June 16, 2024

How to Make Hearty Meals Healthier! By Laura Maydak

Hearty, cold-weather meals should warm your belly without adding extra inches to it. 

Making simple ingredient substitutions will allow you to fill up without worrying about filling out.  Follow these ingredient swaps to make your hearty meals healthier:


Meatloaf or Meatballs
Replace ground beef with: ½ lean ground meat, ½ mushrooms (pulse mushrooms in a food processor)

Pasta Dishes
Replace white pasta with: Whole wheat pasta, spaghetti squash
(Low-cal Bonus: 1 cup provides only 42 calories, 10 gm carbs and 2 gm fiber)
Zucchini ribbons (sub for spaghetti or lasagna noodles)

Mashed Potatoes
Replace potatoes with: Cauliflower, Turnips

Creamy Soups, Sauces, and Casseroles
Replace heavy cream, condensed soup, or mayonnaise with: Evaporated skim milk, pureed vegetables (cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash; choose depending on dish’s flavor), fat-free, plain Greek yogurt

Replace high-fat cheese with: Low-fat or fat-free cheese
(Note: Sharp cheeses have a stronger taste, so you can use less without losing flavor!)

Creamy Dips
Replace sour cream with: fat-free, plain Greek yogurt

Recipe Bonus: Skip dipping veggies in full-fat ranch dressing.  Instead, add ranch seasoning to fat-free, plain Greek yogurt (amount added depends on taste preferences).  Mix, and enjoy!

Chili and Stew
Replace ground beef with: beans (any variety)
(Note: If using canned, buy low-sodium.  Also, rinsing and draining will remove up to 40% of the sodium.)

Added Flavor
Replace salt with: fresh or dried herbs, spices, salt-free seasoning blends
(Healthy Bonus: Herbs and spices add a punch of flavor and healthy compounds, such as antioxidants!)

Remember: Experiment and have fun!
Remember, making ingredient swaps may not work perfectly the first time, but you will learn and adjust accordingly.  Involve friends and family, especially kids, in the cooking, and then enjoy the healthy, hearty meal together.

Laura Maydak has a B.S. in Clinical Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh, and is currently a graduate student in the school’s Coordinated Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics program on her way to become a registered dietitian.  Aside from school, she is an avid runner, fitness enthusiast, and wanna-be chef.  Connect with Laura on twitter (@lmaydak) for motivation and tips to live your healthiest, happiest life – all given with a healthy dose of humor.

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