It often feels like the foods we crave are the most unhealthy foods like fast food: after a rough day at the office or a harrowing time with toddlers, most of us don’t pine for a big bowl of veggies or a nice, juicy mushroom steak. Instead, we tend to want comfort foods like crispy fried chicken, juicy burgers or cheesy pizza.
Unfortunately, these foods are’t known for their health benefits. They’re often made with unhealthy oils like canola oil, refined carbohydrates (also known as empty calories) or pack an excessive amount of calories into one small dish. Basically, they’re foods that make you feel worse, not better, after eating. And who wants a food hangover when you just want to eat something delicious?
But you’re in luck. Some of the most unhealthy bad foods have gotten a makeover. I’m talking healthy comfort foods, meals that are heaps better than their traditional alternatives. No more trying to figure out how many miles you’ll need to clock on the treadmill to burn off those fries or swinging by the drive-thru incognito. These are the healthiest bad foods around that you’ll have no trouble gobbling down.
Healthiest “Bad” Foods
Turkey burgers have a reputation for being dry, bland versions of their beef counterparts, but not in this case. Adding chopped veggies like onions, mushrooms or peppers right into the ground turkey means that, as the burger cooks, the veggies will release their own moisture, keeping patties nice and juicy.
And a few choice toppings, like the balsamic caramelized onions that accompany this burger, don’t hurt either. They add an incredible amount of flavor — you might find yourself adding these as a standard topping to your usual burger recipe, too.
Photo: The Foodie and the Fix
2. Bison Burger
This meat has been gaining popularity over the years, and with good reason. Bison meat is a lean protein that’s full of vitamins and minerals, plus it tastes great. If you don’t believe me, these burgers will flip the switch for you. Using coconut aminos, shallots, fresh thyme and Dijon mustard produces a flavorful burger, while avocado slices bring some healthy fats to the party.
If you’re trying to do a few more Meatless Mondays, these veggie burgers are a terrific option. Mushrooms, like the portobello ones used in this recipe, are great for booting immunity and make an excellent meat alternative. Here, they’re dressed up with balsamic vinegar, coconut oil and garlic, then served with grilled red pepper for a hearty vegetarian meal.
One of the best parts about a burger isn’t what’s between the bun, but the bun itself. This is one of the most genius “oopsie” breads around. If you haven’t heard of them, oopsie breads are a low-carb substitute for bread, which are also wheat-, sugar- and grain-free. These are made with just a few ingredients, including eggs, psyllium husk powder, almond meal, cream of tartar and baking soda — and, of course, avocados.
You can pack a fair amount of ingredients onto these buns without them collapsing, and I love the slightly green color they get. They’re best eaten right out of the oven, but they do keep for 2 days in the refrigerator.
Photo: Sweet as Honey
Balsamic caramelized onions strike again, this time with beef burgers. These Paleo-friendly burgers are seasoned with garlic powder and then topped with the delectable onions. If you’re avoiding gluten, not to worry. These healthy burgers are stacked onto thick slices of beefsteak tomatoes for a totally gluten-friendly burger.
If you’re trying to get more omega-3s and brain-boosting benefits, eating more (wild-caught) salmon is a good way to do it, and these burgers make it simple. One of the most unhealthy foods is given a seafood upgrade here. The burger ingredients are definitely tasty, but the avocado salsa pushes it over the edge. Use gluten-free breadcrumbs if you can’t tolerate gluten and homemade mayo is always best.
You’re going to be shocked by how good these vegan, gluten-free burgers are — and how simple they are to make! With just a can of chickpeas and a few pantry staples, you’ll have a hearty, veggie comfort food option.
This beautiful burger is the vegetarian burger of your dreams. It’s full of healthy beets, filling quinoa and vitamin-rich sweet potatoes. The texture is second to none and roasting the veggies before assembling the burger means they have a ton of extra flavor. I love that we can use so many veggies to create one of the healthiest bad foods.
Photo: The Awesome Green
Chicken nuggets are one of the few foods that most kids will eat without freaking out. But good options are few and far between, and the store-bought brands that are less processed will take a toll on your wallet. That’s why these baked nuggets are so genius.
Many recipes use chicken breast to make nuggets but, by using ground chicken, you’ll get a softer nugget that tastes and feels more like the ones you buy out, turning this processed food into one of the healthiest bad foods around.
If you’ve got a hankering for honey-mustard chicken, this grown-up version is for you. Using chicken thighs means the chicken stays nice and juicy while it bakes and the homemade glaze that’s drizzled on after cooking is lip-smacking good. I would, however, replace the vegetable oil with coconut oil and use a whole-wheat or gluten-free flour instead of plain all-purpose flour.
Chick-fil-A isn’t one of the most popular fast food restaurants for no reason — it tastes darn good. But this gluten-free copycat recipe will fool anyone. The secret is marinating the chicken in pickle juice! You’ll get a crisp, Paleo-friendly batter thanks to arrowroot flour, coconut flour and a quick fry in the pan. You (and your family!) won’t be able to tell the difference between this and the real thing.
Sometimes you want fried chicken, and you want it fast. This pan-fried chicken is ready in under half hour, making it an awesome choice for weeknights. One of the most unhealthy foods no more, it’s also made with almond flour and seasonings, so great for Paleo and gluten-free eaters. Serve with a salad or fries (see below!) and you’re all set.
13. Asparagus Fries
Get your vitamins with these crunchy asparagus fries. Dipped in breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese, this asparagus recipe makes for a guilt-free side or snack in just 10 minutes.
Crispy on the outside, soft and buttery on the inside, avocado fries are a trend I hope stick around, as they transform one of the most unhealthy foods. Avocado slices are dipped in an eggwash, covered with Panko and then baked for 20 minutes. They’re excellent with the spicy chipotle sauce on the side. What a clever way to add even more of the fruit into your life!
It’s impressive how crispy these fries get in the oven — no deep frying necessary here. The secret is soaking the potatoes before slicing to remove some of the starch. With a delectable spice mix that includes cumin and chili powder, these are some of the best homemade baked fries.
If you’ve never had roasted carrots before, you might be surprised to know that they taste similar to sweet potatoes, sweet and earthy. These carrot fries are the perfect introduction and one of the healthiest bad foods. They’re lower in carbs than traditional potato fries and are quick and easy to make. The accompanying dipping sauce is totally vegan and matches the flavor profile of these fries nicely.
Photo: Eat the Gains
Just five ingredients, no muss, no fuss and no oil. These are some of the easiest, tastiest curly fries around.
Green beans are actually a really good substitute for potato fries. They don’t taste the same, but the beans are nice and crisp, one of the most satisfying parts of eating fries. Plus, you’ll get all the nutrition benefits, like helping to prevent cancer and decreasing the risk of diabetes. A great way to get the kids to eat their vegetables!
Another fun way to eat more carrots, these shoestring fries are delectably cheesy thanks to the Parmesan cheese. These use frozen, julienne-cut carrots, saving you time, but you could absolutely use fresh ones and julienne them yourself. I highly recommend swapping out the canola oil for coconut or olive oil but, other than that, these fries are genius.
Photo: Glitter and Graze
‘Shroom lovers, this one is for you. These mushrooms are coated in a garlicky, cheesy coating, topped with a little cayenne pepper for heat and finished off in the oven. You still get mushroom’s lovely flavors, but this time they’re crunchy and even better than ever.
Parsnips are such an underrated root vegetable. They might look a little funny, but they’re so great once roasted! They go a bit sweet after some quality time in the oven, but retain their shape — no soggy fries here.
Here, they’re first marinated in a Greek-style mix of olive oil, fresh mint, garlic and lemon juice, then lightly coated with gluten-free breadcrumbs. Bake ’em for 15 minutes and they’re ready for inhaling. Try them with hummus as a dipping sauce for the full Mediterranean effect.
Photo: Sweet as Honey
This is one innovative pizza and one of the healthiest bad foods to make right at home. I really enjoy the sweet potato crust. Not only is it super filling, plus it’s loaded with vitamins A and C, and it’s totally gluten-free. You can use any kind of shredded chicken for this recipe or a rotisserie one to make this even faster.
I absolutely love this pizza crust. Cauliflower is such a versatile ingredient, and it’s wonderful at reducing inflammation. In this recipe, we’ll rice the cauli and use it to make a pizza “dough” with garlic baked right into it, so you know it’s got maximum flavor. It’s a gluten-free, veggie-packed way to enjoy your pizza.
Photo: Dr. Axe
When you want a more traditional pizza but are keeping away from refined carbohydrates, this super simple whole-wheat pizza dough comes to the rescue. The most “exotic” ingredient you’ll need for this is dry yeast. It’s the perfect dough for beginners, particularly since no rising time is required, and turns one of the most unhealthy foods into a pretty healthy treat. Layer on your favorite toppings and enjoy.
This thin crust, flatbread-style pizza is fantastic for pizza night. It’s gluten-free and takes just 30 minutes from start to finish, including baking time, so it’s even quicker than delivery! It’s made with arrowroot starch, coconut flour and coconut milk and is sure to be a new favorite.
Not to toot my own horn but if you didn’t believe that my flatbread pizza was amazing, this eggplant version will convince you. It’s got the same base but is then topped with eggplant slices, balsamic vinegar, fresh spinach, tomatoes and cheese, of course! Adding eggplant means more fiber and antioxidants in every bite. Go big or go home with this homemade pizza.
This is one veggie-packed pizza pie. You’ll start with your favorite pizza dough, then smother it with a homemade basil-spinach pesto. Next come the other toppings: broccoli, artichoke hearts, feta and mozzarella — you know it’s good when there are two types of cheese. You’ll get vegetable deliciousness in every bite!
Photo: Hello Little Home
Have an abundance of zucchini? Time to make zucchini boats! These skip the traditional crust altogether and use zucchini halves as the base. You’ll scoop out the zucchini innards so you have a “boat,” and then mix it with goat cheese, arugula, tomatoes and more. It’s a delicious, healthy way to enjoy pizza and keep it low-carb, too.
Photo: Dr. Axe
Get FREE Access!
Dr. Josh Axe is on a mission to provide you and your family with the highest quality nutrition tips and healthy recipes in the world...Sign up to get VIP access to his eBooks and valuable weekly health tips for FREE!
Free eBook to boost
metabolism & healing
30 Gluten-Free Recipes
& detox juicing guide
Shopping Guide &