5 RD-Approved Swaps To Make Your Favorite Comfort Foods Healthy

Registered Dietician By Amy Shapiro, M.S., R.D., CDN
Registered Dietician
Amy Shapiro M.S., R.D., CDN, is a registered dietician and the founder and director of Real Nutrition.
Comfort food - macaroni and cheese baked with bread crumbs and herbs
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During winter, thoughts of getting cozy on the couch, eating grounding foods, and drinking full-bodied red wines are all too common. Hunkering down is the human version of hibernation. But as we approach spring, our attitudes begin to shift, and all the comforting foods naturally begin to lighten up as cravings and nutrition goals change.

To help out during the transitioning seasons, I've created healthier versions of some classic comfort foods. Indulge on the lighter side and wake your body up, from the inside out, with these five recipes:

1. Pizza

I may love pizza, but unfortunately, pizza doesn't love me back. After an NYC slice (the only kind I'll eat), I tend to feel sluggish and bloated. Insert an almond flour crust, plant-based cheese, and I can enjoy the classic pizza flavors without the repercussions.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 almond flour tortilla (I use Siete Family Foods)
  • 1 tbsp. Marinara sauce (I use Rao's)
  • ¼ cup shredded vegan mozzarella cheese (I use Miyoko's)
  • 1 cup chopped veggies (I like broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach, but use your favorites)

Method:

  1. Layer on all ingredients.
  2. Put in the oven on broil for 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbling.
  3. Add red pepper flakes for extra spice.
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2. Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is something I often whip up for my kids but typically avoid myself. However, once I came across this Broccoli and Cheeze bowl from Daily Harvest, I felt like a kid again!

The sweet potato puree and nutritional yeast make it cheesy, while the riced broccoli and cauliflower make this "noodle" dish gluten-free and low-carb. Add a dash of hot sauce if that's your thing, and enjoy it out of the bowl or on top of a baked potato.

3. Hot Chocolate

Sure, spring is coming, but that doesn't mean the sun is here to stay just yet. Cold weather is lingering, and April showers are the perfect time to enjoy a cup of something chocolate. Swapping nut milk and raw cacao for typical ingredients turn this into a decadent but not indulgent sweet treat.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbsp. raw cacao powder
  • 2 tsp. maple syrup
  • ¼ tsp. ground ginger
  • ⅛ tsp. sea salt
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • Coconut whipped topping, if desired

Method:

  1. Heat milk on the stovetop.
  2. Whisk in cacao, syrup, ginger, and sea salt.
  3. Pour into your favorite mug, and sprinkle with cinnamon.
  4. Top with coconut whipped topping, if desired.

For a quick hack: Try a mushroom elixir with cacao, blend with heated almond milk add cinnamon, and enjoy!

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4. Veggie Toast

Of course I love veggies, but I really love when I can repurpose them in creative ways. Have you ever tried slicing green cabbage into rounds and using it as a "toast" surface? Well, now you can! 

I slice my head of cabbage vertically—with the stem (or root) on the bottom—into quarter-inch rounds. Then I top the "toast" with a variety of toppings. This swap can work for breakfast or lunch, but the few I have on rotation right now include:

  • Cashew cream cheese topped with smoked salmon and everything bagel seasoning
  • Honey mustard and sliced turkey breast
  • Mashed avocado, sliced tomatoes, and pesto

Sound too green for you? Simply swap the cabbage for sliced sweet potato. Just run it through your toaster a few times, and you're set.

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5. Almond flour for breadcrumbs

OK, so this one isn't a recipe, but it's a great ingredient swap. I don't typically bread my foods, but when a recipe calls for it, I've found almond flour works really well in place of breadcrumbs.

I'll use almond flour to coat flounder fillets, organic chicken fingers, and in my meatball recipes instead (sub 1:1 ratio for breadcrumbs). Extra bonus: There aren't any complaints from my family! The whole food addition, blood sugar regulation, and hunger-satisfying swap allow us to all eat comfort foods together! 

Dredge, coat, or mix away, and feel great about what you are putting into your body and feel lighter in the new season.

Now that you have some meals in mind, it's time to spring clean your energy.

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