The Yummiest Comfort Food Recipes (That Aren't That Bad For You)

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Wintertime and the holidays lead to cravings for our favorite comfort foods. There are certain foods we turn to naturally during the cold months to soothe our stomachs and warm our bellies, and there are also foods that we associate with our own personal holiday traditions. Eaters be cautioned: often those hearty foods we love to chow down on are packed with calories, fat, and sugar, creating a formula for winter weight gain.

Here are some healthy recipes for a few of your most beloved holiday comfort foods that you can make yourself over winter break without packing on extra pounds!

Glazed Ham

Ham makes a great holiday main course because it's a lean meat and naturally rich in vitamins. What usually makes this delicacy a disaster is the sugary glaze and salt that the meat is often cured with - both add unnecessarily high amounts of sugar and sodium to what could have been a healthier plate. You can keep ham on your holiday menu by adding less sugar to glazes already sweetened by jams or fruit preserves.

Good Housekeeping offers this great recipe for Glazed Ham with Apricots! They recommend you ask for shank meat (one of the leanest cuts of meat you can get), and the recipe itself provides a low-sodium, low fat version of the traditional holiday ham.

Glazed Ham with Apricots

honey glazed ham with apricots winter food holiday food christmas dinner carved meat


  • 1 (7-pound) fully cooked bone-in smoked half ham
  • 1 package(s) (6-ounce) dried apricot halves
  • 2 tablespoon(s) whole cloves
  • 1/2 cup(s) orange marmalade or apricot jam
  • 2 tablespoon(s) country-style Dijon mustard with seeds


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. With knife, remove skin and trim all but 1/8 inch fat from ham. Secure apricots with cloves to fat side of ham in rows, leaving some space between apricots. Place ham, fat side up, on rack in large roasting pan (17" by 11 1/2"); add 1 cup water. Cover pan tightly with foil. Bake 2 hours.
  2. After ham has baked 1 hour and 45 minutes, prepare glaze: In 1-quart saucepan, heat marmalade and mustard to boiling on medium-high. Remove foil from ham and carefully brush with some glaze. Continue to bake ham 30 to 40 minutes longer or until meat thermometer reaches 135 degrees F, brushing with glaze every 15 minutes. Internal temperature of ham will rise 5 to 10 degrees F upon standing. (Some apricots may fall off into pan as you glaze.)
  3. Transfer ham to cutting board; cover and let stand 20 minutes for easier slicing. Slice ham and serve with apricots from pan.

Mashed Potatoes

bowl of mashed potatoes comfort food holiday food winter food side dish dinner

It’s the side dish that makes a regular appearance at most holiday feasts and sometimes graces tables all year round. Taking one bite of smooth, buttery mashed potatoes is nostalgic for many, but those silky spuds can really dent your diet with fat from butter and cream. Cut the calories by using low-fat or fat-free milk in your mashed potato recipe, and you can always add different flavors using veggies or spices to give each bite an extra kick.

I was never a huge mashed potato lover, but my mom’s most recent recipe for mashed potatoes with roasted garlic totally converted me! She uses warm, low-fat milk to increase the creaminess of the potatoes. Take it from me - once you try this recipe for mashed potatoes, you’ll never have to use cream or butter again!

Maria’s Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic


  • 2 pounds medium Yukon gold potatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup low fat milk (warm)
  • Freshly ground pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Wrap a head of garlic in foil and roast in oven for 40 minutes.
  3. Cut the top of head of garlic and squeeze out garlic.
  4. Put potatoes in large pot and add enough cold water just to cover the potatoes. Season with salt and bring to a simmer: cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 30-40 minutes.
  5. Drain the potatoes. Peel off the skins and transfer the potatoes back to the pot. 
  6. Add roasted garlic and warm milk to potatoes and mash with potato masher or fork.
  7. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

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About The Author

Valentina Palladino is a student of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, dual majoring in Magazine Journalism and English. While at school, Valentina is the Assistant Features Editor for What the Health, Syracuse University’s health and wellness magazine. This summer, she was busy as an online editorial intern for Fitsmi, an community which seeks to connect and aid teen girls struggling with weight issues, and as an editorial mentor for Teen Voices magazine. Valentina also works at Victoria's Secret as a sales associate. She feels lucky to have been able to travel extensively already in her life, and wants to study abroad as much as she can. In her free time, Valentina enjoys cooking, practicing yoga, drawing, and being with her family and friends... among many other things!

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