Winter Comfort Foods That Are Actually Healthy

Alexa Peduzzi

Published on October 13th, 2016

This is the perfect time of year for creamy, cheesy, and all-around indulgent comfort foods. When the weather starts turning sour, there’s nothing like a warm bowl of feel-good food to put you in a better mood.

Although most comfort foods come with an impressive calorie and fat count, they don’t need to be overly indulgent or all that unhealthy. In fact, they can still be filled with good-for-you ingredients that will keep you feeling awesome all winter long.

Give these comfort foods a try whenever you’re in the mood for some healthy indulgence:

  1. Creamy Pasta

Have you ever looked at the ingredients of a bottle of alfredo sauce? Not so healthy, right? There are so many whole food swaps that you can make in order to make a lighter, yet still decadent, creamy pasta dish you’ll love. By itself, cauliflower isn’t the first thing you think of when you think “comfort food,” but if you add spices, liquid, and some heat, you can create a creamy, luscious sauce perfect for pasta, lasagna, and more. Sauces can also be made from other vegetables like sweet potatoes, corn, and eggplant, so choose your favorite and get experimenting!

Recipes to try: Creamy Cauliflower Sauce from Pinch of Yum and Vegan Caramelized Onion Mac and Cheese from Minimalist Baker

  1. Creamy Soups

Cream of broccoli, clam chowder, cream of mushroom, potato…all of these thick and velvety soups can be brimming with calories, fat, and sodium (especially if you go the pre-packaged route). Try making that next creamy, dreamy soup or chowder at home, and try substituting some healthier ingredients. You can blend starchy vegetables like potatoes or creamy nuts like cashews to thicken your favorite soup. These can produce the same luscious, creamy texture with fewer calories and fat when used in place of flour, cream, and butter.

Recipes to try: Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup from Hot for Food Blog and Cream of Broccoli and Quinoa Soup from The Full Helping

  1. Polenta

The classic cornmeal dish that’s typically drenched in butter, packed with cheese, and often times fried until crispy. Needless to say, polenta isn’t the healthiest of choices when you’re craving something carby. Luckily, the internet has some great lighter polenta recipes that won’t make you feel like you’re missing a thing!

Recipes to try: Cauliflower ‘Polenta’ with Mushrooms and Hazelnuts from The Endless Meal and Creamy Pumpkin Polenta from With Food and Love

  1. Curry

Spicy, creamy, and oh-so decadent, curry can be a bowl full of saturated fats and calories. It can also be a bowl full of healthy fats, nutrients, and protein. Curries made with full-fat coconut milk instead of cream or butter are higher in healthier fats. They can also be made with lean protein like chicken or beans and packed with veggies for a dinner with a lasting protein power that will leave you feeling full and satisfied all night long.

Recipes to try: Creamy Chickpea Curry from Food Faith Fitness and Coconut Quinoa and Lentil Curry with Lime Mango from Half Baked Harvest

  1. Chili

Meat, beans, red sauce…chili is a classic winter meal. Served alongside a giant hunk of cornbread, and you’re well on your way to one of the most warming, comforting meals of the season. When you’re in a chili mood, opt for one full of vegetables and protein-packed beans rather than ones loaded with red meats. If you’re a meat-eater, however, go for lean white meats like chicken for a lighter, yet still undeniably comforting, chili dinner.

Recipes to try: Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili from Gimme Some Oven and White Bean Chicken Chili from She Wears Many Hats

  1. Hot Chocolate

The ultimate winter dessert! Nothing beats cozying up to a big mug of piping hot chocolate. However, those packs of hot chocolate mix can be full of artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, and artificial flavors. Luckily, making your own hot chocolate home is almost as easy as opening a pack of the fake stuff. Use high-quality chocolates and natural sugars for a hot cocoa that’s sure to satisfy.

Recipes to try: Superfood Hot Chocolate from The Healthy Maven and Coconut Milk Hot Chocolate from Ambitious Kitchen