Cheesy Comfort Foods You Can Enjoy Guilt-Free

Treat yourself to cheese. Get healthy recipes to satisfy your cheesy cravings.

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salami pizza

Treat yourself to cheese. We’re not talking a small cup of cottage cheese. You deserve to partake in pizza night and not feel guilty about it. While comforting eats like a slice of pepperoni or a bowl of mac and cheese get bad reps for being unhealthy, as they often are, cheese is not necessarily to blame. Here are some of our favorite healthy recipes to help satisfy your cheesy cravings.

Transforming pizza into a healthy dinner option starts with the dough. Try using white whole-wheat flour, which will provide great texture and even better nutrition. And for a slightly nutty flavor, add whole grains like bulgur and quinoa. Either way, these healthier crusts taste delicious with traditional toppings — like mozzarella and salami (pictured above) — and unconventional toppings — such as feta and zucchini — alike.

Macaroni and 4 Cheeses

Macaroni and 4 Cheeses

Photo by: Tara Donne ©Tara Donne

Tara Donne, Tara Donne

Pureed squash is Ellie Krieger’s secret weapon to lighten up macaroni and cheese. And while there’s a healthy dose of vegetables (almost a half cup in each serving), she doesn’t skimp on the cheese. This recipe includes four different types: cheddar, Monterey Jack, ricotta and Parmesan.

cheese crackers

Food Network Kitchen’s healthy snacks gluten free cheesy crackers as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Stephen Johnson, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Make a better-for-you, better-tasting version of a store-bought favorite: cheese crackers. (It’s more fun than trying to find a kid-friendly healthy snack in the grocery store.) These crispy crackers made with full-fat cheddar and Parmesan are nutritionist-approved and gluten-free.

broccoli casserole

Embrace the undeniable fact that cheese makes broccoli taste better, and make a casserole. Add rotisserie chicken and rice (using the frozen kind makes things easier) to make it a meal that’s creamy, decadent and nutritious to boot.

turkey burgers

Turkey Burgers

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

The next time you’re craving a burger, consider using ground turkey instead of beef. According to Bobby Flay, “poultry is the perfect canvas for many big flavors.” He tops his turkey patties with a generous amount of tart and creamy goat cheese. It’s so good that it might make you reconsider your go-to burger cheese.

fettucine alfredo


Food stylist: Adrienne Anderson Prop stylist: Leslie Siegel

Photo by: Andrew McCaul

Andrew McCaul

The next time you need cream cheese, get Neufchatel instead. It’s similar in taste and texture but has slightly less fat. While it’s a great baking substitution, it can also come in handy come dinnertime. Just a couple of tablespoons makes Food Network Magazine’s Alfredo sauce extra rich and smooth, without a bunch of calories.

healthy quesadilla


Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Give a fun spin to your run-of-the-mill ham and Swiss by using the traditional sandwich ingredients to make a quick quesadilla dinner. Apple butter adds a sweet contrast to the spiciness from the mustard and red onions.

ricotta fig appetizer

Ellie Krieger's Figs with Riccota Pistachio and Honey as seen on Food Network

Photo by: Stephen Johnson ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Stephen Johnson, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Ricotta is great for so much more than pizza and pasta. For your next party, skip the cheese board and make these ricotta bites. Or just make them when you need a quick salty-sweet snack. Either way, you’ll want to keep the four simple ingredients — dried figs, pistachios, ricotta and honey — in your kitchen from now on.

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