Transform Your Favorite Comfort Foods With These 9 Healthy(ish) Recipes

Eating your favorite comfort foods — whether that means a bowl of mac and cheese or a fudgy chocolate brownie — feels delightful, but why is that exactly?

Comfort foods can evoke feelings of warmth, security, and belonging. (Image: Getty Images)

According to professor and author Shahram Heshmat, Ph.D., "We tend to associate certain foods with members of our family, social gatherings, and people taking care of us... So when we feel lonely, we crave for these foods to give us comfort and security." Heshmat explains that we eat comfort foods because they evoke nostalgia and emotional memory.

Food can certainly be a beautiful way to connect with your loved ones and feel a sense of security — but if your comfort foods of choice are high in unhealthy fats and sugar, then they can eventually make you feel not-so-great, both physically and mentally.

In that case, what should you do? Simply make a few tweaks to your go-to comfort foods so that you can enjoy healthier versions that still taste amazing. If you love mac and cheese, why not make a pull-apart cheesy cauliflower loaf or the vegan mac and cheese with nutritional yeast featured below? And if you're craving a candy bar, why not make this recipe below for dark chocolate goji berry bark instead?

Start recreating your favorite comfort foods and go ahead and treat yo'self — the healthier way! — in 2019.

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This cauliflower loaf can cure the most intense cheese craving. (Image: LIVESTRONG.com/Adam Valencia)

Pull-Apart Cheesy Cauliflower Loaf

Perfect for entertaining, this dish satisfies cheese cravings while still keeping it light. The Parmesan and mozzarella feel indulgent, but cauliflower provides a much-needed dose of nutrients, including vitamins C and K. The vegetable is also said to fight inflammation and improve digestion. Aiding digestion while eating cheese? Sounds good to us.

Recipe and Nutritional Info: Pull-Apart Cheesy Cauliflower Loaf

Who knew brownies could be packed with healthy fats and fiber? (Image: LIVESTRONG.com/Adam Valencia)

Avocado Black Bean Brownie Bites

Looking for a healthier version of rich chocolate brownies? Look no further than these Avocado Black Bean Brownie Bites. Featuring avocados, black beans and almond butter, this breakfast is packed with fiber and healthy fats — and is guaranteed to keep you full until the next meal.

Recipe and Nutritional Info: Avocado Black Bean Brownie Bites

It doesn't have to be game day for you to enjoy these healthy nachos. (Image: LIVESTRONG.com)

Sweet Potato Nachos

Sweet potatoes are not your average spuds. The orange-fleshed versions come with beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect your body against cancer. A single, medium-sized potato provides more than your daily requirement of vitamin A, about a third of the vitamin C you need, nearly 15 percent of your recommended daily fiber and 10 percent of your needed potassium. Score!

Recipe and Nutritional Info: Sweet Potato Nachos

Did you know dark chocolate can help reduce anxiety — and that it's good for your skin? (Image: LIVESTRONG.com)

Chocolate Nut Butter Cups

This rich, four-ingredient recipe will satisfy your sugar cravings in an instant. The antioxidants in dark chocolate can give your skin a radiant glow, and studies have also shown that dark chocolate can help reduce anxiety.

Recipe and Nutritional Info: Chocolate Nut Butter Cups

Classic bolognese gets a low-fat, low-calorie twist. (Image: LIVESTRONG.com/Arthur Bovino)

Instant Pot Turkey Bolognese

This take on classic bolognese calls for low-fat milk, omits wine, oil and butter (reducing total calories by almost 550), and swaps turkey for ground beef, which means less saturated fat. Using Instant Pot's "Sauté" setting adds flavor to the turkey and vegetables, while pressure-cooking keeps the meat moist for a silky, savory sauce.

Recipe and Nutritional Info: Instant Pot Turkey Bolognese

Nutritional yeast is known for its tangy, cheesy flavor. (Image: LIVESTRONG.com)

Vegan Mac & Cheese

This amazing (vegan) version of mac & cheese is perfect for kids and grownups alike. While nutritional yeast doesn't look incredibly appetizing, it's actually known for its tangy, cheesy flavor. It's also a complete protein and comes packed with fiber to help make you feel full, while simultaneously boasting many beneficial vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, iron, selenium and zinc.

Recipe and Nutritional Info: Vegan Mac & Cheese

The secret to this french toast: coconut milk-based greek yogurt and lots of luscious strawberries. (Image: Adobe Stock)

Vegan French Toast With Strawberries and Cream

Craving something sweet? Try our vegan French toast with an optional strawberries-and-cream topping. This recipe features fresh strawberries, which contain plenty of antioxidants known to help fight cancer-causing inflammation. To make a lean cream that rivals the real thing, all you'll need is vegan Greek yogurt (we use a coconut milk-based alternative) and maple syrup.

Who doesn't crave lasagna? (Image: LIVESTRONG.com/Arthur Bovino)

Lean Lasagna

Our version of a party-friendly, freshly-baked lasagna features whole-wheat pasta nestled between layers of ground turkey, spinach, mushrooms, crushed tomatoes, low-fat mozzarella and fat-free cottage cheese. And while it may look like our recipe requires quite a few steps, this one is actually rather easy. Simply prep the ingredients for each layer, do the layering, bake — and you're done!

Recipe and Nutritional Info: Lean Lasagna

Goji berry bark is like your favorite candy bar, but better (Image: LIVESTRONG.com/Jackie Newgent)

Dark Chocolate Goji Berry Bark

This delicious bark highlights the trendy goji berry, which is packed with antioxidants and beta-carotene for skin health. These tart berries are also known to boost the immune system and are teeming with fiber.

Recipe and Nutritional Info: Dark Chocolate Goji Berry Bark

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