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.