Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on December 01, 2022
Comfort Can Be Healthy

Comfort Can Be Healthy


When it turns a little chilly outside or you’re a bit down in the dumps, there’s nothing like good comfort food to make you feel better. The problem is, comfort foods often aren’t the best thing for you to eat. Here are a few smart choices to keep you healthy and get you comfy when you need it the most.

Vegetable Lasagna

Vegetable Lasagna


Lasagna is a comfort-food staple, but it can be trouble if you’re not careful. Like many favorites with lots of ingredients, a cheese-laden lasagna can be overloaded with things like saturated fats. A meatless lasagna, one with vegetables, is healthier. Go with low-fat or fat-free cheese, too. Think about making it with whole-grain pasta.

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash


Few meals are more reliable than a big, warm dish of spaghetti. As is always the case, though, what’s in the dish, and how it’s prepared, matters. You can use spaghetti squash and take it easy on the carbs. Watch the salt in your sauce, and use olive oil to make a heart-happy and stomach-filling meal.

Baked Potato With Chili

Baked Potato With Chili


It’s hard to beat a hefty baked potato as part of a good, homey meal. But if you’re heaping on salt, butter, and bacon bits, it can turn unhealthy in a hurry. Instead, a turkey and veggie chili -- lean turkey, heart-healthy veggies, lots of beans that are high in protein and fiber -- can make a baked potato into a full-blown, much-healthier meal.

Chicken or Black Bean Enchiladas

Chicken or Black Bean Enchiladas


You might not think of a pan of enchiladas as a classic comfort food. But oooh, that cheesy, spicy goodness is hard to pass up. To make it as healthy as you can, choose low-fat or fat-free cheese, pick lean chicken (or go without, making it with protein-rich black beans or no-fat refried beans instead), and use whole-wheat tortillas.




Movie theaters sell those 25-gallon tubs of popcorn for a reason: People love it. Watching a good movie at home is a good reason to make some, too. But popcorn, as fiber-packed as it is, can be unhealthy. Pop your own, in air, ideally. If you use oil, avoid corn, sunflower, or soybean oils.  And go easy on the salt, butter, and toppings.

Pretzels With Mustard or Hummus

Pretzels With Mustard or Hummus


Mindless snacking in front of the TV? If you must, a whole-grain, low-salt pretzel is a good way to go. And to top it off, try some different kinds of mustard or a healthy dish of nutritious hummus (made with protein- and fiber-rich chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans).

Chips and Salsa

Chips and Salsa


If you’re jonesing for some tortilla chips, go for baked (which you can make yourself). Black-bean dip, a good veggie-rich salsa (watch for added sugars) or some homemade guacamole (with good fats, fiber, and potassium) can all be healthy, yummy additions.

Low-Fat Ice Cream (or Sherbet)

Low-Fat Ice Cream (or Sherbet)


Some of us believe true comfort lies at the end of a meal -- or whenever you decide to break out the dessert. Ice cream, of course, is a favorite. Newer offerings cut back on fat and calories, but be careful: with additives, they may not be as healthy as they seem. Sherbet usually has some milk added (check the label). Sorbet is dairy-free.

Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies


Nobody ever linked good health and cookies. Still, a good oatmeal-raisin one, made with whole-wheat flour and maybe some applesauce or plain yogurt, is a fine, and relatively healthy, indulgence.

Ginger Snaps

Ginger Snaps


These cookies contain ginger, shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger also eases nausea and is a proven remedy for motion sickness. Add things like whole wheat flour, molasses, and cinnamon, and you have a rarity: A health-conscious cookie with cancer-fighting nutrients.

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Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: “Cut Down on Saturated Fats.”

American Heart Association: “Spaghetti-Squash Spaghetti.”

American Diabetes Association: “Turkey and Veggie Chili.”

Diabetes Forecast, American Diabetes Association: “Chicken Enchiladas.”

Cleveland Clinic: “9 Best Tips to Help You Make Healthier Popcorn.”

USDA National Nutrient Database.

Harvard Health Publishing: “7 Ways to snack smarter.”

Consumer Reports: “Is Hummus Good for You?”

Oregon State University, “Baked Tortilla Chips.”

AARP: “Chips and Dips That Are Good for You.”

Consumer Reports: “Are Avocados Good for You?”

Consumer Reports: “Is There Such a Thing as Healthy Ice Cream?”

Cleveland Clinic: “Ice Cream, Gelato, Sorbet? Your Best Frozen Treat Fix.”

UNC Health Care: “Healthy Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Recipe: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.”

Arthritis Foundation: “Ginger.”

American Institute for Cancer Research: “Gingersnaps.”