Healthy Comfort Foods: Satisfy Your Comfort Food Cravings with These Nutritious Recipes

t’s time to hunker down and hibernate through this year’s cold Minnesota winter. if there’s one thing we need in hibernation, it’s comfort food. 

Comfort foods tend to be traditional, which often provides a nostalgic or sentimental feeling for us; we associate it with warmth, family and overall good feelings. In the context of a normal, balanced diet, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally indulging in your “naughty” childhood favorites—especially if you make them yourself with fresh,
nutritious ingredients.

 Eating well may make you believe that these nostalgic or sentimental comfort foods can no longer be on the menu, but we are here to prove that theory wrong.  We have gathered several recipes that keep the comfort in comfort foods without all the “bad stuff.” 



  • 4-6 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 onion, chopped 
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. onion powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 1/4 cup light butter (room temperature), cubed
  • 1/3 cup fat-free cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2/3 cup fat-free mil
  • 1 egg white

1. Toss everything for the soup into the crock pot. Cover and set to cook for 6-8 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.

2. When nearly done, remove the chicken and shred. You can use two forks or shred in your stand mixer. Add the chicken back to the crock pot and cover. 

3. If you’ve been cooking on low, set the crock pot to high.

4. Combine the flour, baking powder, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper for the dumplings together in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter using two forks, or your hands, until it begins to form a grainy mixture (resembling corn starch). Add in the cheddar and milk. Mix just until a thick dough forms and all lumps are out. Drop the dough by rounded spoonfuls into the crock pot. Try to do this quickly as to not let much heat escape from the crock pot. 

5. Cover and cook on high for 30-60 minutes.

6. Once done, the dough will still look a little wet on top, but will be soft, fluffy, and cooked through on the inside. Serve warm and enjoy.


Recipe provided by Melissa Bradley, R.D., L.D., Hy-Vee Barlow Plaza Registered Dietitian

  • 1 pound 93 percent lean ground beef 
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion 
  • 1/2 cup (Hy-Vee) panko bread crumbs 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 
  • 3 Tbsp. ketchup 
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tsp. (Hy-Vee) Light Worcestershire sauce 
  • 3/4 tsp. (Hy-Vee) dried Italian seasoning 
  • Salt and black pepper to taste. 
  • 1 Tbsp. (Hy-Vee) Select olive oil 
  • 1/2 each red pepper, green pepper, and onion, thinly sliced

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, combine ground beef, onion, panko, parsley, ketchup, egg white, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper. Divide mixture into six balls (about 1/3 cup each) and place each portion in a lightly greased muffin tin. 

 3. Bake for 30 minutes or until meat reaches 160 degrees. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add red and green peppers and onion and saute until tender and light golden. Serve caramelized peppers over each meatloaf.

Using lean ground beef is an excellent way to cut back on saturated fat and the light Worcestershire sauce helps to reduce sodium. Fresh bell peppers add color to the dish as well as dietary fiber, which helps to keep you full longer and aids in digestion.


  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves (12-14 oz. each)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups low-fat (1 percent) milk
  • 1 package (10 oz.) frozen peas, thawed
  • 6 phyllo sheets (each 12×17 inches), thawed

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place chicken on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast (avoiding bone) registers 165 degrees, 25-30 minutes. Let cool slightly; discard skin and bones. Shred meat and set aside.

2. While chicken is roasting, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add carrots, onion, and thyme, season with salt and pepper and cook until carrots are crisp-tender, 8-10 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Gradually add milk, stirring until smooth. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a simmer and thickens.

3. Remove from heat; stir in peas, and chicken and season with salt and pepper. Pour filling into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.

 4. Stack phyllo on a work surface. Using a paring knife, cut out an 11-inch circle from the stack. Discard trimmings. Stack 2 circles on work surface, and brush gently with 1 tsp. oil; repeat with remaining circles and oil. Place phyllo stack over filling, and press down about 1/2 inch from the edge so phyllo fits inside rim of pie plate. Bake until golden and bubbling, 20-25 minutes. Let pot pie cool 15 minutes before serving.

Comments from a Nutrition Consultant

We asked Certified AFPA Nutrition and Wellness Consultant Caitlin Summers about these comfort food recipes. She comments, “All of these recipes are great. I love the use of herbs and spices, which are a no calorie way to flavor foods and make them taste better. You can also hide vegetables from picky eaters in these recipes. The meatloaf especially is great for those that don’t love vegetables. 

Fat is calorific at about nine calories per gram, so using lean meats and low fat ingredients can remove extra calories that your body doesn’t need. Portion sizing is still important though. The low-sodium recipes are great for those with high blood pressure and won’t make you feel bloated, which happens from eating high-sodium foods.”

I love the chicken pot pie recipe. Phyllo sheets are so thin and delicate unlike a normal, denser pie crust. It’s going to eliminate some of the guilt from eating something that is normally high in calories. Phyllo sheets give a little more of a crispy texture. If you love crunchy foods like I do, you’ll love this recipe. What a great way to eat comforting foods and not feel bloated the next day.

 Dawn Sanborn loves cooking comfy food in the winter, because it’s better than being outside in sub-zero temperatures.