America is a wonderful mix of diverse and rich ethnicities and cultures. We see this in our lives every day, and we especially see it in the foods we eat.

Culture plays into our favorite recipes, traditions (especially during the holidays) and our so-called “comfort foods.”

When we say comfort foods, everyone seems to have one. We all have a dish or drink that brings us comfort, joy, pleasure or even a fond memory. In the dark, dreary days of winter, who doesn’t long for that favorite family meal? In fact, the definition of “comfort Food” from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal.” Unfortunately, those foods that bring us comfort are often among the unhealthiest, loaded with unhealthy carbs and fat and have no nutritional value!

So can we have “comfort” foods that are actually good for us? Of course! Here are three of my favorites:

  1. Many of us have fond memories of mom’s lasagna. This lasagna recipe is from the Food Network for “Healthified Kale and Portobello Lasagna.” It clocks in under 300 calories and only 11 grams of total fat. It’s lower in sugar and carbs too than a traditional lasagna.

  2. When we think of pulled pork or chicken, it’s that barbecued, sticky, spicy-sweet dish that’s loaded with sugar and extra calories. But it doesn’t have to be! The American Heart Association offers up this slow cooker version that has only 125 calories per serving, under three grams of fat, and lots less sugar than a traditional recipe. It will give you comfort and make your heart happy too!

  3. One of my very favorite things growing up was a sweet potato casserole. But that traditional recipe just doesn’t fit in with a healthy lifestyle. This scrumptious recipe from Eating Well offers up all the flavors, but thanks to healthier choices than the butter that’s typically used, the makeover gives you the flavor without all the fat.

So don’t give up on all those wonderful family traditions and foods that bring you comfort just because you want to live a healthier lifestyle – just find ways to lighten them up and dig in!


Kellie Armstrong, MS, RN, CBN

Kellie Armstrong, MSN, RN, FASMBS-IH, CBN

Kellie Armstrong is the manager for the Center for Bariatric Surgery at The Miriam Hospital. She was the state of Rhode Island’s first certified bariatric nurse, and is also a success story for bariatric surgery. After having surgery, Kellie lost over 100 pounds, lives a healthy lifestyle and now participates in triathlons, marathons, and other healthy events.