May 25, 2022

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.

Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup by Helen Agresti, R.D.

Autumn has arrived. Embrace the shorter days and colder weather by pulling out your slow cooker. Simply toss in the ingredients in the morning, then return home where a warm, ready to eat, healthy meal for the whole family awaits. What could be easier?


Healthy Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup


1 (3-4 lb.) store bought rotisserie chicken, skin removed, meat shredded

1 (32 oz.) box fat-free and low-sodium chicken broth

2 (14.5 oz.) cans chopped stewed tomatoes

1 Tablespoon garlic, minced

1 (4 oz.) can green chilies, chopped

1/2 cup salsa (mild)

1/2 cup salsa conqueso (medium)

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1 Tablespoon cumin, ground

2 cups Mexican cheese

light sour cream

tortilla strips


1.  Combine all ingredients in slow cooker except cheese, sour cream, and chips.

2.  Cover. Cook on low 6-8 hours.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Top with sour cream, cheese and chips.

Recipe by Helen Agresti. Helen is a Registered Dietitian with Professional Nutrition Consulting, LLC.  She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and 5 children.  For more Nutrition advice and healthy recipes follow her on twitter @HelenAgresti and on the web


Visiting Family and Friends Made Easy…and More Fun! By Nicole Burley

Here’s how to eat healthy while visiting with those who don’t:


Be clear and up front before you visit: Everyone is happier when they know what to expect. Give your hosts the opportunity to be gracious, by speaking up for what you need in advance. There’s nothing worse than spending all day cooking – only to find out that your guests don’t eat anything that you made.

Believe in who you are and who you choose to be in the world: Ultimately, you are not here to change anyone’s mind or convert anybody to your way of eating. By the same token, you do not need to abandon your beliefs or your health goals when you’re eating with family or friends. If you’re asked about your ‘weird food’, by all means explain! Otherwise, do what you need to do to take care of yourself – and don’t let yourself be lured away from your food plan.

Bring your own food: When in doubt, bring a few ‘emergency’ items so that you’re guaranteed to have food available that is part of your plan. Pack healthy snack bars, easy breakfast items, nuts, etc and you’ll never wind up so hungry that you end up making an unwanted food choice. It’s all about making sure you have options!

Offer to cook a meal: This is the ultimate way to guarantee a healthy meal, while also giving your hosts a break from meal planning! You’ll come off as a gracious guest – and you’ll also get to take control of the food preparation. Plus – you may even be able to show everyone that healthy, nutritious food can be incredibly satisfying and delicious! It’s a total win-win.

Nicole Burley, M.Ed is a certified Life Coach and Health Coach in NYC. Her motto is, “Health is fun. Diets are not”. Nicole helps frustrated dieters find a happy, healthy weight – no dieting or deprivation allowed! Nicole holds a masters degree in education from DePaul and a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell. She is a graduate of Coach U and a certified member of the International Coach Federation. Contact Nicole via or at and Twitter: @YourCoachNicole