Georgiann Caruso is a CNN Medical Associate Producer
After a long, stress-filled day, you may just crave some comfort - and comfort foods like mac 'n' cheese or spaghetti and meatballs.
"Comfort foods are more about the heart than they are hunger," says Marisa Moore, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition of Dietetics. "They serve to sort of bring up those happy memories from childhood or a time that you've spent with a loved one and they bring you psychological comfort."
Sating these cravings doesn't have to mean you’ve got to eat dishes that are high in fat, sodium or calories. Moore says you can still enjoy your favorite comfort foods while keeping them healthy and delicious.
"A lot of the food that we do put out is pretty and fancy but the idea is to make sure it has a good nutritional profile so that it feeds all of the senses as well as the body," Gallivan says.
The Art Institute and Moore offer these recipes and tips to make your own healthy comfort foods.
"Take for example macaroni and cheese. There's several things you can do," Moore says. "You can start with a lower-fat milk; that will help to cut back on the calories."
"You can add vegetables to it," she adds. "Any time you add vegetables to a dish, it helps to lower the total calorie count."
Moore also suggests volumizing chili with vegetables.
"Making a heart-healthy chili is actually very easy," she says. "The best thing to do is add more vegetables, particularly beans, mushrooms. You can even add carrots. That's a great way to increase the fiber content."
And there's help for the old standby, pasta.
"One way to cut the calories in traditional spaghetti and meatballs is instead of using beef, you might use a lean ground turkey," Moore suggests.
"In addition to that, you might switch up your pasta option and use a spaghetti squash, which is a winter squash," she says.
When baked and flaked, the squash resembles spaghetti, but is significantly lower in carbohydrates and calories.
Since cravings sometimes occur on a chilly winter morning, Moore suggests trying oatmeal pancakes with fruit syrup.
"If you take traditional pancakes and add some oatmeal or a whole wheat flour to it, that's a great way to increase the fiber and the health profile," she notes.
In addition, she suggests fruit syrup over regular, bottled syrup for its fiber and antioxidant properties.
Last, but certainly not least, there's dessert.
"If you have a sweet tooth, using fruit in your dessert can naturally sweeten the dessert so you don't have to," she says. "It allows you to cut back on added sugars."
The Center for Disease Control says you can still lose weight or maintain a healthy weight by figuring out how to include almost any food in your eating plan.
Moore suggests keeping a food journal to identify some of the things that you eat when you're not really hungry.
"The best way to conquer emotional eating is by figuring out what your triggers are," she says.
Read more about how to cook healthy foods on CNN Health and get the recipes below.
Per serving: approx. 258 calories, 17g protein, 26g carbohydrates, 10g fat (5g saturated), 3g fiber and 4g sugar
Per serving: approx. 483 calories, 38g protein, 48g carbohydrates, 18g fat (4g saturated), 11g fiber and 12g sugar
Per serving: 250 calories, 2.5g total fat, (0g saturated), 35mg cholesterol, 180mg sodium, 36g total carbohydrate (13g dietary fiber, 12g sugar), 24g protein
Makes about 18 pancakes.
* The original recipe used ripe prickly pear, either raw, peeled and chopped, or canned purée. Any highly flavorful fruit can be used. The amount of fructose may need to be adjusted if the fruit is very tart.
Per serving: approx. 25 calories, trace protein, 4g carbohydrates, trace fat (0g saturated), trace fiber
Per serving: calories 191, fat 4.8g (saturated 1.5g), cholesterol 5mg, sodium 23mg, carbohydrate 34.8g, fiber 3g, protein 2g
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