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Healthy takes on comfort food classics

By Alia Hoyt, Special to CNN
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
This vegan two-bean meatloaf features pinto beans, chickpeas and sunflower kernels, topped with a molasses glaze. This vegan two-bean meatloaf features pinto beans, chickpeas and sunflower kernels, topped with a molasses glaze.
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Comfort foods, healthified
Comfort foods, healthified
Comfort foods, healthified
Comfort foods, healthified
Comfort foods, healthified
Comfort foods, healthified
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Comfort foods too often equal fat and calories
  • Mac and cheese is made healthier with the addition of cauliflower
  • Even chicken parmesan can be lightened up

(CNN) -- A handful of comfort food classics go above and beyond in terms of taste, function and general awesomeness. Science has even gone so far as to assert that comfort foods can combat loneliness.

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Sadly for our hips and hearts, these rich dishes tend to be overwhelmed by fat and calories. Until now. These six recipes revamp popular comfort food classics in healthy, yet delicious ways.

Two Bean Meatless Meatloaf from back to her roots

Those of us who can't or simply don't want to eat red meat need not banish meatloaf to the far recesses of the universe. This vegan version is loaded with heart-healthy pinto beans, chickpeas, sunflower kernels and a host of other ingredients that help to maintain the desired "loaf" shape. Topped with a delicious molasses glaze, you'll scarcely notice the absence of the trademark beef.

Svelte Macaroni And Cheese from The Svelte Gourmet

The butter, full-fat cheese, eggs, whipping cream and bread crumbs in macaroni and cheese combine to create a perfect storm of artery-clogging badness. This skinny recipe swaps out or reduces the amount of many of these components to produce a version that is lower in fat and calories.

So what's the catch? Nothing, really. Sure, fiber-rich cauliflower is a major ingredient, but it's covered in cheesy goodness and soft enough to be virtually undetectable among the pasta.

Skinny Veggie Lasagna from pinch of yum

The beauty of this sumptuous dish is that it can be tailored to suit your tastes. Gather three cups of your favorite chopped vegetables and the recipe will be poised to please. Incorporate the veggies with whole grain lasagna noodles, chopped spinach, ricotta cheese and some other basic ingredients to create a mozzarella-covered beauty that boasts large portions at only 206.3 calories per serving. Mama Mia!

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Healthified Chili Con Carne from The Skinny Fork

Chili is a favorite for most folks, especially during the cooler months of the year when a little extra spice is nice. Several minor edits make this recipe healthier than traditional versions. Extra-lean ground beef cuts fat, fiber-rich vegetables lend bulk and nutrients and homecooked beans cut sodium, which can harm the heart and cause major bloat, to boot. At only 216.5 calories per each 1 1/2-cup serving (that's a lot of chili, y'all!) this classic dish will fill you up and leave room for a cornmeal muffin!

Skinny Chicken Parmesan from The Girl Who Ate Everything

This Italian comfort dish can be lightened up without sacrificing flavor. A minimal amount of butter and light mozzarella keep fat at bay. Bake to perfection and serve alongside fiber-rich whole-wheat pasta and your favorite mineral-packed cruciferous veggie like broccoli for a surprisingly healthy meal.

Chicken Satay Meatball Recipe from I Breathe... I'm Hungry...

Made from a mixture of ground chicken or turkey and almond flour, these satay meatballs manage to be low carb, gluten free and lower in fat than their beef counterparts. Many of the herbs and sauce components lend an exotic Thai flavor, perfect for those who crave a twist on the traditional meatball experience.

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