6 Sneaky Ways to Make Comfort Food Healthier

Winter’s arrived and with it comes peak comfort food season. The short gloomy days and cold weather invite us to stay indoors, under a warm blanket, with our favorite comforting foods until spring.

I love comfort food. And it’s not just me; you like comfort food too. We all do because that’s how our brains work. Researchers found that comfort foods are a result of our association with happy memories, which means they make us feel good and feel less lonely when we’re isolated.

Of course, what dishes count as comfort food varies from person to person. According to Jordan Troisi, an assistant professor of psychology at Sewanee, The University of The South, people care more about the meaning behind the food than the food itself. “It’s not just that ice cream, for instance, is really tasty. It’s that someone has developed a significant meaning behind the idea of ice cream due to their relationships with others,” he says.

Tips, Tricks, and Sneaky Ways to Make Comfort Food Healthier

While our comfort food choices may not be the same, hearty, bready, sticky, fatty, and cheesy foods top many craving lists of people everywhere. These types of foods can spell disaster for a healthy eating plan. But it doesn’t have to. Let’s talk about some easy ways to lighten up some of our favorite comfort foods.


Zucchini Noodles with Vegan Lemon Cream Sauce from Simply Quinoa

1. Swap out regular wheat pasta.

Choose healthier alternatives like zucchini noodles — often called zoodles — butternut squash noodles, or even beet noodles. Making vegetable noodles is one of my favorite ways to sneak more vegetables into my diet. This Avocado Pesto Zoodle recipe is full of comforting flavors. For even more options check out these five surprisingly tasty pasta alternatives.


Cauliflower Rice Burrito Bowl from Minimalist Baker

2. Lighten starch-filled rice dishes by replacing rice with cauliflower or parsnip rice.

Here’s a basic recipe for cauliflower rice recipe, or you can try this more involved but delicious-looking Parsnip Rice with Hemp Seeds, Peas, and Basil from The Full Helping.


Cauliflower Parsnip Mash with Roasted Garlic from Love and Lemons

3. Do the same with mashed potatoes.

Speaking of cauliflower, this remarkable vegetable also works well for lightening up mashed potatoes either as a mix-in or complete stand-in for potatoes. Here is a Basic Mashed Cauliflower recipe, but cauliflower isn’t the only vegetable that can make a great mash. Parsnips are another flavorful option, like this Roasted Parsnip and Caramelized Onion Mash.


Sharp White Cheese Sauce from Veggies Don’t Bite

4. Ditch the creamy dairy-rich sauces.

Instead, look to healthy fats like avocados, seeds or nuts like cashews. You’ll be amazed at how decadently rich (and healthy) that they can be. This Avocado Lime Crema is perfect for topping tacos or burritos, and this Smoky Cashew Cream Sauce is a healthy alternative for topping pasta, steamed vegetables, or even baked potatoes.

Hasselback Pear Recipe - Care2

Hasselback Pears from Salted Plains

5. Satisfy your sweet tooth the healthy way.

Swap out milk chocolate for it’s healthier counterpart, dark chocolate. Replace refined sugars for a whole food sweetener such as fresh or dried fruit as a way of satiating your sweet tooth while keeping your overall sugar consumption low. Try these 3-Ingredient Pancakes with Fresh Berry Syrup. Delicious!


No-Bake Black Bean Fudge Brownies from The Big Man’s World

6. Make it with beans!

Beans make an excellent secret weapon, not only are they full of fiber to fill you up (and keep you full), they’re also easy to make savory or sweet. I know what you’re thinking, desserts made with beans? Yes! Mashed black beans are the ideal vehicle for rich, fudgy Black Bean Brownies. White beans love sweets too, just look at these Maple Pecan White Bean Blondies. More than just brownies though, beans can also make a great savory flour-less gravy like this Navy Bean Gravy.

Do you have a sneaky trick to make comfort food that I didn’t mention? I want to know! Share it in the comments.

Related at Care2:


John B
John B22 days ago

Thanks KD for sharing the tips.

Daniela M
Daniela M1 months ago

Interesting ideas. Thank you.

natasha p
Past Member 1 months ago

great tips! I love cashew cheese!!!1

Paulo R
Paulo R2 months ago


Sonia M

thanks for sharing

Stephanie s
Stephanie s2 months ago

Thank you

Cathy B
Cathy B2 months ago

All look so yummy! Thank you.

John B
John B2 months ago

Thank KD for sharing the options.

Lesa D
Lesa D2 months ago

comfortably sneaky!!!

thank you KD...

Angela K
Angela K2 months ago

thanks for sharing