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Many people turn to comfort food when it’s grey and gloomy outside, they’re feeling down, or they’ve had a tough day. While what’s comforting is in the eye of the beholder—for you, it might be a chocolate bar or mac and cheese; for someone else, it could be oatmeal or congee—the foods we put into that category are usually warm, gooey, rich, sweet or crunchy.

There’s nothing wrong with using food to help you feel better, as long as you aren’t relying on it as a coping strategy every time something’s amiss. And there are several ways to make your favorite feel-good dish a little bit healthier.

One path to healthy comfort food is to make it yourself. And when you do, bump up the nutrition. Research shows that a few healthy tweaks can make comfort-food recipes even more comforting. Studies have found a link between improved mood and higher intakes of produce, whole grains, and nuts.

Here are some tips for making five common comfort food favorites healthier. Best of all, these options won’t make your dish one bit less delicious.

Chips and Salsa

If you’re in the mood for some tortilla chips, go for baked (which you can make yourself). Black-bean dip, a good veggie-rich salsa (watch for added sugars from store-bought brands) or some homemade guacamole (with good fats, fiber, and potassium) can all be healthy, delicious additions.

Vegetable Lasagna

Lasagna is a comfort-food staple, but it can be trouble if you’re not careful. Like many favorites with lots of ingredients, a cheese-laden lasagna can be overloaded with things like saturated fats. A meatless lasagna, one with vegetables, is healthier. Go with low-fat or fat-free cheese, too. Think about making it with whole-grain pasta.

Spaghetti Squash

Few meals are more reliable than a big, warm dish of spaghetti. As is always the case, though, what’s in the dish, and how it’s prepared, matters. You can use spaghetti squash and take it easy on the carbs. Watch the salt in your sauce and use olive oil to make a heart-happy and stomach-filling meal.

Low-Fat Ice Cream (or Italian Ice)

Some of us believe true comfort lies at the end of a meal — or whenever you decide to break out the dessert. Ice cream, of course, is a favorite. Newer offerings cut back on fat and calories, but be careful: with additives, they may not be as healthy as they seem. Italian ice is also a delicious, healthier option

There you have it — a few mouthwatering delicious healthy comfort foods that prove that healthy eating doesn’t mean deprivation. With some simple and delicious ingredient swaps, you can turn your favorite comfort food into a nourishing dish.

Pro Tip: Try making a few batches of these yummy recipes on meal prep day to have on hand and reheat during the busy week.

Sources:  Consumer Reports, American Heart Association


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