4 Healthy Comfort Food Recipes for Summer in Northern Michigan

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These healthy comfort food recipes are easy to make and delicious. 

What does “comfort food” mean to you? Is it a dish that’s sentimental? Full of flavor? Clinical Dietician Samantha Struck at Munson Healthcare Cadillac thinks comfort food has a different definition depending on the time of year and the individual.

“In the winter we typically think of comfort food as stews, pot-roasts, more ‘stick-to-your-ribs’ type meals,” she explains. “I think it’s important to recognize that comfort food can be summer food items as well. For example, a summer comfort food for me is burgers. Growing up, my mom would put a tablecloth on the patio furniture and my dad would grill burgers. These were some of the best times of the summer as a kid!

“Although burgers aren’t the worst option, there are plenty of ways to make the standard white bun, processed American cheese and low-quality meat burgers healthier. The more relaxed, carefree attitude summer brings can make it easy to neglect health and overindulge in summertime treats.”

Clinical Dietician Samantha Struck takes a look at four popular spring and summer comfort foods and gives us ideas on how to reimagine these recipes a little healthier.

Burgers

“Switching your meat source to a tuna, turkey or a leaner beef will decrease the unhealthy saturated fats in your burger. Skipping the cheese, or using a slice of low-fat cheese, will be a better option to not only decrease calories but also decrease the amount of fat consumed.” —Clinical Dietician Samantha Struck

Tuna Burgers
  • 6 ounces canned tuna packed in water
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon barbecue sauce

Directions

  1. Drain water from canned tuna.
  2. Transfer tuna to bowl, fluff with a fork.
  3. Add egg white, oats and barbecue sauce to tuna. Mix together and form into patties.
  4. Cook patties for about 5 minutes per side in a skillet or on the grill.

Potato Salad & Pasta Salad

“Instead of opting for a pasta or potato salad to bring to a summer barbecue or picnic, how about a Greek vegetable salad with an olive oil and lemon juice dressing? Traditional potato salad recipes call for a large amount of mayonnaise, which is a high-calorie, high-fat food.

“Also, did you know just one cup of pasta contains almost 200 calories? These calories can add up fast, especially because there are most likely other food items on your plate in addition to pasta salad. Instead, try this Greek salad recipe packed with nutrients, fiber and much healthier ingredients than a traditional pasta or potato salad.” —Clinical Dietician Samantha Struck

Greek Salad
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces pitted black olives (low sodium if possible)
  • 4–6 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 cucumbers, quartered and cut into ½ inch pieces
  • ½ cup feta cheese
  • 2 teaspoon basil
  • ¼ cup olive oil (extra virgin olive oil if possible)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

  1. Cut all vegetables, combine in a large bowl with black olives.
  2. Add olive oil, lemon juice, basil and thoroughly mix all ingredients.
  3. Top with feta cheese.
Pizza

“Pizza is often a go-to comfort food for the summer. Ever thought about making pizza from scratch? Fun fact—you can actually grill pizza. My dad and I do it all the time in the summer. We purchase pizza crusts or Flatout wraps, top with pizza sauce or pesto, veggies and/or meat and cheese, and pop our masterpieces right onto the grill.” —Clinical Dietician Samantha Struck

Samantha’s favorite healthy pizza toppings:

  • Spinach (use more than you think because it wilts down quite a bit!)
  • Banana peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Diced chicken breast
  • Turkey pepperoni
  • Feta cheese
  • Black olives
  • Bell peppers
  • Pineapple (yes, pineapple DOES belong on pizza)
Ice Cream

“The ultimate summer treat! Traditional ice cream is loaded with calories and sugar. Did you know the correct portion size listed on the nutrition facts label for ice cream is 1/3 cup? I don’t think there has ever been a time I have stuck to this portion size.

“One easy way to decrease the calories and sugar while also ramping up the nutrient content of ice cream is to make it yourself using frozen fruit!” —Clinical Dietician Samantha Struck

Homemade Healthy Ice Cream

  • 2–3 frozen bananas (cut into 1-inch chunks when ripe, then freeze)
  • 1 cup frozen berries
  • 2–3 tablespoons milk (Any kind! Almond, coconut, soy, cow, whatever you prefer.)

Directions

Blend all ingredients together in either a food processor or blender—simple as that! You can add a little bit of sweetener if your bananas were not ripe at the time of freezing. I suggest honey, as it is a natural source of sugar. If you would like a thicker consistency, place homemade ice cream in the freezer for 10–30 minutes after blending.


Shape Up North is a community collaboration dedicated to helping northern Michigan residents benefit from healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle. Living a healthier lifestyle can and should be an enjoyable adventure. Small changes in habits at school, work, and home can have long-lasting, positive effects on your health. With an abundance of great local foods and a four-season playground right outside your door, you and your family can lead a healthy, fit, and fun life.