There’s nothing better than cozying up with a hearty, warm, and comforting meal on a wintery night. However, many of our favorite cold weather dishes are calorie-laden and packed with unwanted fats and carbohydrates. So how can we satisfy winter cravings while also being mindful of our waistline?
Whether it’s lightening up an old classic or trying something new, let’s explore how to make healthful foods during the wintertime that are also tasty and satisfying.
Break out the Crock-Pot.
Using a slow cooker is a low-maintenance and easy way to prepare meals that are sure to be warm and hearty. There are endless options for healthy crock pot recipes online so skip the classic rich recipes and try something new without having to skimp on flavor.
Prep your meals beforehand.
Preparing and cooking large batches of food for the week ahead is a great way to help save time on weeknights. Make a large pot of soup or chili that can last you throughout the week. You can also roast a big batch of vegetables and add them to meals all week long. This way, you are guaranteed to have healthy options on hand and will be less tempted to go through the drive-thru when you come home starving.
Spice up your dishes.
Use flavorful herbs and spices in place of fat and salt when cooking and seasoning. Warm spices like cumin, curry powder, chili powder, and turmeric are perfect for winter and also offer a ton of health benefits. Herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill, thyme, mint, and rosemary add complexity to dishes that can otherwise taste boring.
Swap in veggies for pasta.
Believe it or not, vegetables can be great substitutes for pasta with much less carbs and calories. Spaghetti squash is an easy swap for spaghetti or fettucine, as the squash’s naturally long strands are very similar to pasta. For lasagna, you can use thin slices of eggplant to substitute for the lasagna noodles. Or simply use a spiralizer to transform veggies like broccoli stalks or zucchini into noodles that you can then top with your favorite pasta sauce.
Add some fresh sweetness.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with seasonal fruit. Bake apples or pears and top with some whole grain oats or chopped nuts. Citrus is also in season during the winter so grab an orange, clementine, or mandarin to peel and sprinkle slices with some cinnamon.
There’s nothing better than drinking a warm beverage to take the chill off. Choose plain tea or coffee and hold the sugar and cream. Try adding a dash of spice, like cinnamon or nutmeg, and a splash of unsweetened soy, almond, coconut, or regular milk. Remember to also get plenty of water throughout the day.
Lighten up favorite comfort foods.
You don’t have to give up all your favorite comfort foods entirely to stay healthy. Traditional chili for example, can contain loads of fat and sodium. But by swapping out ground beef for lean ground chicken or turkey, you can make it healthier without compromising the flavor. Some recipes, like chicken pot pie, involve a lot of starchy veggies like peas, corn, and potatoes. Substitute non-starchy vegetables like mushrooms, peppers, and onions and you’ll still have a delicious pie that’s just as flavorful, hearty, and delicious.
Both recipes are included in this post so be sure to read until the very end!
Make a winter salad.
Although salads may not initially come to mind during the winter months, they can still serve as a hearty and filling meal with the right toppings. Need inspiration? Try adding some of the following:
Lighter Recipes of Two Classic Favorites
Healthy Vegetarian Chili (6-8 servings)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, diced
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1/2 chopped jalapeño, with seeds removed (optional)
1 pound chopped portabella or crimini mushrooms, chopped
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly cracked
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
A pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, unsalted
3 cups (2 cans) cooked beans (cannellini, kidney or pinto), rinsed and drained
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
Low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt
Low-fat shredded cheese
1. Preheat a large heavy-bottomed soup pot to medium heat on the stove. Add the oil, onion, garlic, red bell peppers, jalapeño (optional) and mushrooms.
2. Sauté for 10 minutes or so, to allow the vegetables to soften.
3. Add the chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, oregano and cayenne pepper (optional). Cook for 1 minute.
4. Add the crushed tomatoes, beans, tomato paste and stock. Give everything a good stir and then bring to a boil. Once the chili is boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer.
5. Simmer for 25-30 minutes until the vegetables are cooked through. Remove the pot from the burner and add additional salt or pepper if needed. Garnish with your favorite toppings and serve.
Healthy Chicken Pot Pie with Quinoa Crust (8 servings)
Quinoa Topping Ingredients:
3 cups cooked quinoa
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup skim mozzarella cheese, grated or shredded
A bit of olive oil for pan
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 cups sliced mushrooms
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, low-sodium
1/2 cup 1 or 2% milk
3 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
A pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cooked chicken breasts (about 3-4 cups), skin removed and diced
1. Put all the ingredients for the topping into a bowl and mix to combine. Set aside for later.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.
3. Bring a medium-size pan to medium heat on the stove. Add a little olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the onion and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes.
4. Add the carrots, celery and bell pepper. Sauté until everything starts to soften, around 8 minutes or so.
5. Spoon the vegetables into a bowl. Return the pan to medium heat and add a little more olive oil to coat the pan. Add the mushrooms. Sauté until the mushrooms start to soften, about 5-8 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the bowl with the other veggies.
6. Return the pan to medium heat over the stove. Add the broth, milk and flour. Whisk the ingredients together, getting the lumps out of the flour. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 3-5 minutes, whisking occasionally.
7. Once the sauce starts thickening, add the salt, pepper and cayenne pepper (optional). Turn the heat off. Add the veggies and chicken to the sauce. Mix to combine then pour the mixture into a 9×13″ casserole dish, distributing evenly throughout.
8. Spoon the quinoa topping mixture over the filling. Smooth it out evenly to cover all the filling. Bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until everything gets bubbly and the cheese melts. Remove and let cool for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy!
**All recipes and photos courtesy of Jessica Forney