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13 Comfort Food Classics Made Healthier

13 Comfort Food Classics Made Healthier

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As the cold weather starts to creep across the country, we've huddled under a blanket fort and drafted a list of our 13 best healthy comfort-food recipes. From lowcountry classics to soul-warming soups, these mains are sure to satisfy your cravings and keep you cozy on the coldest days.

Is there a more satisfying feeling on earth than indulging in some amazingly delicious comfort food when it's super cold outside? Betty White showing up to our birthday party being the exception, we'd say... probably not. But there is a drawback inherent in that indulgence: the calories. It's almost not worth stuffing your face with red beans and rice when you know you're putting yourself in calorie jail for the rest of the day.

But luckily for you, Betty, and humanity at large, Cooking Light exists. We are wizards when it comes to taking delicious comfort-food recipes and riffing on them to create healthier versions. And since snow is starting to fall in some places, we know that folks will be searching for comfort-food mainstays to incorporate in their meal plans. So, we've taken it upon ourselves to put together a list of 13 comfort food classics made healthier. Like we said, wizards.

Oh, and bonus! Every single one of the recipes below can also be found on the Cooking Light Diet, so if you sign up for that you can start receiving customizable meal plans featuring your favorite comfort foods.

Without further adieu, here are 13 of our best comforting recipes. Stay warm out there, friends.

Skillet Red Beans and Rice

It doesn't get more comforting than red beans and rice with sausage. This recipe is not only low in calories at 329 per serving, but it also comes together superfast in under 20 minutes.

Chicken-Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon

No list of comfort foods would be complete without macaroni and cheese. This is a one-pot feast, featuring chicken, broccoli, and most importantly, bacon. The kids will love this recipe.

Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits

A true Southern treat, this seafood-centric main is only 408 calories per serving. If there are any shrimp lovers in the family who have never had shrimp and grits, introduce them to this recipe ASAP. If nothing else, do it for Bubba.

Tomato-Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

The soup itself is delicious, but add grilled cheese croutons to the mix and you've got yourself a new cold-weather family favorite.

If you're interested in receiving customizable meal plans containing these recipes and more, sign up today at Our

Quick Chicken Marsala

Hakuna Marsala. It means no worries as you cut through the richness of chicken stock with this sweet, dry wine. This delicious dish is best served over mashed potatoes, polenta, or hot cooked brown rice.

Slow Cooker Thai Beef Curry

Fish sauce and curry paste give this recipe lots of flavor, and you can kick back and live your life while the slow cooker does most of the work for you.

Chicken and Gnocchi Dumpling Soup

A Cooking Light Diet Community member recently called this soup "the perfect fall recipe." We concur, and we can't get enough of the melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi dumplings.

Slow Cooker Beef-and-Barley Stew

If you were looking for a great comfort food recipe to big batch, freeze, and reheat later, you just found it.

Loaded Mashed Potato Soup

While it's easy to be skeptical about the use of prepackaged mashed potatoes here, you won't notice the difference once this soup comes together. This is simple recipe would also make fantastic practice for the novice cook in your home.

Upside-Down Shepherd's Pie

Turnips give this classic a hint of sweetness, and you can really get creative with the protein as this recipe tastes just as great with ground chicken, turkey, or lamb.

Open-Faced Pimiento Cheese BLTs

If this recipe doesn't scream "classic" at you, you probably haven't spent much time in the South. This is a superfast, super-easy recipe that you could enjoy for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Photo: John Autry and Randy Mayor

If you're interested in receiving customizable meal plans containing these recipes and more, sign up today at Our

Healthy Meal Makeovers

Our made-over versions of favorite dishes, from fettuccine Alfredo to fried chicken, make it easy to eat healthy without sacrificing flavor.

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Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Tara Donne ©Tara Donne

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Lighter Chicken Pot Pie

Crispy Baked "Fried" Chicken

Turkey Meatloaf

Hearty Chicken and Dumplings Lightened Up

Individual Turkey Shepherd's Pie

Three-Cheese Macaroni

Fettuccini Alfredo with Zucchini Ribbons

Portobello Lasagna Rollups

Beef Chili

Healthified Kale and Portobello Lasagna

Baked Fish and Chips

Beef Stroganoff

Low-Fat Chocolate Pudding

Crab Cakes with Spicy Cream

Oven-Fried Chicken

Tuna Noodle Casserole

This nostalgia-inducing tuna casserole tastes just like mom used to make this one's a little lighter and, best of all, ready in just about 40 minutes.

Cherry Ricotta Cheesecake

Lightened-Up Stuffed Peppers

Low-Fat Clam Chowder

Chicken and Biscuit Pot Pie

New Classic Meatloaf

Vegetarian Chili

Macaroni and Four Cheeses

Shepherd's Pie

The classic meat and potato dish gets a healthy makeover with the use of lean ground beef and the addition of cauliflower in the creamy mash.

Overnight French Toast Bake

Quick Pork Goulash

Beef Taco Salad with Chunky Tomato Dressing

Tuna Casserole

Sloppy Joe Baked Potatoes

Baked Nachos with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Butternut Squash and Turkey Chili

Smashed Potatoes with Greek Yogurt and Scallions

Healthy Whole-Wheat Pizza with Arugula-Parsley Pesto

Roasted Cauliflower Lasagna

Spinach and Artichoke Macaroni and Cheese

Turkey and Beef Meatloaf with Cranberry Glaze

Turkey, Kale and Oat Meatballs with Quick Tomato Sauce

Whole-Grain Chocolate-Cherry Bread Twists

Whole-Wheat Brussels Sprout, Squash and Ricotta Pizza

Healthy Sausage in a Pepper

Double Chocolate Pudding Pie

Dark Chocolate Brownies

Vegan Mac 'n' Cheese

This low-fat, dairy-free version of an American classic certainly has the right look, with its creamy orange sauce, thanks to pureed cauliflower, vegan Cheddar and turmeric. We used umami-packed miso paste and nutritional yeast to evoke the savory, nutty quality of cheese.

Healthy Lentil Chili

This hearty vegetarian chili is both nutritious and satisfying, thanks to the protein-packed navy beans and brown lentils. We added a generous dose of dried spices and other pantry staples to boost the flavor and make this dish accessible for any night of the week.

Chicken a la King


Queen of the comfort food dinners in the early 20th century, especially in winter, this steamy rich dish was created with diced chicken, mushrooms, veggies, and sherry cream sauce and served over toast or biscuits. It was crowned in the 1800s, appearing on menus in upscale restaurants, namely in New York City. But in the '50s, Chicken a la King held court in households across the nation. Turkey a la King was just as indulgent, but neither are served as often today as a similar classic: chicken pot pie.

14 Amazing Soul Food Recipes To Master

indulge in a full plate of comfort food with these Southern-inspired classics.

Let crispy bacon, sautéed onions, ham and garlic marniate over your My Recipes collard greens to create this savory side dish.

What’s a classic soul food meal without a signature mac and cheese dish. Go to My Recipes to learn how to makes yours.

Jennifer Davick

Take a bit out of these My Recipes buttermilk biscuits.

Forget Popeye’s and KFC and satisfy your fried chicken needs with this homemade dish, compliments of My Recipes.

Get a soufflé-like texture and none of the hassle with My Recipes’ corn pudding.

Experience succulent pork chops covered in gravy with this My Recipes must have.

My Recipes’ rendition of hashbrowns, chopped chicken, carrots and leeks in between a puffy pastry crust brings out the best of Southern flavor.

No Southern meal is complete without the perfect mashed potatoes. Thank My Recipes for this spud dish.

My Recipes’ pecan peach cobbler is one food experience you don’t want to miss.

Savor in this filling, flavor-filled My Receipes dish that will taste like your grandmother made it!

Greg Dupree

Soul food Sundays are never complete without a delicious chicken fried steak on the table. Go to My Recipes for the recipe.

SL Van Chaplin

With the perfect caramel frosting, My Recipes’ caramel cake is hard to resist.

No soul food meal is complete without a moist, savory pound cake to dig into. Go to My Recipes for the recipe!

My Recipes’ chicken and dumplings is full of flavor, and ready in no time!

25 Best Healthy Comfort Food Ideas That You May Not Realize Are Good for You

You don&rsquot need to have some grand reason for wanting to incorporate more healthy dinner ideas into your weekly routine. Whether you&rsquore trying to be more nutritious, eating more vegetables, or just looking to switch things up, these healthy comfort food ideas are sure to make any dinner crowd ecstatic. These recipes prove that eating healthy doesn&rsquot have to deprive you of some of your favorite foods. While many do count as low-carb recipes, they certainly don&rsquot compromise on flavor. Dishes like the cheesy zucchini lasagna roll ups and creamy cauliflower risotto are healthy spins on classic meals that your whole family will enjoy.

There are several cozy casseroles, like the tuna noodle casserole or Southwest lentil and brown rice casserole that will check off your cheesy cravings. Try some flavorful healthy soup recipes that will please any appetite, such as the chicken pot pie soup or vegetable minestrone. Even your kids will love these family-friendly dinner ideas that put more nutritious spins on some of their favorite meals. Whether you&rsquore looking for vegetarian recipes or chicken or beef dishes, this list has all your bases covered. You&rsquoll be incorporating these easy, healthy comfort foods into your list of weekly meals in no time.

We Ranked Every Trader Joe’s Nonfat Greek Yogurt From Sunscreen-Tasting to Superb

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Our summer mentorship program will feature a host of new mentors we're excited to connect you with, including:

Linda Xu, Entrepreneur and E-Commerce Expert

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Stephanie Cartin, Social Media Expert + Entrepreneur

An entrepreneur at heart, Stephanie walked away from her corporate career in 2012 to follow her passion to launch Socialfly, a leading social-first digital and influencer marketing agency based in New York City. Socialfly has since blossomed to over 30 full-time employees and has been named to Inc. 5000's fastest growing private companies two years in a row. The agency has worked with over 200 well-known brands including Girl Scouts, WeTV, Conair, Nest Fragrances, 20th Century Fox and Univision. Stephanie is the co-host of the Entreprenista Podcast and co-author of Like, Love, Follow: The Entreprenista's Guide to Using Social Media To Grow Your Business. She is also a recent recipient of the SmartCEO Brava award, which recognizes the top female CEOs in New York and a Stevie Award for Women Run Workplace of the Year.

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Healthier macaroni and cheese: Classic comfort food made better

Macaroni and cheese is a classic comfort food. Whether mom made hers from scratch or had some help, the simple bite of noodles and cheese sauce could make the worst day seem less horrible. But, that classic dish has gotten a bad rap. Healthier macaroni and cheese is possible and easy.

I Heart Mac N Cheese, photo provided by I Heart Mac & Cheese

Before anyone gets angry, the classic macaroni and cheese isn&rsquot going to be altered in some tremendous way. A few simple swaps can make a huge difference in the healthier column. With a few of these changes, I&rsquom willing to bet that even the pickiest eater wouldn&rsquot turn her nose up on the swaps.

I Heart Mac & Cheese, located in Southern Florida, knows about mac n&rsquo cheese. The fast casual restaurant serves personalized pasta dishes. From picking your favorite noodle to all the accompanying garnish, noodle fans can eat their favorite combination or create a new dish at each visit.

National Macaroni and Cheese Day, I Love Mac & Cheese, photo provided by I Heart Mac & Cheese

Here are a few ideas from I Heart Mac & Cheese to make some healthier macaroni and cheese just in time for National Noodle Day.

Wheat over white

Just like bread for sandwiches, swapping wheat noodles for white noodles provides a health boost. Wheat noodles offer more whole grains. Whole grains offer more fiber, vitamins and even protein. Fiber can be the biggest boost. Whole grain pasta can have double the amount of fiber than traditional white pasta.

Truthfully, there is minimal taste difference between the two types of pasta. Cooking times may vary, but the two types of pasta are reality the same. Plus, with a delicious cheese sauce, no one would even know the difference.

More from FoodSided

Load up on the vegetables

Who said that macaroni and cheese can&rsquot have vegetables mixed in? Of course, the kids may not be jumping for a bowl filled with broccoli. Still, sneaking in some extra vegetables can be an added health boost. Even a scoop of green peppers, mushrooms, or even some cauliflower can help get another servings of daily vegetables.

Not just noodles, pack on the protein

While a big bowl of noodles is comforting, protein can be added too. Pasta and protein is a best of both worlds combination. From some chicken to ham, there are many combinations that work well. Even a non-traditional combination can add some zest to the traditional bowl of pasta. For example, I Heart Mac & Cheese creates a sandwich combo. Manager Hector Gonzalez recommends &ldquomacaroni and cheese in between two toasted pieces of bread and add short rib to it.&rdquo That option is definitely a protein boost.

Mac and Cheese with pulled pork, photo by Cristine Struble

Be sauce conscious

While cheesy sauces are creamily delicious, those cheese sauces can have higher calories. Switching to a red sauce on occasion can be a more calorie conscious choice. Tomato marinara sauce has fewer calories than a heavier Alfredo sauce. It doesn&rsquot mean that you can&rsquot ever have that cheesy goodness. But occasionally, switch up the sauces, too.

The oven is your friend

Of course, a buttery crumb topping is a tasty condiment to macaroni and cheese. But, extra butter and oil can pack on the calories. Baking the pasta dish can create the flavor and texture without the extra fat. Like those tasty mac n&rsquo cheese balls, which are totally addicting, skip the fryer. Baked those tempting treats in the oven instead. They will still have the perfect crunch, but without the extra fat. It just means that you can extra an extra one with the calories saved.

These ideas are just a few choices to modify the classic macaroni and cheese. While no one has to incorporate all the ideas, the occasional modification can be beneficial.

Life is about moderation, not deprivation. No one could completely give up macaroni and cheese. That&rsquos just too hard of a sacrifice. Healthier macaroni and cheese is easily attainable.

Grilled Salmon

Healthy and simple, grilled fish continues to be a weeknight staple in many American homes. Seasoned just right — with lemon and herbs, for example — the flavor of the fish becomes secondary to its oily richness and meaty texture. Swap out expensive cuts of salmon or swordfish for inexpensive options such as tilapia or catfish. Many of these less costly fish provide similar nutritional benefits and create satisfying meals.

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Grandma Pie With Pepperoni and Pink Sauce

What's more comforting than homemade pizza? Homemade pizza with the word "grandma" attached, of course. After all, grandmas are often associated with delicious, comforting food, and this grandma-style pizza is no exception. What is a Grandma Pie, you ask? It's simply a pizza that gets cooked in a standard baking sheet. They're typically thin crust, but we pumped up this pizza with a fluffy, soft, tender crust instead. Toppings include melty mozzarella, crispy coins of pepperoni, fresh onion, and red sauce made with a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream, which makes this even richer than normal.

50 Best Comfort Food Recipes You'll Make Over and Over Again

What's one thing we all love to turn to when the going gets tough? Food. Food, glorious food (we won't break into song, promise). But we're talking about comfort food, to be specific. And Ree Drummond knows her comfort food&mdashbutter, cream, and cheese take center stage in some of her most popular recipes. "[Butter] adds color, flavor, beauty, and joy to absolutely everything I cook," she says. "I wouldn&rsquot want to live in a world in which butter didn&rsquot exist." Would you? We didn't think so.

That's why we've rounded up lots of hearty beef, chicken, and pasta recipes that don't skimp on buttery, creamy, carby goodness. We've made sure to include the classics like chicken and dumplings, sausage and peppers, and Beef Stroganoff, just to name a few. You might even have a special memory associated with these meals. For Ree, chicken pot pie is the one comfort food that just can't be beat. "Whenever I eat it, I&rsquom transported back to childhood," she says.

There are also dinners with updated twists to add to your list of top pick-me-up meals. For instance, the flank steak with cheesy hash brown waffles will be an immediate favorite, along with the lime chicken quesadillas. Whether it's casserole recipes, Italian dinner ideas, or quick family meals, we're positive that these comfort foods from Ree's kitchen to yours will satisfy all your cravings.


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