10 comfort foods that aren’t high in calories

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published November 6, 2019

Key Takeaways

The cold weather is upon us. Time to put on a warm sweater, hunker down, and fire up the oven. It’s time for some good ol’ comfort food! Mm-mmm, nothing like a savory soup, a warm bowl of gooey mac and cheese, a hearty dish of lasagna, or a sweet slice of apple pie. The only downside to comfort food? The extra calories, fats, carbs, and sodium. If only there were a way to enjoy all the comfort but without all the calories…

There is! Try these 10 delicious but lighter comfort foods, each under 400 calories.

Macaroni and cheese

Is there any better definition of comfort food than mac and cheese? Warm, chewy, creamy, and tasty—all in one. (Even a little bit of crunch on top, if that’s your thing.) But when you start considering its ingredients—carb-heavy noodles, fatty cheeses, salt, cream—the calories start piling up.

But don’t put away the casserole dish just yet. It is possible to make this yummy comfort food by cutting back on the heavy stuff. You can lower the fat while raising the flavor, and still have all the enjoyment. Get the recipe.

One serving: 340 calories

Oven-fried chicken

Fried chicken without deep frying? And without the greasy mess that goes along with it? The crunchy coating is made of corn flakes, plain yogurt, and olive oil spray, while zesty seasonings like garlic and cayenne pepper give this easy-to-bake, finger-licking fried chicken some zing. Get the recipe.

One serving: 270 calories

Turkey chili

If there’s one thing that football fans can agree on, it’s that the Monday after the Super Bowl should be a national holiday. But if there’s a second thing that football fans can agree on, it’s that chili is the go-to football food. Almost nothing beats a bowl of hot, spicy, chunky chili to chow on while watching a gridiron game.

Unfortunately, almost nothing beats the amount of fat and calories that usually come with a bowl of chili. That’s why turkey chili can be a leaner, healthier, but still hearty option. Get the recipe.

One serving: 240 calories

Oven-baked sweet potato fries

French fries may have originated in France (or perhaps Belgium—it’s not clear which), but they’ve since become an American comfort food staple. It’s no surprise that we love our fries. The average American, for instance, consumes 29 lbs of French fries each year.

Of course, French fries are the epitome of junk food—starch, carbs, oil, and excess salt. How can one possibly make fries healthier, but still taste so good? Although not exactly healthy, oven-baked sweet potato fries are less dangerous than their fried white potato counterparts. Compared with white potatoes, sweet potatoes have fewer carbs and calories—and, one could argue, more flavor. Plus, you can make them at home without a deep fryer—you don’t have to make a run to McDonald’s. (Another healthier preparation method is to use an air fryer.) Get the recipe.

One serving: 207 calories

Chicken noodle soup

When you need comforting, chicken noodle soup is the answer. It’s like a warm hug from grandma—but so much tastier! Like many comfort foods, though, chicken noodle soup is not only comforting, but also high in calories, high in fat, and high in sodium. Instead, try lightening it up with low-sodium broth, white meat chicken, whole grain noodles, and extra carrots and celery. It’s all the comfort, but with fewer calories. Get the recipe.

One serving (2 cups): 293

Baked banana nut donuts

When we think of comfort food, savory, hearty, zesty, and salty foods often come to mind. But, for comfort food in the morning, there’s no replacing donuts. Light, fluffy, and sweet, donuts are a little circle of heaven. But they’re also high-calorie, empty carb, sugar bombs.

Perhaps that’s why it’s hard to believe you can have a donut that is low in calories and also satisfies that comfort-food craving. These yummy baked banana nut donuts are soft, sweet, and packed with flavor, but not nearly as unhealthy as a conventional donut from a drive-thru donut shop. Get the recipe.

One donut: 161 calories

Black bean quesadillas

Comfort food and party food often overlap. Really, who wants to think about eating healthy at a party? But you can combine the best of both worlds with these flavorful and low-calorie quesadillas. They’re a snap to make, and a healthy take on this familiar fiesta-style comfort food. Get the recipe.

One quesadilla: 330 calories

Chicken pot pie

A hearty, savory meal on a cold winter night? Think chicken pot pie—creamy, crusty, and delicious. But the chicken pot pies you get at a restaurant or buy from the freezer section at the supermarket are loaded with calories, fat, and sodium.

Instead, you can make a lighter, healthier—but still flavorful and savorful (is that even a word? It oughtta be!)—chicken pot pie at home. Get the recipe.

One serving: 343 calories


Comfort food has a way of bringing people together. There’s something about warming up hearts and filling up bellies that makes for a good time with friends and family. For those times, sitting around the table to share warm togetherness and to share a meal—like a big pan of lasagna—are what comfort food is all about.

Lasagna is no lightweight, though. It’s got carb-heavy noodles and rich ricotta cheese… Overdo it, and you’ll be feeling full and heavy for days. Instead, try a lasagna with ground turkey instead of ground beef and whole wheat noodles instead of white noodles. It’s a healthier twist on traditional lasagna, but with all the same homemade deliciousness. Get the recipe.

One serving: 368 calories

Apple pie

Finally…dessert! Maybe dessert is the one part of the meal that you shouldn’t skimp on? Maybe just go for the high-calorie, high-fat treat since you’ve been eating healthier dinners and healthier snacks, right?

No! Why eat excess calories when you don’t have to? Apple pie is a comfort food classic, but here’s an apple pie recipe that substitutes the top crust for a tastier, healthier crumble. Get the recipe.

One slice: 360 calories

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