IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

5 nutritionist-approved comfort foods to indulge in right now

Comfort foods can be high in calories, but not these five favorites recommended by a nutritionist.
Studies have found that chicken soup may reduce cold symptoms making it the ultimate healthy, comfort food.
Studies have found that chicken soup may reduce cold symptoms making it the ultimate healthy, comfort food.PoppyB / Getty Images/iStockphoto
/ Source: TODAY

As the temperature starts to dip, that hankering for cool-weather comfort food comes creeping back. Unfortunately, traditional comfort foods should come with a label reading "high in calories, jam packed with sugar and refined carbs, and will most likely leave you with an overstuffed, unhappy belly." But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy foods that satisfy the craving. It just means you have to get smart about what you reach for.

When you’re craving that bite of childhood, your grandma’s famous recipe or a taste of warming nostalgia, try these five simple swaps instead.

1. Homemade chicken soup

There’s nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of soup and the smell of warm broth that throws you right back to memories of your mom’s kitchen. It warms you up from the inside out and makes you feel safe (and comforted), and research even shows it’s not all in your head. Studies have found that chicken soup may reduce cold symptoms making it the ultimate healthy, comfort food.

My version contains garlic which is linked to cancer prevention; kale which is a source of fiber, folate and antioxidants such as carotenoids; and sweet potatoes which have more of eye healthy beta-carotene than any other fruit or vegetable. Let’s fight some colds this winter by sipping this soup and then keep it in rotation all year long for a super healthy go-to.

2. Mashed butternut squash

Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower… Almost anything mashed becomes a delicious, hearty, comforting side dish. Forget traditional spuds, and instead use carotenoid packed butternut squash. Carotenoids are responsible for the orange hue of this veggie and act as powerful antioxidants fighting inflammation, heart disease and helping improve your skin health. Adding coconut oil creates a seriously tasty treat and the nutmeg and cinnamon add an extra boost to your immune system.

3. Mini pumpkin pie bites

Pie may be the most classic form of comfort food. Well, you can have your pie and eat it too when it’s in the form of these mini bites. The thin “crusts” include healthy chia and flax seeds. Using coconut milk over the classic condensed milk results in a higher amount of healthy fats and pumpkin is pretty much a winner in every category as it’s filled with powerful antioxidants, fiber and of course creamy, flavor.

4. Morning glory muffins

Warm-out-of-the-oven anything is a little hug to your heart, but muffins (kinda like chocolate chip cookies) can really hit the spot. Unfortunately, most muffins are big pieces of cake in disguise. This twist on a nostalgic classic boasts five different fruits and vegetables, and are totally grain- and gluten-free. Pumpkin, apple and cinnamon are the stars here but healthy nutrients and flavor also comes from chia seeds, ginger and carrots. I promise you, these muffins will comfort you all season long. Make a double batch and pop one in the freezer.

5. Kohlrabi fries

What’s a list of comfort foods without french fries? This recipe lets you get your fill without potatoes or a deep fryer. Kohlrabi is an unsung root vegetable hero. Here it’s combined with olive oil and sprinkled with chili powder and cumin to add another kick of healthy benefits.

Can’t choose just one? Keep a whole list of comforting slow cooker recipes in your arsenal that require little more than throwing together and forgetting about it until dinner. Now, you’ll have time out of the kitchen to kick up your feet, read a book and do a meditation. Now, that’s comfort.