Comfort Food Hacks for a Healthy Meal

healthy macaroni and cheese
Courtesty of

Comfort food doesn’t have to be bad for you. You might associate it with meals that are high in calories and fat, but there are plenty of ways to satisfy your hunger without breaking the calorie bank. Here are five ways to make your favorite comfort foods healthier.

Butternut Squash to Make French Fries and Mac 'n Cheese

Butternut squash is one of the most underrated foods out there. Delicious, dense, and still it manages to be low in calories and carbs. A fantastic to use butternut squash is to turn it into baked French fries: Just cut the squash into fry-shaped spears, sprinkle them with salt, and bake at 425 degrees for 35-40 minutes (flipping halfway through). There you have it: low-calorie, low-fat, baked-not-fried fries. The gourd is also a fantastic way to supersize your mac and cheese.

Maximize Potatoes and Trade Rice for Cauliflower

Cauliflower is trendy for a reason. The cruciferous veggie is an all-star comfort food swap. Craving mashed potatoes? Go halfsies with potatoes and cauliflower: It’ll super-size your portion without super-sizing the calorie count. And since the cauliflower has such a mild flavor, you’ll barely notice a difference in the taste. The veggie is also a fantastic swap for rice. Just pulse it in a blender, and you’ve got yourself rice-sized pieces with a fraction of the calories.

Spaghetti Squash Wherever You’d Use Noodles

If you’re into healthy swaps (and you wouldn’t be reading this unless you are), you definitely need to know about spaghetti squash. Just 42 calories for a cup of the noodle-like strands, and it’s the perfect substitution for spaghetti in all your favorite pasta dishes.

High-Volume Veggies to Bulk Up Meatloaf

Meatloaf doesn’t have to be a calorie disaster. Start with extra-lean ground beef, and mix it with tasty vegetables like chopped bell pepper, onion, and mushrooms. Now you've got yourself a big portion of meatloaf with a fraction of the usual calories. Those same veggies are also a great way to bulk up the portion sizes (and cut the calorie content) of taco meat and beefy macaroni. To sum it up: When in doubt, add vegetables.

Replace Oil, Butter, and Eggs With Canned Pumpkin 

You’re going to want to sit down for this one: A box of cake mix and a can of pumpkin are all you need to make rich and fudgy brownies. And no, you won't taste the pumpkin. It just gives your treats a deliciously moist texture. Make portion-controlled treats in a muffin pan.

Was this page helpful?