It is comfort food season and you know what that means! Here’s a healthy habits column that updates all those canned soup casseroles your mom used to make.

Call it a casserole and its relegated to the 50s but call it a “strata” or a “bake” or a “pie” and suddenly its new again. Everyone has one of their mom’s recipes in their head, whether they hated it or loved it. Casseroles rock because they can be assembled and baked unmonitored. The traditional formula is simple: ingredients in a glass dish heated in the oven. The outcome is especially good for sharing at parties or for making on the weekend and enjoying all week. What could use a little healthy push is the choice of items that go into the dish.  Your mom used cans of soup, high carb pasta and maybe some corn flakes on top but we can do better. Switch it up with these healthier, more updated substitutions to any casserole recipe:

Instead of
Ground beef
Canned lentils or cooked chicken
Ground lamb with fat
Cook and rinse all meat before adding
Heavy cream sauce
Low fat evaporated milk
Spaghetti Squash/Quinoa/Brown Rice
Grated cheese
White sauce made with milk or yogurt
Canned soup
Baby food pureed vegetables
Corn Flake Topping
Whole wheat bread crumbs
Crispy Onions
Crushed whole wheat crackers
Pastry or Puff pastry
Phyllo layers

Every casserole has the same formula: Body of protein, heart of creamy and moist and topping of crisp. With a little imagination, you can update old favourites without making a dent in the flavour.  Mix and match as you please and serve with a great big salad and everyone is happy.

Theresa Albert is private, on call nutritionist in Toronto. She is @theresaalbert on twitter and found daily at