Fall Comfort Foods

Comfort foods can be modified from their original version to be healthy and delicious.

Lara Rondinelli By Lara Rondinelli, RD, LDN, CDE

My husband said to me the other day, "It's about that time of year for a certain meal — salsa turkey meatloaf." I used to love this recipe from my cookbook, but my love has waned a bit since I've eaten it a billion times per his request. I do stop making it when summer arrives, telling him it is a cold weather food. I realize now it's also a classic comfort food.

Comfort foods are typically simple and delicious, but they also provide a feeling of warmth, security, and happiness. They include meatloaf, smothered chicken, sweet potato casserole, mac and cheese, chili, and chicken noodle soup. Comfort foods don't usually fall on the list of healthy foods for people with diabetes, though. However, comfort foods can be modified from their original version to be healthy and delicious. Here are a few examples:


Traditional meatloaf uses meats like ground beef, pork, and veal. You can reduce the saturated fat if you need to by substituting ground turkey for the other meats. In my salsa turkey meatloaf recipe, the salsa is a convenient way to keep the meatloaf moist. The salsa and some added onion and garlic also boost flavor. Mix it all together and you can prepare this meal in about 10 minutes. While waiting for it to bake you can make a side of green vegetables such as green beans or asparagus. That meatloaf uses whole grain bread crumbs, but to lower carbs further you can make a meatloaf that just uses a bit of whole grain flour and increases the nutrients and moisture with shredded zucchini. Check out this recipe for Low Carb Meat Loaf.

Mac and Cheese

Traditional macaroni and cheese is loaded with carbs. Although this dish takes some work become healthier — it can be done. Start with whole-grain pasta instead of white pasta (or another lower-carb, high-fiber pasta). When you're done preparing the mac and cheese, try adding a substantial amount of steamed, chopped broccoli or spinach, or any vegetable you like, to the dish. This way you can increase your fiber and reduce your portion of pasta and carbs. Or try this recipe for Cauliflower "Mac and Cheese," which isn't mac and cheese at all but a super healthy alternative that gives you a similar look and feel.


Chili can easily be transformed into a healthy food. If you want to cut back on red meat or can't afford the all-natural brands, you can substitute the ground beef with ground turkey or try a chicken chili with skinless, boneless chicken breasts. You can boost fiber by adding more veggies and beans. You don't have to use kidney beans in chili — try adding black beans or great Northern beans for a change. Beans will increase your carb count, but look at all the fiber you can subtract. Also, experiment with extra veggies such as carrots, zucchini, green peppers, and onions. Try a low carb, no-bean chili that's full of interesting flavors, such as cumin, cinnamon, and allspice. 

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potatoes are such a healthy food, full of vitamins A and C and fiber. However, sweet potato casseroles are often loaded with sugar from brown sugar, maple syrup, and sometimes even marshmallows. For a healthier casserole, take multiple sweet potatoes and pierce sides with a fork. Place on oven rack and roast at 400 degrees F for about 1 hour. Take potatoes out of the oven, scoop out insides, transfer to a casserole dish and top with a little bit of SPLENDA Brown Sugar Blend (if desired) and chopped pecans. Place under broiler for a few minutes for a caramelized topping. The roasting of the sweet potatoes brings out the natural sweetness and makes for a delicious side dish!

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Last Modified Date: June 17, 2013

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by Brenda Bell
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