Recipes: 5 Healthy Takes on Classic Comfort Foods

Comfort foods beefy mushroom burger new

We’re not above food porn. We’ll be the first to admit that we’ve also toured, the Internet’s deep-fried, culinary hall of shame. We’re only human, after all, and double-cheeseburgers with doughnut buns appeal to us, too. Unfortunately, they also keep us fat. So we decided to embrace it. As they say in the infomercials, “There’s got to be a better way!” And we found it: classic comfort food, just the way you know and love it, but with the stealthy substitution of natural muscle-building, fat-burning, and energy-boosting ingredients. It’s time to drop the guilt. Because sometimes, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

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Mushrooms do more than slash calories, fat, and cholesterol; their umami, or savory taste, intensifies the flavor of the food they’re mixed into. What’s more, mushrooms are the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle.


  • 6 oz cremini mushrooms
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz 93% lean ground beef
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 deli thin buns


1) Chop mushrooms into ¼-inch pieces. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tsp canola oil. Place mushrooms in pan and sauté for 3–5 minutes. Drain. Return mushrooms to pan and season with salt and pepper.

2) In a medium bowl, combine mushrooms, ricotta cheese, beef, egg, bread crumbs, basil, and Worcestershire sauce. Form mixture into two patties of equal size.

3) Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.

4) Cook patties for 5–7 minutes on each side, or until they reach an internal temperature of 160°.

5) To assemble, place each patty on top of a deli thin and garnish with your favorite fresh produce.

Serves: 2

Nutrition: Calories: 377, Protein: 30g, Carbs: 4g, Fat: 13.5g, Saturated fat: 2g, Fiber: 7g, Cholesterol: 151mg, Sodium: 790mg

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Compared with the boxed, processed cheese version, this homemade mac ’n’ cheese has double the fiber, far less sodium, and no artificial colors or preservatives. Butternut squash substitutes for some of the cheese without sacrificing the taste and texture you love.

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  • 8 oz whole-wheat elbow macaroni
  • 1¼ cups low-fat, no-salt added cottage cheese
  • 1½ cups puréed butternut squash
  • 3 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded, reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp grated Asiago or parmesan cheese


1) Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Rinse with cold water. Cover and set aside.

2) Place cottage cheese and butternut squash in a food processor and blend until smooth, about 45 seconds. Set aside.

3) In a medium skillet, heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked macaroni, cottage cheese mixture, onion, cheddar cheese, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Mix thoroughly. Transfer macaroni mixture to the prepared baking dish.

4) In a small bowl, combine 2 tsp olive oil, bread crumbs, and grated cheese. Sprinkle on top of macaroni.

5) Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until hot and slightly bubbly. Serve warm.

Serves: 6

Nutrition: Calories: 285, Protein: 20g, Carbs: 40g, Fat: 6g, Saturated fat: 2g, Fiber: 4g, Cholesterol: 10mg, Sodium: 260mg

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Each serving of this cheesy, wheat-free rendition of lasagna contains a full serving of vegetables and satisfies nearly 70% of your daily calcium needs.

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  • 3 large zucchini, washed and unpeeled
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 24-oz jar tomato basil marinara sauce
  • 1 10-oz package chopped, frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 1½ cups shredded carrots
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1½ cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 16 oz (about 3 cups) part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese, divided


1) Chop ends off zucchini and cut in half crosswise. Then cut spears lengthwise into ¼-inch slices and lay flat in a large dish. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 10 minutes.

2) In a gas grill or grill pan heated to medium-high, grill zucchini on each side until cooked, about 1–2 minutes per side. Allow to rest on paper towels.

3) Preheat oven to 350°.

4) In a medium bowl, combine marinara sauce, spinach, and carrots. Mix well. Set aside.

5) In another medium bowl, beat eggs lightly by hand. Add oregano, parsley, and ricotta cheese. Mix well.

6) To assemble, spread ¼ cup of the tomato sauce mixture in a 9-by-12-inch baking dish. Top with a single layer of zucchini. Spread half of the ricotta mixture on top, then add half of the remaining tomato sauce mixture and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat the steps in order with the remaining ingredients, saving 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Top the third and final layer of zucchini with remaining mozzarella.

7) Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting.

Serves: 8

Nutrition: Calories: 381, Protein: 28g, Carbs: 25g, Fat: 20g, Saturated fat: 11g, Fiber: 5g, Cholesterol: 105mg, Sodium: 902mg

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Pistachios provide potassium to fuel workouts and prevent puffiness by balancing sodium in the body. They also deliver digestion-aiding fiber and more energy-boosting vitamin B6 then any other tree nut.

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  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger root
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios, chopped finely or ground
  • ¾ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, beaten


1) In a small bowl, combine canola oil, ginger, lemon juice, honey, garlic, and paprika. Toss with chicken, cover, and marinate in refrigerator for at least one hour.

2) Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray

3) In small shallow bowl, mix pistachios and breadcrumbs. Pour egg into a separate small shallow bowl. Dip each piece of chicken first into the egg, then in pistachio mixture, pressing the nuts onto the chicken, if necessary.

4) Bake for 25 minutes or until done.

Serves: 4

Nutrition: Calories: 294, Protein: 27 grams, Carbs: 23g, Fat: 10g, Saturated fat: 2g, Feiber: 3g, Cholesterol: 102mg, Sodium: 283mg

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By swapping refined white flour for oatmeal (a whole grain), you gain three grams of soluble fiber, the minimum daily amount needed to protect your ticker by lowering blood cholesterol. A whopping 39g or protein and 11g of fiber keeps you full for hours and sideline energy-sapping spikes in blood sugar you get from typical pancakes.

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  • ¾ cup instant or old-fashioned oatmeal, uncooked
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 6-ounce container fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp low-fat milk
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp trans fat-free tub margarine
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries


1) Blend all ingredients except the blueberries in a food processor or blender until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. 

2) Heat the margarine in a large skillet over medium heat. Using a ¼ cup measure, pour the batter into the hot skillet to form four pancakes.  Place an equal amount of blueberries on top of each pancake.  Cook for about 3 minutes, then flip and cook for 1 minute.

Serves: 1

Nutrition: Calories: 584, Protein: 39g, Carbs: 79g, Fat: 10g, Saturated fat: 2g, Fiber: 11g, Cholesterol: 211mg, Sodium: 181mg

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[Photo: Getty Images]

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