef Mini Meat Loaves

13 healthy comfort food recipes Photo: Roberto Caruso

No-Bake Brownie Bites

Feeling that chocolate craving, but don't have hours to spend in the kitchen? No worries, these no-bake brownies are your new best friend! They come together in just 20 minutes, and you don't even have to deal with heating up the oven.

But unlike your run-of-the-mill brownies, these chocolate treats offer a nutritious twist. They contain ingredients like dates and flaxseeds, which add a hint of sweetness and boost of essential nutrients to boot.

According to a 2023 study published in the Healthcare journal, flaxseeds contain many essential nutrients, such as lignans, omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Dates are also not without their share of benefits. A 2008 study published in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition journal, found that they are a good source of antioxidants, mainly carotenoids and phenolics, which helps protect your body against free radicals.

Get the recipe: No-Bake Brownie Bites

chocolate balls covered in nuts and coconut Photo: Roberto Caruso

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Spaghetti and Meatballs with a Secret

Are you looking for creative ways to sneak veggies into your kid's meals? Look no further than this innovative twist on a classic dish. By stuffing meatballs with grated veggies like eggplant and zucchini, you can ensure your kids are getting the nutrients they need without even noticing.

This recipe is incredibly easy to make, requiring only 15 minutes of prep time and 25 minutes of cooking time. And, as an added bonus, even the pickiest eaters will be asking for seconds. Talk about a major win-win!

Get the recipe: Spaghetti and Meatballs with a Secret

Two bowls of spaghetti and meatballs Photo: Erik Putz

Vegetarian Taco Salad

This meatless taco salad delivers all the classic taco flavors you adore - from the creamy avocados to the tangy cheeses to the juicy cherry tomatoes. But the real star of this dish? The tofu that gives this dish a satisfying punch of nutrition.

Tofu, according to a 2022 article published in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has a multitude of health benefits. Not only is it loaded with protein and other good-for-you nutrients, but it can even help lower your risk of heart disease.

And yes,  the shells of this dish are also easy to make. Just shape them over a bowl and bake in the oven. Yum.

Get the recipe: Vegetarian Taco Salad

tortilla bowl filled with lettuce, tomatoes, beans and cheese Photo: Roberto Caruso

Make-Ahead Lentil Chili

Remember all those amazing health benefits we talked about when it comes to lentils earlier? Well, here’s another tasty recipe idea that's perfect for putting those little legumes to work.

Now, there’s no meat in this chili, but it's still packed with all sorts of good-for-you ingredients. The beans and sweet potatoes not only add a ton of flavor, but they also give you a nice boost of fiber. And the delicious sour cream topping (recipe is also included!) can be added on top to truly make this dish pop.

Get the recipe: Make-Ahead Lentil Chili

enamel bowl filled with chunky veggie chili Photo: Roberto Caruso

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Crispy Oven-Baked Wings

Making crispy chicken wings at home is a breeze, and the best part is that you probably already have the magic ingredient just sitting there in your pantry.

So, what's the secret? It's baking powder, which does wonders for keeping those wings nice and crispy. Just sprinkle baking powder and salt over the wings, and get ready to enjoy a texture that’s worth sinking your teeth into.

This recipe also skips the frying and goes straight to baking, so you won't have to worry about all the extra fat and calories. And, to top it off, you'll get two delicious sauce ideas you can whip up yourself, so you can customize your wings to your taste.

Get the recipe: Crispy Oven-Baked Wings

man eating chicken wings with various sauces Photo: Rob Caruso

Mushroom Quesadilla

Got a fast food itch that needs scratching? Ditch the drive-thru and get creative in the kitchen with these mouthwatering vegetarian quesadillas. They're packed with flavors you love and are perfect for a Meatless Monday meal.

The beauty of this recipe lies in its versatility.The star of the show is mushrooms, but feel free to experiment with other options like bell peppers, broccoli, or asparagus. Plus, the fewer ingredients (there are only six in total) means each one shines, making every bite a delight.

Get the recipe: Mushroom Quesadilla

Cheesy quesadillas on white board Photo: Roberto Caruso
This article was originally published on Sep 29, 2020

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