I love my comfort food but sometimes I get the sneaking suspicion that I really shouldn’t be having comfort food all the time. Yes, it’s supposed to be comforting, but why not try making comfort food comforting while also a little healthier? Below I’ve included 5 alternatives that you could incorporate into your meal planning to make your favourite comfort food recipes slightly healthier!
1. Lettuce-Wrapped Burgers
A simple alternative that slightly lowers your carb intake when you’re craving a burger is wrapping your burger in lettuce instead of a burger bun or go sans burger bun altogether! Sometimes I even cut up my burger and toss it with a salad or rice for a change!
What I love about having lettuce leaves sandwich my burger is not only the fact that it makes the burger slightly healthier but also because I love the crunchiness of the iceberg lettuce. Holly of Life in the Lofthouse recommends using iceberg or romaine lettuce to really get that crunch.
2. Cauliflower Fried Rice
Now I looove a good fried rice and have recently jumped on the cauliflower rice bandwagon. Rather than simply replacing regular rice with cauliflower rice, I thought I’d share Alyssa’s recipe from The Recipe Critic where she makes cauliflower fried rice. Double the yum, double the goodness without sacrificing flavour or fulfilment.
You can really modify how you like, adding extra veggies that you love to the mix. To make the rice itself is super easy: rinse and chop the cauliflower and then pulse in a food processor until it achieves the texture of rice. A really yummy and savoury dish that can be made with alternatives such as cauliflower and other veggies for added nutrition!
3. Healthier Mac N’ Cheese
Well, if you’ve read my other comfort food article you’d know how much I looove macaroni and cheese. It might just be my favourite comfort food out there. But, I have to say, having it often really isn’t in the cards. I’ve toyed with learning how to make a healthier version of macaroni and cheese for a long time but haven’t done so until recently, especially now that I’ve reached my peak point of eating way too much mac and cheese in a short span of time.
One problem with traditional macaroni and cheese is that it doesn’t really have a lot of nutrients in it. It’s usually elbow pasta, and a whole lot of butter and cheese. While that may taste scrumptious in the moment, it really doesn’t fuel us with anything essential to our bodies in the long run. Thus, I think any healthier alternative to the ultimate macaroni and cheese is to cut down on fats and add nutrients in its place, without sacrificing flavour and without taking away too much from traditional mac and cheese. So, my advice, pack on those veggies.
Lindsay from Pinch of Yum combines Gruyère cheese with butternut squash for a creamy and nutritious alternative. Yes, there is butter in her recipe, but, baby steps. I imagine there are recipes that cut out butter altogether, but if you’re looking for a smoother transition, think about cutting down the amount of butter you use rather than omitting it entirely, packing your dish with tons of veggies (or using a puree a root veggie for your sauce), and using almond or cashew milk instead of dairy milk. All of these alternatives will ensure that you can have your favourite comfort foods while also getting the nutrients you need to fuel your body — and your soul.
4. No Butter Butter Chicken
Okay, okay, I know what you must be thinking. How can this be a butter chicken recipe if it has no butter in it? My boyfriend asked me the same thing. I’d wager it takes a little bit of looking outside the box, but once you try this recipe, you’ll forget all about the name of this yummy dish.
Mary from The Kitchen Paper replaces the butter and heavy cream with nonfat Greek yogurt. As she herself says, it won’t taste the exact same as butter chicken. How can it when it doesn’t have seriously the main ingredients that typically make it stand out as butter chicken? But, it does promise to be an alternative version to butter chicken, with healthier substitute ingredients, that doesn’t skimp out on flavour.
I’m a huge fan of Indian food and butter chicken in particular, and there’s a part of me that thinks, “Why mess with a good thing?” The good thing being the heavy cream, the butter, mmmm. But I owed it to myself to get curious about how we could make comfort foods healthier and make myself feel better physically while eating comfort food.
In all honesty, I want all of my food to be comfort food, but my body couldn’t handle all of those carbs and calories if I had traditional comfort food on the daily, so this was a happy compromise. Be prepared to indulge in the best and guiltless way possible with this recipe!
5. Avocado Brownies
Even though this is a dessert, I absolutely consider brownies to be part of my comfort food list. But, I know I can’t eat traditional brownies all the time, so I pondered what alternative ingredients might make them a little bit healthier. Well, in comes the queen (or king!) or alternatives: avocado. The thicker consistency of the avocado makes it a perfect substitution for butter, making whatever dish wherein you use avocados moist and packed with all the good fats!
Erin from Well Plated has a delicious recipe that offers the same taste of traditional brownies but with the addition of avocados, replacing most of the butter in the recipe. She does include a little bit of butter to add that extra oomph of flavour, but most of it is replaced with avocado. Yum! Erin also offers replacements/alternatives if you want to make the recipe vegan (coconut oil and flax eggs) or if you want to sweeten your brownies more naturally (pure maple syrup + coconut sugar).