The Skinny on Comfort Foods

Alternatives to high fat foods.

Sometimes you just have to have something smooth and comforting to eat. No matter what causes the craving; a bad day at work, bad weather or, an argument with your spouse, nothing fits the bill except a nice big plate of Mac ‘n Cheese or a slice of chocolate cake.

However, if you’re trying to lose weight, lower your cholesterol or just want to lead a healthier lifestyle, you know that most of these comfort foods aren’t on your menu. But, never fear, you can still enjoy many of your favorite foods by preparing them with low-fat or no-fat ingredients.

Consider for a moment that old-time treat Macaroni and Cheese. You can substitute skim milk for whole milk, use low-fat cheese and a butter substitute and still get similar results. Check out this recipe for Mac ‘n Cheese, it's great tasting and good for you too:


1 1/2 C. macaroni, cooked and drained

1 small onion, chopped

9 slices, 2/3 oz. each low-fat sharp Cheddar cheese

1 12 oz. can evaporated skim milk

1/2 C. low sodium chicken broth

2 1/2 Tbs. whole wheat flour

1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp. dry mustard

1/8 tsp. pepper

3 Tbs. bread crumbs

1 Tbs. margarine, softened


In deep 2-quart casserole dish, sprayed with vegetable cooking spray, layer 1/3 macaroni, 1/2 onion and cheese. Repeat layers, ending with macaroni. Whisk milk, broth, flour, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and pepper until well blended. Pour over layers. Mix bread crumbs and margarine. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Yield: 4 servings

However, even if you only have time for the boxed variety, you can still lower the fat content with low-fat ingredients.

Potatoes are naturally low in fat and packed with vitamins. The problem comes in when you start adding those delicious high fat ingredients to them. Jazz up your baked potatoes with low-fat cheese, sour cream or chives. When you mash them, try adding chicken broth, garlic, and other low-fat ingredients. In fact, it’s simple to take a recipe such as Garlic Mashed Potatoes and lighten it up with a few changes. Or, you could use an already light version like Light ‘N Creamy Mashed Potatoes.

Everyone loves meatloaf and meatballs, but how can you make them lower in fat. The answer is by simply substituting high-fat beef for lower fat turkey. This recipe for Turkey Meatballs is simple to make and tastes great alone or with pasta:


1 lb. ground turkey

1/4 C. Italian flat-leaf parsley cut into chiffonade using scissors

1 small leek

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 C. Parmesan

1 egg

kosher salt coarse pepper

1/2 C. bread crumbs

1/2 Tbs. olive oil

Red Sauce:

1/2 red onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 (28 oz.) cans plum or Italian tomatoes

bay leaf, basil, rosemary or oregano, dried Italian herbs, etc.

1/4 C. red wine, optional


Make meatballs. Sauté garlic and leek in some olive oil, and then combine with uncooked ground turkey, parsley, Parmesan, egg, salt and breadcrumbs. Use enough breadcrumbs for the meatballs to come together and easily maintain their form. I use coarse breadcrumbs. Brown meatballs in olive oil in skillet, about 5-6 minutes per batch. Set aside and make red sauce. Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil. Add and smoosh tomatoes. I just used the bottom of the tomato cans to smoosh them right in the pan. Add seasonings and wine if adding bring to boil, then lower to simmer and toss in the meatballs. Cook 2/3 hour on low simmer.

Other great beef recipes that can be lightened up by substituting turkey are:

Mushroom Stuffed Meatloaf

Pizza Loaf

Low Fat Meatloaf

Lasagna is another one of those foods that can be extremely high in fat when made with traditional ingredients. You can lighten it up and still get a terrific taste with this recipe for Low Fat Lasagna:


1 28-oz. jar of low-fat spaghetti sauce (you choose brand)

1 16-oz. can fat-free chicken stock

2 eggs

2 crushed garlic cloves

8 oz. grated part-skim mozzarella cheese

2 C. low-fat ricotta cheese

1/2 lb. lean ground beef

1 package frozen chopped spinach

1 finely chopped onion

1/2 lb. sliced fresh mushrooms

1/2 tsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

8 oz. lasagna noodles (*any brand - don't boil, they will cook in oven) Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil bottom of baking pan. Stir one C. of the chicken stock into the spaghetti sauce and set aside. Whisk the egg. Stir in ricotta cheese and one C. of the mozzarella. Add garlic, salt and pepper and set aside. Brown and drain the ground beef making sure to break it into very small pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the spinach until it is half done, approximately two-thirds of the time indicated on the microwave directions. Sauté the onion in 1/2 C. chicken stock until it is translucent. Cook the mushrooms in the remaining 1/2 C. chicken stock adding the soy sauce and vinegar. Simmer until all liquid is absorbed. Mix together beef, spinach, onions and mushrooms. Build the lasagna starting with a layer of sauce in the bottom of the pan. *Add one layer of the uncooked noodles followed by more sauce, 1/3 of the cheese mixture and 1/3 of the spinach/beef mixture. Repeat two more times, finishing off with the spinach mixture and the remaining sauce. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, until liquid around the edges has been absorbed. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella on top and bake for 15 minutes more.

Serves 10.

Other low-fat pasta recipes include:

Light Alfredo

Pasta And Fruit Salad

Low Fat/Low Carb Lasagna

Linguini With Grilled Shrimp And Black Olives

Mexican food is another source of high-fat calories that can easily be made into a low fat meal. For instance, these Chicken Enchiladas are delicious and good for you too:


2 lb. chicken breast

2 cans low-fat cream of chicken soup

1 16 oz. container low or fat free sour cream

1 small can green chilies

2 C. low or fat free cheddar or mozzarella cheese

1 Tbs. chili seasoning

8 tortillas (low fat)


In a bowl combine 2 cans of soup and sour cream. Set aside. In a nonstick frying pan brown chicken breast with Pam. Cut chicken into small pieces or shred. Add half of the soup and sour cream mixture and the can of green chilies to the cooked chicken and warm. This is the mixture that you will fill the tortillas with. Using a large baking dish, (9x13 usually), fill each tortilla and wrap. Place these filled tortillas in the pan with the seam down until done. Add the other half of the soup and sour cream mixture to the top of the filled tortillas. Top with shredded cheese. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Yield: 8 servings

Other Mexican favorites include:

Chicken Taco Salad

Fat Free Mexican Dip

Fat Free Mexican Cornbread

Broiled Vegetable Quesadillas

Desserts are a particularly difficult treat to resist when you are really craving sweets. So, the next time you feel the need for chocolate, try a recipe like Snickers Pie:


12 oz. fat free frozen vanilla yogurt

1 small box sugar-free instant chocolate pudding

1/4 C. chunky peanut butter

1 C. sugar-free Cool Whip

3 oz. grape nuts cereal


Mix all ingredients together and pour into 8" pie pan and freeze.

Other fun and filling desserts include:

Diabetic-Friendly Chocolate Cheesecake

Double Chocolate Pie

Lighter Tiramisu

Remember, the next time you are craving those high-fat, high-calorie treats, you can substitute high-fat ingredients for low-fat ones. And, don’t forget to visit us at Recipe4Living for these and other great healthy ideas.

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