5 Healthy Comfort Foods to Help You Survive the Winter
One of the worst things about being a working adult — especially a teacher — is trying to decide what’s for dinner. Long days being in charge of a classroom can leave you feeling like you’d rather get a root canal than make another decision. But decide what’s for dinner we must. And let’s be honest, many times, that means opting for the same go-to comfort foods we always have. It’s uninspired and it’s not healthy.
But, guys — there’s hope.
Check out these five healthier comfort food alternatives from Meal Prep Technician Melanie Zobrist from Little Falls, New York. Spurred into action by her own gastric bypass surgery, Melanie began to cook healthy meals for herself and her family. Now, she sells her meals for weight-loss hopefuls and female bodybuilding competitors. And her high-protein, low-cal meals are the perfect thing to put a smile on your face and keep the pounds off your waist after a hectic day at school.
Prep ahead for easy-heat, no-fuss dinners.
1. Shredded Buffalo Chicken
“This chicken is something I almost always have around. It’s so quick and easy to make. It can be a meal with sweet potatoes and a veggie, or as a base for recipes like pulled chicken chili, chicken tacos, or buffalo chicken soup.”
|1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts|
1-2 cups chicken bone broth
Frank’s Buffalo hot sauce
Crockpot or Instapot
|Add broth to bottom of crockpot or Instapot. |
Add chicken and cover in hot sauce.
Cover and cook: 3-4 hours in crockpot or 15-20 minutes at high pressure in Instapot.
Shred chicken in a separate bowl, adding about 1 cup of cooked broth for added moisture.
2. Turkey Meatballs
“This recipe is my Nanna’s. I use these turkey meatballs for a quick lunch by adding a veggie, or with pasta. I love to use them with zucchini boats for a healthier take on meatball subs.”
|1 pound ground turkey|
¼ cup Italian bread crumbs
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1-2 tsp. minced garlic
½ tsp. each salt and pepper
(makes about 12 meatballs)
|Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.|
Mix ingredients together until combined.
Use a large cookie scoop, then roll the meatball mixture into uniform balls.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
3. Light Turkey Pot Pie
“I ADORE chicken or turkey pot pie, but often the gravy and pastry can add so many unnecessary calories. This recipe from Food Network is so delicious. I just substitute turkey for chicken. I’m looking forward to making it this year with all those Thanksgiving leftovers!”
|For the crust:|
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. fine salt
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg
2 tbsp. 2% milk
|Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in food processor until combined. Add butter, one piece at a time, pulsing until mixture has a coarse texture. |
Separate the egg; refrigerate the egg white.
Beat the egg yolk and milk in a bowl, then add to the food processor, pulsing until the dough comes together.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.
|For the filling: |
2 small russet potatoes
4 ½ cups low-sodium turkey or chicken broth
5 medium carrots, cut into large chunks
1-2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
⅓ cup 2% milk
3 stalks celery, sliced
3 cups shredded turkey (or chicken), skin removed
½ cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
1 cup frozen peas
½ cup minced fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper
|Prick the potatoes with a fork and bake at 425 degrees until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly, then peel and break into small pieces.|
Bring the broth, carrots, and thyme to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook 2 minutes; cover and keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
Add the onion and cook until soft, about 8 minutes.
Sprinkle in the flour and stir until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Add the milk, celery, potato pieces, and the warm broth mixture and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the chicken, yogurt, peas, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the filling to a 2-quart casserole dish.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until about 1/2 inch thick and slightly larger than the dish.
Beat the reserved egg white in a bowl; brush over the dough and season with salt and pepper.
Press the dough against the sides of the dish.
Place on a baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.
4. Mac and Cheese
“Mac and cheese is hands down my favorite comfort food. I just love it. I’ve found success just making some small adjustments to a traditional recipe. Chickpea pasta is my big secret. It’s high in protein and fiber with fewer calories. And still delicious.”
|1 package chickpea pasta (about 8 oz.)|
2 ½ tbsp. all-purpose flour
1-2 cups shredded low-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1-2 cups shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
3 cups 1% milk
|Cook pasta for about half the time directed on the package.|
In large baking dish, put about ⅓ of pasta and about ⅓ of both cheeses. Add more pasta and more cheese, layering as you go.
Use remaining cheese to top pasta completely.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until cheese is brown and bubbling.
5. Fettuccine Alfredo
“This is creamy, comfort-making, and so, so delicious. The mix of zucchini and pasta adds more vitamins, lessens the calories, and is just so very good. Combining it with pasta and the richness of the sauce can help even a picky eater put more veggies into their diet. The chicken broth adds flavor and combined with low-fat milk instead of cream, makes this a great healthy alternative.”
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 medium zucchini
1 box fettuccine pasta (chickpea or whole wheat are great choices!)
|Cut off ends of zucchini and discard. Carefully slice zucchini lengthwise into very thin slices. Stack slices and cut lengthwise again into ¼ in. ribbons.|
Heat 1 tbsp. oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add zucchini, cover, and cook until tender — about 6 minutes.
Transfer to bowl.
Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente.
1 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup 1% milk
¾ cup grated or shaved parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tbsp. parsley (optional)
|Add butter to skillet and let melt. Stir in garlic and let simmer 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in flour and quickly form paste. |
Whisk in broth, removing any lumps.
Stir in 1% milk. Let simmer 6-8 minutes or it until starts to thicken.
Turn heat to medium-low, adding parmesan cheese.
Remove from heat and let thicken.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Combine sauce, zucchini, pasta, and about 3 tbsp. parsley — tossing to mix.
Plate and add remaining parsley to garnish.
Mel’s final words: “Remember that any comfort food recipe can easily be transformed into a healthier version with a little determination and some imagination.”
So, when you find yourself stressing to find an answer to the nagging question “What’s for dinner?” keep calm and try one of these recipes on for size. Perfectly satisfying and full of smart choices, they’ll please even the pickiest of eaters and quench your craving for mid-winter comfort any day of the week!