by Michelle Davies, Nutrition Intern

Turning leaves, apple picking, crackling fireplaces, and crisp evening air – all signs that fall is officially here! It’s the time of year we find ourselves craving warm, gooey comfort food in the form of casseroles, hearty soups, creamy pasta dishes, and warm desserts. Unfortunately eating too many heavy, calorie-dense foods can sabotage our efforts to stay healthy and leave us feeling weighed-down.

Here are some ideas for lightening up your favorite comfort foods without having to sacrifice flavor:

  • If you’re craving a big bowl of pasta, enjoy your favorite sauce over spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles to significantly drop the carb count. Likewise, lighten up your lasagna by using thin strips of zucchini or peeled eggplant instead of flour-based noodles.
  • Craving crispy French fries or buttery mashed potatoes? Make oven-baked fries using veggies like sweet potatoes or zucchini. For healthier mashed potatoes, use cooked cauliflower and mash with some roasted garlic and unsweetened almond milk.
  • Say “Yes!” to warm chocolate brownies, like ours above, by making them with dark chocolate and black beans – no one will know…
  • To lighten up your home-cooked chili, swap ground turkey for beef to cut back on saturated fat. Be sure that 75% of what is in the pot is low-glycemic index vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, onions, celery, sweet potatoes, etc.
  • Stay away from cream-based soups and stews, and instead choose recipes that are tomato-based or use vegetable broth to fill you up with fewer calories. We love adding a handful of raw cashews to our soups – once puréed the soup will be creamy and rich.
  • Turn your meatloaf into a hidden treasure of vegetables! Use lean ground turkey, and throw in some oats, grated carrots, and finely minced onions and bell peppers to amp up the flavor.

Try some of our favorite Living Plate comfort food recipes from our meal plans, including:

  • Tuscan Kale Stew
  • Sweet Potato Ginger Soup
  • Mashed Cauliflower with Garlic
  • Spaghetti Squash with Mushroom Ragu
  • Creamy Coconut Carrot Soup
  • Fudgy Black Bean Brownies