Few things are as comforting as sharing a soda float with your best friend or watching a movie with a giant bowl of popcorn. Ultimately, food is fuel, but it’s also a source of connection and enjoyment. It’s called “comfort food” for a reason: certain foods evoke a nostalgic warmth, like a soft blanket in culinary form.
It’s totally fine to enjoy your favorite desserts and snacks every once in a while—even registered dieticians say there’s danger in labeling foods as good or bad. However, it’s also important to listen to your body in order to make choices that will leave you feeling good from the inside. You can satisfy your cravings while taking care of your physical health as well—there are ways to make your indulgent choices more nutrient-dense.
With that in mind, I’d like to share 5 recipes I always find myself coming back to: healthy versions of some comfort food faves. All of these recipes are refined-sugar-free and made of natural whole foods. (They also happen to be vegan, for all our vegan readers out there). Because of the natural, whole foods, or minimally processed ingredients, you’ll be less likely to crash from a sugar rush or experience sodium-induced bloating with these nutritious, yummy treats.

While some classics are best enjoyed as they are, I promise these healthier versions are just as delicious as they are good for you. Without further ado, here are some nutritious snacks that nourish your body as much as they satisfy your cravings.

5 HEALTHY VERSIONS OF YOUR FAVORITE COMFORT FOODS

INSTEAD OF: CHEESE POPCORN
TRY: NUTRITIONAL YEAST POPCORN

INGREDIENTS:

PROCEDURE:

STEP 1: In a small bowl, mix 1/3 cup nutritional yeast with 1 teaspoon sea salt. You may also add freshly-ground black pepper.
STEP 2: In a large pot, add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or enough oil to coat the bottom of the pot) with 2 popcorn kernels over medium heat. Cover the pot.
STEP 3: When both kernels pop, turn off the heat and add 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels. Make sure all the kernels are distributed evenly on the bottom surface of the pot. You can do this by shaking the pot a little, or spreading out the kernels using a spatula.
STEP 4: Cover the pot at a slight angle, so that the lid is ajar or doesn’t completely cover the entire pot opening. There should be a small gap or opening between one side of the pot and the lid. This way, your popcorn won’t get soggy.
STEP 5: After a minute, turn the heat back on to medium.
STEP 6: Shake the pot every minute or two, to ensure the kernels are being cooked evenly (this also prevents them from burning). You’ll hear a lot of the kernels popping simultaneously for a few minutes.
STEP 7: Once the kernel-popping sound stops (or at least slows down to once every couple of minutes), pour your popcorn out into a large bowl or container.
STEP 8: Drizzle with as much olive oil as you’d like (we recommend around 2 tablespoons, but feel free to use more—the oil helps make the nutritional yeast stick to the popcorn) and shake the bowl or stir with a spatula to evenly coat.
STEP 9: Sprinkle the nutritional yeast and salt mixture over the popcorn and shake the bowl or container so that the powder-like mix is evenly distributed.
STEP 10: Enjoy in front of your favorite movie or while binge-watching a TV series!

INSTEAD OF: A ROOT BEER FLOAT
TRY: A KOMBUCHA FLOAT

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 bottle Soul Brew Kombucha
  • 1 scoop ice cream or sorbet (You can even try a sorbet or vegan ice cream to lower the glycemic index and cut down on dairy!)

PROCEDURE:

STEP 1: Refrigerate kombucha 3 hours or overnight.
STEP 2: Scoop your favorite ice cream into a large glass or mug.
STEP 3. Pour kombucha into the glass.

INSTEAD OF: ROCKY ROAD ICE CREAM
TRY: NUTTY CHOCOLATE BANANA “NICE” CREAM

INGREDIENTS:

PROCEDURE:

STEP 1: Slice 1-2 very ripe, peeled bananas into coins (roughly 1 cm thick). You’ll want your bananas to be really ripe, like, brown and spotty.
STEP 2: Freeze for 5 hours, or overnight.
STEP 3: Put the bananas in a food processor and blend. The bananas will turn crumbly then ball up at first, but keep going until you get a soft-serve consistency. (For this recipe, a blender also works, but a food processor gives the best results.)
STEP 4: Add your mix-ins! The ingredients above are for a healthy banana-rocky-road option. Feel free to pick and choose your toppings, or go all in and use everything! Start with the sea salt and cocoa powder, and blend until fully incorporated.
STEP 5: Add the rest of your toppings. Pulse or blend for a few seconds, just enough to integrate the other ingredients but not enough for them to smoothly mix with the nice cream.
STEP 6: If you like soft serve, enjoy immediately. If you prefer firmer ice cream textures, scoop everything out into a bowl and freeze for 30-45 minutes before eating.
INSTEAD OF: FRENCH FRIES
TRY: SWEET POTATO FRIES

INGREDIENTS:

PROCEDURE:

STEP 1: Cut 2 sweet potatoes into desired french fry shape (i.e., about 1-2cm thick, and lengthwise into strips)
STEP 2: Submerge in ice water and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (ideally overnight). This procedure draws out excess starch, which ensures that your sweet potato fries get crunchy out the outside and remain soft on the inside, without burning.
STEP 3: Preheat oven to 425℉.
STEP 4: Place fries on a baking tray covered with paper towels. Pat dry.
STEP 5: Line 1-2 sheet pans (depends on the size of your sheet pans—ideally, the french fries should not touch) with aluminum foil and coat with a thin layer of coconut oil.
STEP 6. Place the fries in a large plastic bag/ziploc, along with 4 tsp of your chosen starch. Seal the bag and shake until the fries are coated in a thin, even layer of starch. (The more air is in the bag, the easier this step will be).
STEP 7: Put your fries onto the pan(s), drizzle generously with coconut oil, and mix (with your hands or a spatula) until the fries are evenly coated in oil.
STEP 8: Arrange the fries on the pan(s) so that they do not touch, in a manner that will make them easy for you to flip later on.
STEP 9: Bake for 20 minutes. Flip the fries over (so the other side also gets baked) and bake for another 15-20 minutes (if you’re using two pans on separate oven racks, switch them so that the one on the bottom is on the higher rack, and vice versa!)
STEP 10: Let the fries cool for 10-15 minutes (the longer they cool, the crispier they get!)\ STEP 11. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste, toss to coat evenly.

INSTEAD OF: BANANA BREAD
TRY: BANANA OAT BARS

WET INGREDIENTS:

DRY INGREDIENTS:

ADD-INS:

PROCEDURE:

STEP 1: Pre-heat oven to 375℉
STEP 2: Mix all the wet ingredients, spices, baking powder, and sea salt until thoroughly combined.
STEP 3: Add rolled oats and mix until thoroughly combined. Keep in mind that the amount of oats will depend on the size of your bananas. The mixture should be similar to that of cookie dough—not too wet, but also not dry enough for the oats to get crumbly.
STEP 4: As an option, let the mixture sit for 30-60 minutes. This will soften the oats.
STEP 5: Cover a baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease with coconut oil.
STEP 6: Stir in add-ins to the mixture. If the mix is too dry, add 1 more mashed banana until desired consistency is reached.
STEP 7: Bake for 20-30 minutes, checking occasionally.
STEP 8: Let it cool completely before cutting.
STEP 9: Enjoy!

INSTEAD OF: A SALTED CARAMEL MILKSHAKE
TRY: A HEALTHY CHOCOLATE SEA SALT SMOOTHIE

INGREDIENTS:

PROCEDURE:

STEP 1: Slice banana into 2 cm-thick coins and freeze for 5 hours to overnight.
STEP 2: Blend all the ingredients in a blender, until smooth.
STEP 3: Pour into a glass.

OPTIONAL: Sprinkle with cacao nibs and a little sea salt.

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