3 Comfort Foods without the Guilt

mac adn cheese

Cold weather brings on the hankering for carbohydrate and fat laden comfort foods. Here are some options to fulfill the cravings without the extra calories.

I am always looking for ways to add extra nutrition to my meals through vegetables and here are a few ways I do that. Serve these main dishes with a salad or sauteed vegetables to keep packing in the good nutrition.

Whether you choose to try these healthy alternatives or stick to your tried and true favorite recipe, being mindful of portion size will help you to enjoy your comfort food without extra calories. Eat a big salad before your entree to help satiate your belly and prevent over eating.

Creamy Mac and Cheese

adapted from The Splendid Table

I took the inspiration of this perfect comfort food and replaced some of the white pasta with vegetables and some of the cheese with winter squash to reduce calories and add extra nutrition. The cheese, milk and egg add protein to the meal, but if you feel you need more protein, add some cooked, shredded chicken breast.


  • 3/4 cups raw shell or orecchiette pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 3/4 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 generous cup (5 ounces) shredded good quality, extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked, mashed winter squash (buttercup is my favorite, with it’s creamy texture you won’t miss the cream cheese in the original recipe)
  • 1 slice cooked, crispy bacon, chopped
  • 3 cups baby kale, lightly wilted
  • 1 lb. head of cauliflower, cooked and chopped into small pieces
  • Generous 1/8 teaspoon each hot red pepper flakes
  • Generous 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Generous 1/4 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 buttery crackers like Town House or Ritz, coarsely crumbled


1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a shallow 1 1/2 quart baking dish.

2. After cooking and preparing the pasta and vegetables (all except onion), toss them together and put into the baking dish. Make sure the vegetables are evenly distributed throughout.

3. In a blender or food processor combine egg, milk, and garlic, and process 3 seconds. Add onion, cheese, peppers, salt, and paprika, and blend 10 seconds. Turn into dish, folding into macaroni/vegetable combination. Casserole could be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 24 hours at this point or continue to step 4.

3. To bake, bring casserole close to room temperature. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Coat crackers with butter and spread over top of casserole. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes, or until thick yet creamy. If top is not golden, slip under broiler for a minute. Remove from oven, let stand about 5 minutes, and serve.



adapted from Paula Deen

By adding extra vegetables to this basic meatloaf recipe, some of the red meat and fat are crowded out with nutrient dense, low-calorie beans and vegetables. The raisin bran, vegetables and beans also add filling fiber. Raisin bran is the secret weapon in this recipe, adding a bit of sweetness without using corn syrup laden ketchup.


  • 1/2 lb. pasture raised ground beef
  • 1 14 oz. can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 oz. can organic diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 red pepper, finely diced
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach or 8 oz. frozen, thawed and drained
  • 1 cup raisin bran
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 egg


Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a 4×9 loaf pan.

Combine all ingredients well, working to distribute the spinach throughout the loaf. Place in prepared pan, shape into a loaf. Bake for 1 hour or until a meat thermometer reads 160 F.

Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

baked beans uncooked 2

Hot Dogs and Baked Beans

adapted from Alton Brown

Hot dogs and baked beans are a New England Saturday night staple. I wanted to keep the flavors and comfort of the traditional fare adding in nutrition and lowering the sugar. The bone-in pork rib, adds minerals and collagen building gelatin. The miso (fermented too!!) and seaweed add nutrition without over-powering the flavors you are looking for in a traditional baked bean. Feel free to substitute less spicy ingredients if you prefer more mild flavors.


  • 1 pound dried Great Northern beans
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 8 oz. country style pork rib bone in
  • 2 oz. dried arame or wakame seaweed
  • 2 Tablespoons red miso (South River is a Massachusetts brand that is really good)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • Vegetable broth (homemade if you have it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt

Heat oven to 250 degrees F.

Soak beans in a plastic container overnight in just enough cold water to submerge them completely.

Place a cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat and stir in the bacon, onion, and jalapenos until enough fat has rendered from the bacon to soften the onions, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, dark brown sugar, and molasses. Heat a separate pan to high heat and sear the pork rib on each side, about 5 minutes each side. Put the pork rib in the Dutch oven with the other ingredients.

Drain the beans and reserve the soaking liquid. Add the drained beans to the Dutch oven. Place the soaking liquid in a measuring cup and add enough vegetable broth to equal 4 cups of liquid. Add the liquid to the Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Add in miso, seaweed, cayenne, black pepper and salt. Give them a stir and cover with the lid. Place the Dutch oven in the oven for 6 to 8 hours, or until the beans are tender and the pork is tender enough to slide off the bone. Remove the bone before serving.

Hot dogs are an occasional treat because of their high sodium and nitrate concentration. When I do eat them, I look for a natural, uncured, all-beef dog like Pineland Farms.

You can enjoy great food and still lose weight. Let me help you take your favorite recipes and turn them into a nutritious, no-guilt meal. Contact Tara today.

Plan a healthy, nutritious feast as part of your Monhegan Island vacation.