How to Make Your Favorite Comfort Foods Healthier

Plate of French fries, a common comfort food

Comfort foods are high-calorie, high-fat, and/or high-sugar foods that make us feel happy by triggering the brain’s reward system. We may turn to foods like cake, cookies, mashed potatoes, biscuits or pie on a cold winter day, during a stressful time, or just because they taste good.

Comfort foods are especially appealing during the cold winter months because they’re often warm, rich and soothing. Instead of letting yourself fall into a rut with food this winter, try the tips below to keep things interesting and healthy.

Why Do We Crave Comfort Foods?

  • Foods high in sugar and fat stimulate your reward system and make you feel good. After a few bites, you may find that your mood improves. You remember this feeling and start wanting these foods more often.
  • They taste good. Who doesn’t want a delicious piece of chocolate cake or warm and gooey macaroni and cheese? Foods high in fat and sugar can be hard to turn down.
  • They are familiar to us and bring back memories. Does meatloaf take you back to your childhood dinners? Do warm sugar cookies remind you of your grandmother? These foods can trigger happy memories, making them taste even better.
  • Foods help fill an emotional void — or at least we think they do. We often lean on them to cope with sadness, boredom, anger and stress.

Making Comfort Foods Healthier

Just because they’re typically high in sugar, fat and calories doesn’t mean you have to give up comfort foods completely! Try modifying your favorite dishes to make them healthier.

  • Instead of ice cream, try low-fat frozen yogurt. Add some berries on top for extra fiber and nutrients.
  • Looking for creamy mashed potatoes? To reduce carbs and calories, replace half of the potatoes with cauliflower. Your family may not even notice a difference.
  • Want to have a pizza night? Try thin crust, extra sauce and go light on the cheese. Top it with some veggies to give your pizza a boost of nutrition.
  • Decide to have less. Maybe a modification isn’t the way to go. Instead, try reducing your portion sizes first. You may find that you feel more satisfied by eating what you like in smaller quantities.
  • Looking for something crunchy? Instead of chips and dip, try veggies and dip or pretzels and hummus.
  • If cake sounds good, try choosing angel food cake with berries instead of regular cake with thick icing.
  • Pasta and rice are ultimate comfort foods. Try to reduce your portion sizes by adding low-calorie options to these dishes. For example, add zucchini to your spaghetti or extra veggies to your stir fry.

Healthy Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

Source: SkinnyTaste.com


  • 1 cup quick cooking rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil*
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar-free dark chocolate chips, such as Lily’


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the rolled oats, almond flour, baking powder and salt. Mix together. Add the honey, egg, melted coconut oil, vanilla extract and egg. Mix until the ingredients are well combined. Stir in the dark chocolate chips.

Drop the dough by level tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until they are lightly golden brown.

Let the cookies cool on a baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 24.


Take healthy eating one day at a time and find an approach that works for you. You can eat your favorite comfort foods in moderation, make healthier substitutions to lighten them up, and find other ways to cope with difficult emotions that don’t center around food.

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