Get an early start on your spring body with these recipes for leaner versions of your favorite winter comfort foods.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD 1 / 11
Don’t wait until spring to clean up your diet. The frigid weather doesn’t give you permission to be a couch potato. Even if you’re not running around in your summer gear, it’s important to watch what you eat all year round. Take the time to get in the kitchen and cook healthy meals. But we get it: Colder temps make you crave hearty dishes rather than light summer salads. If comfort food is what you’re craving, we’ve got you covered. All it takes is a few tweaks to turn your favorite high-calorie dish into a high-protein, muscle-building meal that is lighter in calories and still tasty. So get in the kitchen and cook up these 10 lighter versions of your cold weather favorites.
Instructions: 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 2. Heat olive oil in oven proof skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle chicken breasts with ½ teaspoon garlic salt. Cook chicken breast smooth side down in skillet until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn chicken over and place in the oven until cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. To save time you can make the chicken ahead of time or use grilled chicken. 3. Remove chicken from pan and let it rest for 5 minutes. Cut into 1-inch pieces and place into a large serving bowl. 4. In the same skillet you cooked the chicken, add the vegetables, sprinkle with remaining garlic salt and cook lightly until just fork tender, about 2 to 3 minutes (you can also steam vegetables lightly if you prefer). Remove from the pan and place into serving bowl with the chicken. Note: Don’t cook until desired texture because they will continue to cook when you toss with warm pasta. 5. Cook fettuccine according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and move to serving bowl with the chicken and vegetables. 6. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the flour and cook over low heat for 3 minutes. Add the broth, slowly add the milk, nutmeg and Parmesan and continue to whisk until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Toss with the pasta, chicken and veggies. 7. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.
Tabbouleh is made from bulgur, a classic Middle Eastern grain. Bulgur is a quick cooking form of whole wheat that has a chewy texture and nutty flavor. This ancient grain is brimming with energy-boosting B-vitamins like thiamin, niacin, folate, and vitamin B6. One cup of cooked bulgur also contains 6 grams of protein and is fat- and cholesterol-free. If you’ve never cooked bulgur before, don’t worry. Cook it with water, just like rice. Read the package directions for the exact cooking time.
Skill level: Beginner Serves: 8 Start to Finish: 24 minutes, plus 1 hour standing time Prep: 20 minutes Cook: 4 minutes
Ingredients: 1 cup bulgur 1 cup hot water ¼ cup olive oil ¼ cup lemon juice ⅔ cup fresh parsley, chopped ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped 1 clove garlic, minced ½ teaspoon salt 1 teaspoons ground coriander 1 teaspoon ground cumin ¼ teaspoon hot sauce 1 pound mini peppers
Instructions: 1. Place bulgur in a large bowl, cover with water. Set aside for an hour, until most of the water is absorbed. 2. Make a vinaigrette by whisking together olive, lemon juice, garlic, salt, coriander, cumin and hot pepper sauce. Pour over bulgur. 3. Rinse peppers. Cut in half lengthwise, remove seeds and stem. Place in a microwaveable bowl, add 2 tablespoons water. Cover and microwave on HIGH for 3-4 minutes. The peppers should be softened but not cooked. Remove cover and allow to cool. 4. Fill pepper halves with tabbouleh and serve. The stuffed peppers may be refrigerated overnight, covered, before serving.
Ingredients: 2 tablespoons cottonseed oil (or canola) 1½ lb beef stew meat, cubed 2 tablespoons cornstarch ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon black pepper 1 sweet onion, diced 1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 tablespoon rosemary, freshly chopped 1 bay leaf 32 oz beef broth 1 cup pearl barley 9 oz frozen peas, defrosted
Instructions: 1. Place beef cubes in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cornstarch over the meat and toss to coat. 2. Heat oil in a large pot, over high heat. Add meat to pot and brown on all sides (about 5-7 minutes total). Remove meat and set aside. 3. Return pot to burner and reduce to medium/high. Add onions, mushrooms, garlic and cook just until starting to soften, about 4 minutes. Add rosemary and bay leaf. 4. Pour in broth, cover and simmer (on low heat) 1 hour. After 1 hour, stir in barley, re-cover and continue to simmer another 45 minutes. Stir in defrosted peas and cook uncovered 10 minutes. 5. Serve hot.
Ingredients: 1/2 tablespoon olive oil (in an oil mister) 1 pound extra lean ground chicken 1/2 medium onion 6 garlic cloves 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes 1/2 tablespoon each of dried basil, oregano and chili flakes if desired 4 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4" thick 1 (15 ounce) container fat-free cottage cheese 2/3 cup grated part-skim mozzarella cheese
Instructions: 1. Cover the bottom of a medium saucepan with olive oil from your oil mister. 2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the ground chicken and let it brown. 3. Drain off any excess fat by pouring the chicken into a fine mesh stainless steel strainer. Set the chicken aside. 4. Mist the bottom of the saucepan with olive oil and sauté the onions for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes. 5. Put the chicken back into the saucepan and add the tomatoes and herbs. Cover and simmer on medium for 15 minutes. 6. While the sauce simmers, slice zucchini, sprinkle with a touch of salt, and let it sit until the sauce is ready. Absorb any water that comes out of the zucchini with a paper towel or clean dishcloth. 7. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. 8. On a grill pan or a panini press, grill the zucchini for 1 minute per side. 9. To layer, set aside half of the mozzarella cheese. In a 9x9-inch baking or casserole dish, start layering in this order: sauce, zucchini, cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese. Keep repeating until you're out of ingredients. 10. Use the remaining half of your mozzarella cheese to top the lasagna. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted. 11. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into 9 pieces and enjoy!
5. Recipe: Vegan Shepherd's Pie with Mashed Cauliflower
This vegan dish is filled with vegetables and lentils upping the fiber to a whopping 10 grams per serving. One cup of cooked lentils is also an excellent source of iron, folate, thiamin, and vitamin B6. Plus the type of fiber found in lentils, soluble fiber, has been shown to help lower cholesterol.
Ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 cup diced onion 1 cup diced carrot (about two carrots) 1 cup diced parsnip (about two parsnips, peeled) 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided 1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided 2 large cloves garlic, minced 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced 4 cups vegetable broth 1 cup uncooked green lentils, rinsed and drained 1 bunch sage (about 5 leaves) 1 bunch thyme (about 3-4 sprigs) 2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder Salt and pepper to taste 3 lbs. cauliflower florets (about 3 heads cauliflower) 1/3 cup almond milk 3 tablespoons vegan buttery spread
Instructions: 1. In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and parsnip and cook for 7-10 minutes, or until onions are translucent and veggies are slightly tender. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. 2. Stir in garlic and mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes (stirring occasionally), or until mushrooms are tender and lightly browned. 3. Add vegetable broth, lentils, thyme and sage, reduce heat and let simmer for 35- 45 minutes, or until lentils are tender. 4. To thicken the lentil mixture, add cornstarch or arrowroot to a heaping spoonful of the lentil mixture in a separate bowl. Whisk together. Add thickened mixture back to the pot and whisk in. Salt and pepper to taste. 5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 6. Meanwhile, steam cauliflower florets until fork tender and transfer to a food processor (you may need to do this in batches depending on size of food processor). Add almond milk, vegan buttery spread and pulse to a smooth and creamy puree. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add more salt and pepper to taste. 7. Transfer lentil mixture to a 9x13 baking dish or 2 quart baking dish. Carefully spread mashed cauliflower evenly over top. 8. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes and then transfer to under the broiler for 5 minutes, or until cauliflower is crispy and starting to turn golden brown. 9. Remove from oven and let cool briefly before serving.
So how do you make a healthier chicken parm with only 6 ingredients? It’s all about using smaller portions and baking, not frying. Serve these delicious pieces of heaven with whole grain pasta, homemade marinara sauce and a touch of Parmesan cheese on the side.
Ingredients: 1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, homemade or Progesso brand ½ teaspoon Kosher salt 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese 1 large egg 2 tablespoons butter, melted 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 ½ pounds), washed and dried
Instructions: 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Clean and dry chicken breasts. 2. In a medium bowl, combine bread crumbs, salt, and Parmesan cheese. 3. Put the melted butter and egg in a separate small bowl, and whisk thoroughly. 4. Dip the chicken breasts in the egg/butter mixture and then in the breadcrumbs, covering both sides evenly. Set on a greased or parchment/Silpat-lined baking sheet. 5. Bake until the exterior is brown and the inside cooked through, about 35 minutes. The time may vary depending on the thickness of the chicken.
With the latest Dietary Guidelines nixing the cholesterol guidelines, eggs are back on the menu for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This frittata has a healthy dose of BCAAs along with potassium (from the potatoes) that helps regulate muscle contractions.
2 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, diced 1 large garlic clove, diced 1 small shallot, sliced 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 1 pinch of salt and pepper 1 pat of butter 5 large eggs, whisked 4 – 6 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese shavings Salt and pepper to taste 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (optional)
Instructions: 1. To roast potatoes, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut potatoes into bite-sized chunks, toss with garlic, shallots, olive oil and salt and pepper. Place in an oven-safe baking dish. Roast for 45 minutes and check. Test potatoes by piercing with a fork, if potatoes are still hard in the center, put back in the oven for another 15 minutes. Check again, when middle is soft and potatoes are golden brown, remove from oven and set aside to cool for a few minutes. 2. In a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat, add butter and coat bottom with melted butter. Add roasted potatoes to sauté for a few minutes, pour in eggs and allow to cover the whole round of the skillet. Sprinkle the thyme, salt, and pepper over the mixture and allow it to set. Turn the heat to low and cover. The eggs will rise a bit as they cook. With a spatula, loosen the sides of the eggs from the skillet and work it toward the middle to stop it from sticking (and check to see of the bottom is browning). Sprinkle on cheese and cover again. 3. Allow the center to solidify and quickly remove from heat. Using a spatula, gently outline the sides and work toward the middle. It should loosen easily; lay it on a serving plate. Cut into triangle slices; serve while still warm. Dip each forkful in a dollop of Dijon mustard, if desired. Enjoy!
This gluten- and dairy-free chili is filled with protein and fiber from the beans, and plenty of antioxidants from the vegetables, herbs, and spices. Enjoy this muscle-building healthy comfort food while the weather is still cold outside.
Ingredients: 1 tablespoon olive oil 4 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon) 1 cup chopped yellow onions 3 medium bell peppers, seeded and diced (about 3 cups; use variety of colors if available) 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced (add some seeds for spice) 1 tablespoon ground cumin 2 tablespoons chili powder ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 (26-28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes (preferably no-salt added) 1 (26-28 ounce) can chopped or diced tomatoes (preferably no-salt added) 3 cups vegetable cooking stock (I like Progresso) 3 cups water 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt added kidney beans, drained and rinsed 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt added navy beans, drained and rinsed 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt added black beans, drained and rinsed 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar 1 tablespoon maple syrup ½ teaspoon Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions: 1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, and peppers and saute until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and oregano and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds to 1 minute. 2. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, cooking stock, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring from time to time, for 30 minutes. 3. Stir in the beans, corn, apple cider vinegar, and maple syrup, and continue cooking uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes more until the chili is nicely thickened. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
You can make a healthier mac and cheese by substituting broccoli and cauliflower for part of the pasta. The results are a 200 calorie dish with 10 grams of protein, only 22 grams of carbs, and a whole lot of deliciousness.
Ingredients: 1 crown of broccoli, cut into small florets ¾ cup dry whole-grain macaroni pasta (or another small short-cut pasta) 250 g frozen cauliflower ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons skim evaporated milk Pinch of grated nutmeg 2 oz old cheddar cheese, grated 2 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, finely grated Pinch each of salt and pepper to taste
For the topping 1½ tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano cheese 2 tablespoons Italian bread crumbs 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Instructions: 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 2-cup ramekins and place on a baking tray lined with foil. 2. Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook for 4 minutes, then add in the broccoli florets and cook for another 1 ½ minutes. Remove the pasta with a slotted spoon to a bowl. 3.With the water still boiling, add in the cauliflower. Boil until very soft, about 5-7 minutes, depending on the size of the florets. 4. Using that slotted spoon, transfer the cauliflower to a blender and add a few tablespoons of the starchy cooking water. Start to puree until smooth. Add in the evaporated milk and blend until combined. Season with a bit of ground nutmeg and pinch each of salt and pepper. 5. Pour into a small saucepan with the 2 tablespoons of parmesan and half of the cheddar cheese. Stir over medium low heat until the cheese melts. 6. Turn off the heat, then add in the pasta, broccoli, and remaining cheese. Season with salt and pepper again, if needed. 7. Divide the mixture between the two ramekins. 8. In a small bowl, mix together the cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley and oil. Sprinkle evenly on top of each of dish. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese bubbles gently at the corners and the topping is golden brown. Enjoy!
Ingredients: 1 egg 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons liquid egg whites (6 tablespoons ) or the whites of 2 eggs 1/2 cup old fashioned oats 1 medium banana, mashed 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract Dash of salt 1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen and thawed
Instructions: 1. Add egg and egg whites to a bowl and beat/whisk. 2. Add oats, mashed banana, vanilla and salt, stirring to combine. 3. Gently stir in ½ cup of blueberries. 4. Spray a griddle or pan with nonstick cooking oil and heat on medium. 5. Use 1/4 cup as a measure to scoop batter and pour pancakes into pan. 6. Cook bottom until golden brown and very carefully flip over, cooking until set and golden. Be patient! 7. If you want to freeze them, let cool first, then wrap in parchment paper and place in a freezer zipper bag. To reheat, try microwaving 30 seconds at a time, flipping as needed. Avoid overheating!