Healthy spins on heavy dishes

Cold weather is all about hot, heavy food. And if you’re trying to make healthy choices, the holiday gambit of creamy, meaty, cheesy, starchy foods is a huge challenge to overcome. These recipes can help replace a few classically unhealthy wintertime foods with delicious, healthy alternatives. Take to a party or serve at home!

Poached Pears with Cinnamon Vanilla Yogurt
Replaces: Any sugary, sticky, high-fat dessert like pecan pie, chocolates, or cookies
Benefits: Because these pears are steeped wine, honey, and spices (not sugar), you get decadent, spicy fruit flavor with much fewer calories.

Serves 4

4 fresh, firm, ripe pears, peeled, stems intact
2 cups of red wine, such as Zinfandel or Pinot Noir (or cranberry juice, and omit the honey)
¼ cup honey
2 anise stars
1 cinnamon stick, about 4 inches
1 ½ cups vanilla yogurt (Greek yogurt, if you have it)
1 tsp cinnamon

Slice off the bottom of the pears so they can stand upright. Add the wine, honey, cinnamon, and anise to a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. When simmering, place the pears upright in the saucepan (it may help to make sure they’ll all fit before you fill the pan—if not, use a stockpot!). If the wine doesn’t cover the pears, add water until it does, or place pears on their sides. Bring back to a simmer and let cook for about 10-15 minutes or until the pears are soft and brightly colored.

Gently remove the pears with tongs and set upright on individual serving plates. Remove the solids from the liquid and let the remaining liquid boil until it reduces to syrup-like consistency (it should coat the back of a spoon), and let cool. Meanwhile, mix the cinnamon and yogurt, then spoon some of the mixture next to each pear. Drizzle the cooled, thickened sauce over the whole plate. Dig in!

Nutritional info per serving: 249 calories, .8 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 16 mg sodium, 289 mg potassium, 48.5 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 20 g sugar, 5 g protein. 10% DV Calcium.

Sautéed Green Beans with Garlic, Almonds, and Bacon
Replaces: Cheesy, creamy green bean casserole
Benefits: Sautéing the green beans with the garlic and almonds yields rich flavor without the need for extra calories. The bacon’s optional, and because you’ll only be getting a few bits, it still means a lower overall calorie count!
Serves 6-8 as a side dish

1 bag (about 1 lb.) fresh green beans, washed, dried, and ends snapped off
2 tbsp olive oil
3 strips bacon, cooked, paper-toweled to remove grease, and crumbled (optional)
½ cup chopped or slivered almonds
3 cloves garlic, sliced into chips

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add green beans and stir with a spatula to coat in the olive oil. Let them cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. While they cook, spread the almonds on a small baking sheet or a toaster oven pan and broil them for 2-3 minutes until just browning. When the 10 minutes are up for the beans in the skillet, add the almonds, garlic, and bacon (if using), cooking for an additional 2 minutes. Remove to a serving dish and serve warm.

Nutritional info per serving: 101 calories, 8 g fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 41 mg sodium, 180 mg potassium, 5.6 carbohydrates, 2.7 g fiber, .3 g sugar, 3 g protein. 15.5% DV Vitamin C, 12% DV Vitamin E.

Vegetable Medley Soup
Replaces: Cream or meat-based stews
Benefits: Stews are wintertime staples, but this veggie-full soup is just as warm and filling, and much better for you—you get several servings of veggies in just one bowl! If you have any, add a few handfuls of fresh spinach or kale in the last five minutes of cooking for a bigger veggie boost, stirring to combine until wilting from the heat.

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
½ lb carrots, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 medium zucchini, cubed
1 14 ounce can tomato sauce or juice
1 14 ounce can low sodium chicken broth
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can corn, drained
1 tsp Italian seasoning (combo of oregano, basil, rosemary, etc)

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, sauté the onion, zucchini, and carrots until just beginning to brown. Turn down the heat to medium and add the rest of the ingredients, stirring to combine. Let cook until heated through and the carrots are soft. Ladle into bowls and serve warm. Add a sprinkle of black pepper and Parmesan cheese if desired.

Nutritional info per serving: 231 calories, 7.7 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 374 mg sodium, 1,150 mg potassium, 38 g carbohydrates, 9 g fiber, 11 g sugar, 7.4 g protein. 189% DV Vitamin A, 22% DV Vitamin B-6, 86% DV Vitamin C, 16% DV Vitamin E.

Join the Conversation:

Sign In Register
Be the first to leave a comment