How to turn “comfort food” into “healthy food”

In the heart of the winter months, what better time to introduce recipes that provide a little comfort? The problem is that often comfort food is not associated with healthy food. So how can we change this?

There are plenty of ways to modify (or “healthify”) a recipe to make it something that will not only tickle your tastebuds, but will satisfy that comfort craving. For example, when you consider preparing a “healthy” meal, does lasagna come to mind? Probably not. However, if you can learn how to make healthful tweaks to recipes, then no recipe or meal is ever off-limits.

I hope you can use the tips below (that I applied to “healthifying” this month’s featured Scruffy Winter Lasagna) to apply to any recipe that you feel is indulgent and not deserving of a healthy title.

How to turn “comfort food” into “healthy food”

1. Build any recipe into the “concept of the plate” model, whereby:

  • ½ your plate = veggies
  • ¼ plate = high fibre starch
  • ¼ plate = lean protein

2. Identify what part of the plate your recipe fulfills:

  • Is it starch? Protein? Veggies? A combination?
  • For example, the Scruffy Lasagna with chicken provides a starch <pasta>, protein <chicken>, and some veggies (however, not ½ a plate’s worth – meaning we need more!)

3. Cut back on the fat the recipe calls for to reduce calories:

  • Use <1 tbsp oil (or an olive oil spray) for the entire recipe
  • Use skim milk if the recipe calls for milk/cream
  • Reduce any additional fats (for example, the original lasagna recipe called for 4 slices of bacon, and we used 2 instead)

4. Maximize fibre:

  • Focus on whole grains – use whole wheat pasta noodles instead of white pasta to boost fibre & nutrition!

5. Choose lean proteins, for example:

  • Swap chicken thighs for chicken breast to lighten things up
  • Use ground turkey instead of ground beef, or do half and half!

6. Build more veggies into the recipe itself, for example:

  • The Scruffy Winter Lasagna sauce calls for cabbage, fennel, celery, and mushrooms – don’t be afraid to add more than is called for to boost nutrition

7. Finally, when plating, fill ½ your plate with salad or steamed veggies before serving yourself the main meal.  Remember, you CAN indulge your taste buds without the guilt. Our lasagna meal pictured above is only ~450 calories! Now that’s what I call comfort food!

In case you missed it, find the recipe for the Scruffy Winter Lasagna here.


Are you interested in how to incorporate healthier habits into your lifestyle? Check out Copeman’s definitive guide to