Comfort Foods Made Healthy
Using Easy Ingredient Swaps for Comfort Food Makeovers
Craving comfort food, but also want to stick to your health goals? While it might be delicious, comfort food is usually heavy. Luckily, comforting food doesn't have to be.
We’ve put together a list of 11 easy ingredient swaps to help make your favorite recipes a bit healthier. But that’s not all – we also put these ingredient swaps in play to give a few favorite comfort foods a healthy makeover. These good-for-you comfort foods will hit the spot but won’t weigh you down or leave you feeling sluggish either. Talk about a win-win.
EASY INGREDIENT SWAPS
- SUGAR – Swap for unsweetened applesauce or vanilla extract.
- Use unsweetened applesauce in place of sugar to keep the sweetness without the extra sugar and calories. Tip: Substitute applesauce for sugar in a 1:1 ratio – swap 1 cup sugar for 1 cup applesauce. Make sure to decrease the amount of liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup for each cup of applesauce used.
- Wanting to keep some of the sugar? You can cut the amount of sugar in half and add one teaspoon of vanilla extract, which will intensify the sweetness of the sugar. With about 774 calories in one cup of sugar, you’ll save nearly 400 calories if you simply use half, plus your vanilla extract.
- BUTTER – Swap for avocado or bananas.
- Making frosting? Avocados are a great substitute for butter since they are both fats and have a similar consistency. Replace the butter in your recipe with the same amount of avocado purée. You’ll get the same creamy texture but with added nutrients and less sugar – and don’t worry, you won’t be able to taste the avocado! Great news – this applies to other desserts (besides frosting), too.
- Use mashed ripe (or even overripe) bananas to get the same creamy, thickening power of butter in your baking recipes. Replace in a 1:1 ratio. You’ll significantly cut unwanted calories and saturated fat from your dessert, while giving it a nutritious boost of potassium, fiber and B vitamins from the banana. And most importantly, no one will be able to taste the difference!
- VEGETABLE OIL – Swap for pumpkin puree or coconut oil.
- Replace vegetable oil with unsweetened pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin in a 1:1 ratio. Vegetable oils contain unhealthy fats that we should limit in our diets. Pumpkin puree is the perfect substitute to lower the fat and up the healthy vitamins and minerals in your baked goods. We should note that this swap adds a little sweetness and fluff to your baked goods, so the texture might be slightly different.
- Another great option is to simply substitute with coconut oil. The healthy fats in coconut oil easily outweigh the limited health benefits of vegetable oil.
- CREAM – Swap for coconut milk.
- Making a soup that calls for heavy cream? Use coconut milk instead to decrease fat content without sacrificing on flavor or texture.
- MAYONNAISE – Swap for mashed avocado or Greek yogurt.
- Skip the full-fat mayo and add some mashed avocado Both add some moisture and have a smooth texture, but avocado is full of healthy fats and delicious (as if we needed to tell you that). For a healthy spin on your favorite classics, forego the mayo and mash in some avocado when making tuna, chicken, or egg salad. Another great idea – spread half a mashed avocado instead of mayo on any sandwich.
- Greek yogurt is also a great substitute for mayo. Just add some herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice, and they’ll taste almost identical.
- SOUR CREAM – Swap for Greek yogurt.
- Replicate the velvety tanginess of sour cream with unsweetened nonfat Greek yogurt. It’s just as thick and creamy as sour cream but with less fat and calories and more than double the lean protein. Greek yogurt is the perfect, lighter choice to mix into a favorite dip, use as a taco topping, plop on a baked potato, add a dollop to a bowl of chili or incorporate into a salad dressing. Boost your protein intake and better satisfy your hunger with this simple swap!
- WHITE FLOUR – Swap for whole-wheat flour or oats.
- Replace white flour with whole-wheat flour to add a new dimension of nutrients, flavor, and texture. Your taste buds and your health will thank you. Whole-wheat flour is high in fiber, which aids in digestion and helps keep you “regular.”
- Another way to add a boost of nutrition and texture is to swap out white flour for oats or oat bran. The high fiber and protein content in oats will help keep you full longer, and as always, the extra dose of protein will help you maintain lean muscle. Baking bonus: Oats and oat bran hold moisture well so your baked goods won't be dry.
- WHITE PASTA – Swap for zoodles, spaghetti squash or plant-based alternative pastas.
- Zoodles, or zucchini noodles, are a great stand-in for pastas. No boiling needed – simply sauté them for a quick, low-carb, nutrient-packed entrée.
- Spaghetti squash is another awesome low-carb substitute for pasta. Just roast, pull apart with a fork, and enjoy!
- Veggie noodles not your thing? You can also opt for plant-based alternative pastas, e.g. chickpea or lentil pasta, which are gluten-free and packed with protein. With a powerful combo of carbohydrates and lean protein, these pastas are a great way to support your healthy, active lifestyle.
- MASHED WHITE POTATOES – Swap for mashed cauliflower or sweet potatoes.
- Switch up the standard mashed white potato recipe by using cauliflower for a creamy mash. This veggie is full of nutritious vitamins and minerals and is a great way to easily add more vegetables to your diet.
- Not only are they delicious (even better than regular white potatoes in our opinion), but sweet potatoes are nutritious, antioxidant-rich, high-fiber and very filling. Add them to your list of post-workout refueling foods ASAP.
- RICE – Swap for riced cauliflower.
- Swap rice for riced cauliflower to up your veggie intake. This vegetable alternative feels almostlike the real thing and is high in vitamins and fiber. You can make your own in a food processor or its conveniently sold in pre-riced frozen packages at the grocery store. Just flavor with the spices and seasonings you would typically add to your rice dishes.
- FATTY MEAT – Swap for leaner meat, poultry, fish, tofu, beans or legumes.
- Cut down on saturated fat by making these cleaner protein swaps – ground turkey for ground beef, white-meat (skinless) poultry for dark-meat poultry, and bison for beef. Along with ground turkey and chicken, soy crumbles are also a great vegetarian alternative to ground beef. Soy tastes the same as beef, but without all the saturated fat. As for the white meat versus dark meat debate, white meat chicken is lower in fat and higher in protein. In addition to tofu, beans can easily be used instead of meat in most recipes to make them vegetarian. Beans add a good amount of protein and fiber to a dish. We recommend making these simple swaps to consume less saturated fat in order to support your health and fitness goals.
COMFORT FOOD MAKEOVERS
What about a stack of light, fluffy pancakes doesn’t sound comforting? Nothing. However, pancakes are typically high in refined carbs and low in nutritional value – not something we describe as “the breakfast of champions.” These cottage cheese pancakes are high in protein and fiber, and added bonus, they’re a cinch to make and so delicious!
Rolled oats provide nutritious whole grains and loads of fiber, which supports healthy digestion. The addition of vanilla flavored protein powder and protein-packed cottage cheese are game-changers. This particular recipe uses the Herbalife Nutrition® Herbalife24®Rebuild Strength vanilla milkshake flavored recovery supplement, but you can use any variety of protein powder you’d like. Protein, usually absent in pancakes, helps keep you full, promotes muscle recovery and supports lean muscle maintenance and growth. Whether you’re recovering from a morning workout or just beginning the day, these high-protein pancakes will get your brain and body powered up to tackle the day.
Click here for the high-protein cottage cheese pancake recipe.
- FRIED RICE
Our favorite Chinese take-out dishes are often the highest in sodium, fat, and calories.
Fried rice is typically high in in sodium, fat, and calories, and despite the bit of peas and carrots, it’s light on the veggies, too. How do you give this an easy, healthy makeover? Cue the cauliflower. This vitamin-rich veggie is a high-fiber, lower-calorie swap for rice. Using cauliflower rice in your favorite fried rice recipe retains all the delicious flavors while reducing the carbs – eliminating some guilt when you go for seconds.
Not ready to let go of your rice? No problem; go half-and-half. You can still bump up the vegetable servings by using half regular rice and half riced cauliflower. Keeping half of the rice makes the meal more filling and is a great way to refuel your brain and body after a hard day’s work or an intense workout.
Now the best part about fried rice is that it is completely customizable to your taste. Choose your favorite lean protein – chicken, pork, shrimp or tofu – to help satisfy hunger and support lean muscle maintenance and growth. As for the veggies, the options are endless and don’t be shy. Boost your meals nutrition by adding a mix of veggies, such as onions, corn, zucchini, broccoli, peas and carrots. Don’t stop there – if you have more veggies just lingering in your fridge, feel free to add those in as well.
- MAC AND CHEESE
Mac and cheese is a cult-favorite when it comes to comfort food. As much as we love it, the food coma that ensues afterwards is less appealing. An easy solution – bulk it up with some chicken and broccoli. This will boost the nutrition and staying power you’ll get from your mac. This can also be a great time to choose a protein-enriched pasta, like chickpea or lentil pasta. You can also create a healthier sauce using light shredded cheese and a fat-free cottage cheese. If you’re on a vegan diet, you can whip up a cheese alternative using nutritional yeast as the primary ingredient, along with some nut milk, tahini, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, and salt. These sauces are packed with lean protein and flavor, with less fat and calories. Enjoy your comfort food while supporting your health and sports/exercise performance, too!
*While we promote making healthy swaps in comfort food dishes like these, we also encourage everyone to enjoy the traditional versions occasionally, guilt-free! This post is meant to empower you to make healthy choices and not meant to create fear or stress around eating the ingredients on the swap list. Truly, all foods fit in moderation.
Nutrition for the win!
Brooke & Nicolette