10 Healthy Fall Comfort Food Recipes

Healthy fall comfort foods

Verywell / Zoe Hansen

The changing seasons make it natural to crave warm, delicious comfort food. Hearty fare like meatloaf, chili, and casseroles naturally go hand-in-hand with crisp autumn days. Unfortunately, many stick-to-your-ribs favorites come with some nutritional downsides.

If you’re trying to eat healthier—but still want to enjoy the comfort foods of fall—you’re in luck. We’ve rounded up 10 meals and sides that’ll warm you from the inside out without robbing you of the nutrients your body needs. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to fall, try any of these nutritious, lightened-up options.

Simple One-Pot Vegan Chili

Simple One-Pot Vegan Chili

Verywell Fit / Dana Angelo White

Tailgating? Bring the (healthy) party with this simple one-pot vegan chili. It’s full of chunky veggies, savory tomatoes, and filling beans—you’ll never miss the meat. At just 168 calories per serving, it’s a weight loss-friendly, plant-based meal. 

Despite a long ingredient list, prepping this recipe is quite simple. Once you’ve sautéed the veggies in olive oil, seasoned, and added beans and tomatoes, you can go for an autumn stroll while the whole thing simmers for 30 minutes.

Healthy Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

Healthy crock pot mac and cheese

Getty Images / John Svoboda

Nothing says comfort food like mac and cheese. Lighten things up with this step-by-step guide to building a healthy crock pot mac and cheese

At each step, from picking your pasta to switching on the slow cooker, you’ll have the chance to spice up this classic. High-fiber elbow macaroni, a lower-fat cheese like Swiss or Parmesan, and nutrient-rich additions like cauliflower are all options for crafting a feel-good meal.

Noodle-Free Zucchini Lasagna

Noodle-free zucchini lasagna

Shaunia Mckenzie / EyeEm / Getty Images

If you’re going low-carb, you may have lamented the loss of beloved pasta dishes like lasagna. Fortunately, even those on a low-carb lifestyle can enjoy this noodle-free zucchini lasagna. Here, zucchini strips get layered with ricotta, ground beef, sauce, and extra veggies for a finished product that’s big on flavor. People on a gluten-free diet can also savor a slice of this meaty Italian dish. 

Roast Chicken with Homemade Gravy

Roast chicken with homemade gravy

Verywell Fit / Patsy Catsos, MS, RDN, LD

Though squarely in the comfort food category, roast chicken can be surprisingly nutritious. High in protein and low in carbs, a slow-roasted bird works well for anyone eating Paleo or low-carb (or anyone who enjoys a supremely flavorful meal).

This roast chicken with homemade gravy uses cornstarch to bypass any digestive issues with wheat flour. It also opts out of added butter, letting the bird’s natural juices create a gravy. Once you’ve roasted the chicken to crispy-skinned perfection, finish off the meal with some fiber-rich sweet potatoes, sautéed green beans, or steamed carrots.

Crock Pot Ropa Vieja

Crock pot ropa vieja

Sarah Bossert / E+ / Getty Images

If you know a little Spanish, you might deduce the meaning of ropa vieja: old clothes! By cooking slowly for hours in the slow cooker, the beef in this hearty crock pot ropa vieja ends up resembling old, tattered clothes (but tastes so much better than that, we promise).

Ropa vieja is made with chuck roast. The addition of antioxidant-rich tomatoes and red and green bell peppers boost the nutritional value in this recipe. Meanwhile, low-sodium tomato paste and a mere tablespoon of beef broth keep sodium relatively low. When ready to serve, shred the beef and layer it on rice—and be sure to save leftovers for tasty next-day tacos or enchiladas.

Healthy Chicken Stroganoff

Healthy chicken stroganoff

Verywell Fit / Patsy Catsos, MS, RDN, LD

Stroganoff is, of course, traditionally made with beef, but this healthy chicken stroganoff proves that poultry goes just as well as beef with mushrooms and a sour cream gravy.

Besides swapping beef for leaner, lighter chicken, this recipe has a few other tricks up its sleeve. Its gravy is made with sorghum flour—perfect for gluten-free eaters—while reduced-sodium chicken broth and lactose-free sour cream mean others on special diets can get in on the creamy deliciousness. Meanwhile, the whole thing is low in FODMAPs, the short-chain carbohydrates that may trigger symptoms in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Crohn’s disease.

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Healthier creamy pumpkin soup

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In the season of pumpkin everything, don’t forget pumpkin soup. This bowl of creamy pumpkin comfort gets its spicy flavor from coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, and fresh-grated ginger. A cup of half and half finishes things off with an indulgent touch (and keeps it from getting too peppery).

This warm, rich soup comes in at around 160 calories per serving. Ladle up its earthy goodness for an extra dose of vitamin A, fiber, and iron.  

Lighter Old-Fashioned Meatloaf

Old-Fashioned Meatloaf

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A few easy substitutions allow this lighter old-fashioned meatloaf to mimic the one Grandma used to make. Lean ground beef (or turkey) and whole wheat bread crumbs make this a filling meal.

Not only is this healthier meatloaf as tasty as the original, it’s a snap to make! Just mix all ingredients in a large bowl, then bake for about an hour in a loaf pan. Grab the ketchup and serve.

Mashed Cauliflower Gratin Casserole

Mashed cauliflower gratin casserole

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When you’re craving something warm and creamy, consider this mashed cauliflower gratin casserole. By using cauliflower in place of potatoes, you’ll dial down on calories and carbs while adding the cancer-fighting benefits of this cruciferous veggie. And this is no measly, flavorless side dish; plenty of Gruyere cheese and a bit of heavy cream mean you’re in for richness galore.

Healthier Chicken Marsala

Healthier chicken marsala

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Many a fancy Italian restaurant serves up its own version of chicken Marsala, an elegant chicken and mushroom dish made with a wine-based glaze. This healthier chicken marsala keeps things restaurant-quality while scaling back on calories. (One serving contains just 255 calories.) Pan-frying the chicken in olive oil supplies plenty of healthy monounsaturated fat, while a full cup of mushrooms ups the antioxidant ante.

By Sarah Garone, NDTR
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a freelance health and wellness writer who runs a food blog.