What makes comfort foods so appealing? Is it the memories they inspire of happy childhood dinners, or the rush you get from carbs and calories? Whatever their appeal, typical comfort foods fall into the "occasional indulgence" category. But with a few healthy tweaks, that needn't be the rule. These nutritious takes on classics make it possible to enjoy your favorite soul-soothing meals while sticking to your healthy eating plan.
Prep/cook time: 45 minutes / Serves 6 / Baking meatloaf mixture in ramekins or muffin tins cuts cooking time and makes fun-to-eat, kid-friendly meals; individual portions also freeze easily, so make extra for later meals. Prep tips: For a spicy kick, stir in 1 tablespoon of chipotle adobo or Sriracha sauce. Use prechopped, packaged mushrooms to save time. View recipe.
Prep/cook time: 30 minutes / Serves 4 / Vegetarian / A hint of chipotle adds smoky depth without overwhelming the dish. Prep tips: For variation, omit the chipotle and add chopped olives, shaved fennel, and finely minced rosemary; stir in a spoonful of pesto and minced sun-dried tomatoes; or flavor with chopped fresh basil, cilantro, or arugula. Serving tip: Great with a dollop of sour cream. View recipe.
Prep/cook time: 35 minutes / Serves 6 / This clever and delicious mac and cheese rendition slips in cauliflower florets for extra nutrition. Prep tips: The key to making this dish shine is to cut the cauliflower into pieces about the same size as the noodles. View recipe.
Prep/cook time: 50 minutes / Serves 6 / Using precooked chicken makes good use of leftovers, and parsnips instead of potatoes means extra nutrition and faster cooking. Prep tips: Substitute cubes of leftover turkey or ham if you prefer. For a more traditional topping, use three refrigerator biscuits instead of phyllo; simply split crosswise, arrange on top, and bake. View recipe.