ASK JOAN

Put a Healthy Spin on these 5 Winter Favorite Eats

Screen shot 2016 08 11 at 1.30.46 pm

JLP Staff

Recipes / / December 02, 2016

The winter season's festive atmosphere tends to bring along a wealth of delicious — but heavy — dishes. While you may find the abundance of sweets and treats unavoidable at big family celebrations, you can lighten the burden on your figure during the season with a few simple tweaks. Start by choosing healthy winter staples for your everyday rotation so those holiday parties are only a social indulgence. These easy go-to meals will fill you up without filling you out, giving you an excuse to ring in even more holiday cheer.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Mac and cheese is the ultimate winter comfort food, but you can give this sinful delight a healthy update by swapping out full fat milk and highly processed cheese products for low-fat milk and your preferred pick among lighter cheese options. Cream cheese, light cheddar, white cheddar, and low-fat cottage cheese are all improved options. Pick two to create your own personalized version of this classic.

Top with breadcrumbs or crumbled whole grain crackers for a crispy texture. To add even more goodness to the dish, use whole wheat pasta and stir in some veggies like broccoli or spinach.

Satisfying Stuffed Chicken

The impressive appearance of this dish can make it seem intimidating, but stuffing a chicken breast is as simple as pounding it flat and rolling the resulting piece of chicken around your preferred filling. For a light dish, try sautéed spinach and onion with feta, or a combination of kale and goat cheese. For southwestern flair, use black beans and pico de gallo. A caprese-stuffed chicken breast is a simple go-to with a slice of tomato, a few basil leaves, and a small ball of mozzarella.

Brush the stuffed chicken breast with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You can secure your creation with a toothpick if necessary, but don't forget to remove the pick before you dig in. Bake until cooked through, and enjoy!

Simple Silver Turtles

Image via Flickr by thebittenword.com
Silver turtles are any tasty combination of meats, spices, and vegetables that you pack into a piece of foil and cook together. They're often considered a camping staple because you can easily toss the little turtles on a grill or campfire. However, you can enjoy all the convenience and healthy perks of this recipe in winter by cooking your silver turtles in the oven instead.

Fill your turtle with your favorite poultry or fish for a healthy punch of protein. Add vegetables like zucchini, carrots, fennel, potatoes, onions, asparagus, bell peppers, or any other favorites. Season to taste. A squeeze of lemon juice does wonders for fish or chicken; sage and thyme are delightful with turkey. Whether you're cooking up a combo of salmon and vegetables, or you're trying a festive blend of turkey, green beans, and sweet potatoes, you can't go wrong with this approach to dinner.

Sweet Potato Suppers

Sweet potatoes are often relegated to the role of side dish, but these hearty tubers are a filling choice for your main course that will give you a plentiful dose of fiber and potassium. Let the sweet potato take center stage at dinner in a sweet and savory skillet dinner. Cook sweet potatoes and onion in a skillet with butter until tender. Add sausage, apples, and sweet and sour sauce to fill out the dinner. Serve on a bed of spinach to get that pop of green in your meal.

For lunch, make twice-baked sweet potatoes. Mix the filling with spinach, cranberries, walnuts, and goat cheese. The finished dish incorporates both a fruit and a vegetable into this starchy main.

Loaded Oatmeal Options

Start the day healthy with a filling breakfast that has a festive seasonal kick. Oatmeal is a warm go-to for chilly winter mornings that won't have you headed out the door on a sugar buzz. You can top your steaming bowl with power-packed options that will give you energy and staying power throughout the day.

Make pumpkin oatmeal with canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, walnuts, chia seeds, and agave syrup. Dress your oatmeal with festive cranberries, almonds, and a drop of real maple syrup.  Sauté apples with cinnamon and a little butter for a topping as delicious as pie. The options are limitless.


Eating well through the holiday season doesn't have to mean hours of slaving away in the kitchen or complex dinners with pages of instructions. Simply rely on your favorite lean meats, whole grains, and wholesome vegetables. Satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit where you can, letting winter favorites like cranberries enjoy their seasonal spotlight. Dine well between holiday events and you can hit the new year looking and feeling as good as ever.

Categories: Holiday, Recipes
About The Author
Screen shot 2016 08 11 at 1.30.46 pm

Joan Lunden’s in-house research and writing team works with Joan to create content that complements her focuses and the interests of her fans. The team is dedicated to creating a thriving community through content and conversations, and hopes their work, like Joan’s, can make a difference in the lives of her readers everywhere.

comments powered by Disqus
Ask Joan
Joan lunden