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News  ›  Fitness and Nutrition

Fall comfort food revamp

September 27, 2018

Rosemary Mueller, MPH, RDN, LDN, Clinical Dietitian at Northwest Community Healthcare Wellness Center

Macaroni and cheese

There’s something about the first few blasts of cool, crisp air this time of year that starts us craving those warm, comfort foods of autumn. Here are some ideas for making those choices a big lighter and healthier:

  1. Mac and cheese: Start with whole grain pasta, use low-fat milk and half the butter or fat. Use reduced-fat cheese. Add in veggies, lightly-cooked: broccoli, red/green/yellow peppers and/or mushrooms.
  2. Quick breads, muffins, brownies and cookies: Lighten them up by replacing up to half the fat (butter, margarine, shortening, or oil) with applesauce or strained (baby food) prunes.
  3. Stews: Use extra lean meat, decrease meat (add beans instead) or add more non-starchy vegetables.
  4. Soups: Combine equal parts 1% milk and evaporated skim milk, and use in cream soups and sauces.
  5. Sweet Pumpkin Oats: Add pureed pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and a little sugar-free vanilla pudding to cooked oatmeal to create a warm and hearty “pumpkin pie” breakfast.
  6. Fruit dip: Mix together some pureed pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and light cream cheese.
  7. Coffee: Add a dash of pumpkin pie spice and stir.
  8. Apples: Bake them together with lean pork, turkey or chicken as a main dish meal.

Those watching their weight and total carbs might appreciate these lighter versions of fall beverage favorites:

Lighten-it-up Hot Cocoa – one serving


1 cup almond milk (or skim milk) suitable for lactose intolerance
1 tbsp cocoa powder or dark cocoa powder
4-8 drops Stevia liquid concentrate (ex., Sweet Drops or PureVia Liquid Stevia)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of Kosher or sea salt (omit if low sodium diet)


In a saucepan over high heat, combine all ingredients using a whisk to break up any clumps. Keep stirring until smooth and piping hot, then pour into a mug and serve warm. (For a little splurge, top with fat-free whipped topping and some shaved dark chocolate.)

Nutrition info per serving if made with almond milk: 87 calories, 11 grams /carbohydrate, 1 gram/protein, 3 grams/fat

If made with skim milk: 101 calories, 15 grams/ carbohydrate, 9 grams/ protein, .5 grams/ fat

Less-Sugar Apple Cider – two 10 oz. servings


1 cinnamon apple spice tea bag (ex. Celestial Seasonings)
1 cup hot water
2 whole allspice berries
2 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 ½ cups apple cider


Brew the tea in an 8-ounce cup of hot water with the allspice, cinnamon and cloves. Heat the cider separately until hot, but not boiling. Discard tea bag, allspice, cloves and cinnamon stick. In each of two mugs, combine half of the spiced tea and half of the warmed cider. Enjoy!

Nutrition info per serving: 80 calories, 20 grams /carbohydrate, 0 grams/ protein, 0 grams/ fat