Healthy Comfort Food: It’s Possible!

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about how comfort food can sometimes actually be good for your mental health. If you did not get a chance to read it, I explain what goes on in the brain so that certain things like comfort foods or pumpkin spice lattes have the power to elicit positive memories and further to boost our mood. I also stressed that, as with most things in life, this remedy is meant to be doled out in moderation. Binging on anything is usually inappropriate and I would not encourage anyone to overdo it on high fat/sugar foods. However, if you find yourself a little down, munching or sipping on something seasonal and delicious may have the ability to temporarily boost your mood.

But what if you could have your cake and eat it too? (Pun intended). What if there were comfort foods available to us that could leave us feeling guilt free? What if there were scrumptious seasonal treats that could nourish our minds and our bodies at the same time? I am here to tell you that it is possible! Luckily, we live in an age where people are easily able to share ideas and information over the web. I have found that this also applies to recipes. Simply googling the phrase “healthy comfort foods,” yields a plethora of search results. From there you can narrow the search down to specific foods. I know that for me macaroni and cheese is my Achilles’ heel and I have definitely been able to find delicious, healthy versions of this usually heavy dish that add vegetables like spinach and broccoli and substitute Greek yogurt for milk and butter. If you are not sure where to start in narrowing down your searches, (because what is healthy really?) a good rule of thumb is to trust any recipe that follows the Paleo diet. The Paleo diet aims to eliminate processed foods and grains that do not occur naturally in the environment and focuses on foods that our hunter-gatherer ancestors in the Paleolithic era would have munched on. This usually includes foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, and seeds. According to the Mayo Clinic, a Paleo diet has the potential to promote weight loss, improve glucose tolerance, lower triglycerides, and help control blood pressure. These are foods that nourish your body, but also have the potential to nourish your mind when we indulge in their comfort food versions!

I am no chef, so I have listed one recipe below that I cannot take credit for, but I have found to be excellent as well as seasonal. See the recipe here or follow the link to the full website for more. Happy cooking, and happy mind, body, and soul as well!


Paleo Pumpkin Chili



2 pounds ground turkey

1 tablespoon garlic oil*

10 oz Teton Waters Ranch Smoked Sausage

1 16oz can or box pumpkin

2 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

1 4oz can diced green chilis

2 tablespoons chopped chives

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder*

1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder*

1/4 teaspoon cumin*

2 teaspoons paprika*

pepper to taste



Instant Pot Instructions

  1. Place the turkey and garlic oil in the Instant Pot and hit the “saute” button. Cook until browned, breaking up as needed, about 5 minutes. While that is cooking, slice the sausage into 1/4 inch rounds.
  2. Hit the “cancel” button and add the sausage, pumpkin, tomatoes, green chilis, chives, salt, oregano, chipotle powder, ancho chili powder, cumin, paprika, and pepper. Stir well and place the top on. Close the valve and hit the “manual” button, reduce the time to 10 minutes. Once done, you can let it naturally release or quick release. Stir and serve.

Stove Top Instructions

  1. In a large stock pot add turkey and garlic oil. Heat over medium heat and cook until browned, breaking apart as needed, about 5 minutes. While that is cooking, slice the sausage into 1/4 inch rounds.
  2. Once browned, add the sausage, pumpkin,  tomatoes, green chilis, chives, salt, oregano, chipotle powder, ancho chili powder, cumin, paprika, and pepper. Stir well and cook 15 minutes or until desired. At this point, everything is cooked and if you cook it longer the flavors just develop more. Take it off the heat and serve.


Recipe Notes

*If not needing it low fodmap, then you can use 1-2 tablespoons chili powder instead of these seasonings. You can also use garlic powder in place of the garlic oil


Written by Hayley Nelson

Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc.


Recipe by: Jessica DeMay






DeMay, J. (2018, October 22). Paleo pumpkin chili and spider hot dogs. Retrieved October 24,    2018, from         spider-hot-dogs/

Paleo diet: What is it and why is it so popular? (2017, August 8). Retrieved October 24, 2018,      from      depth/paleo-diet/ art-20111182

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