Craving Comfort Foods?

By Staci O’Connor MS, RD, CLC, CDN

Now that winter has arrived in full-force, spend some time indoors cooking some of your favorite comfort foods!  Here are a few popular foods with tips on how to make them healthier!

Chicken Nuggets

-Pulse a couple of slices of stale whole wheat bread, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and your favorite spices in the food processor. 

-Dip chicken breast tenders in a beaten egg, then breadcrumbs. 

-Bake 10 to 15 minutes at 350 F until golden brown.

Mac and Cheese

Cut unhealthy saturated fat out by revamping your cheese sauce. Use reduced-fat cheese and 1% milk and mix it with whole wheat pasta or try putting it over quinoa or brown rice pasta.  But if you are concerned about the creaminess try to replace half of the shredded cheese with low-fat cottage cheese or try using mashed cauliflower. 

Serves 4, Prep:  10 minutes / Cook time:  50 min


2 ½ cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 bay leaves

1 cauliflower

8 ounces whole-wheat elbow macaroni

½ cup reduced-fat grated cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Salt and pepper

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup whole-grain bread crumbs


1.  Heat oven to 400 F.  Boil a pot of water.  In a saucepan, warm stock and bay leaves on medium-low heat for 5 minutes; turn off heat.  Cook cauliflower in stock for 25 minutes.  Take out bay leaves and process cauliflower in a food processor.  Cook pasta in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Drain and rinse to cool; put pasta in a greased nine-inch square baking dish.  Add cheese, oil, mustard, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to cauliflower.  Pour sauce over pasta, toss, and spread evenly in dish.  Top with Parmesan and bread crumbs and bake for 20 minutes.


Trim the fat out of this hearty dish by using lean ground beef or lean turkey or skip the meat and use several types of beans and add lots of colorful vegetables. You can add tomatoes, sautéed squash, green beans, peppers, and onions to add fiber. You can also cut the sodium out by rinsing beans and using other seasonings instead of salt. Top off your chili with reduced-fat cheese and low-fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

1 large onion, chopped

1 large orange, red, or yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 ½ pounds of lean ground turkey breast

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes

1 can (15 ounces) no-salt-added tomato sauce

1 can (15 ounces) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons chili powder to taste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ cup low-fat Greek yogurt

½ cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese


1.  Add olive oil to a large pot or Dutch oven, and sauté the onion, bell pepper, and garlic over medium-high heat.  Add the turkey and break up with a wooden spoon, cooking for 5 minutes, or until the turkey turns white and is no longer pink.  Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, pinto beans, chili powder, cumin and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil on medium-high heat.

2.  Cover, turn down the heat to medium-low and cook on medium for 1 to 1 ½ hours.

3.  Ladle into bowls and top with 1 tablespoon of Greek yogurt and 1 tablespoon of reduced-fat shredded cheese.  Add a few dashes of Tabasco sauce or jalapeno slices if desired.

Burritos and Tacos

Healthy eating on Mexican night can be easy.

-Use whole wheat tortillas.

-Fill with 90% lean meat or fajita-style chicken.

-Add fat-free refried beans or black or pinto beans for fiber.

-Layer in veggies like peppers, tomatoes, squash, and corn kernels.

-Top with ¼ cup (or less) reduced-fat shredded cheese and Greek yogurt or add a few slices of avocado

Some recipes adapted from: Runnersworld & WebMd