by Jen Stiff: Not only are these dishes healthy and made with a focus on “lighter” winter options, but your kids can help with all of them…
Five healthy dishes will fill your stomachs and comfort your spirits. Bon appétit!
When you think of winter, you probably imagine heavy soups and casseroles or steaming mugs of herbal tea or cocoa. While those hearty foods are all delicious and comforting on a chilly day, there’s so much more variety you can enjoy with healthy winter dishes.
Take advantage of the extra time spent indoors to get creative in the kitchen and discover your favorite healthy winter recipe. Creativity is not synonymous with complicated! In fact, getting creative can mean making simple, quick meals that your whole family can enjoy.
Kids Are Welcome!
This is also a great time to get the whole family involved in not just the consumption of the food, but also in the preparation. What a perfect way to spend time with the little ones and start teaching them how to navigate the kitchen and cook recipes they’ll love.
Getting little cooks busy in the kitchen comes with lots of fun, creativity, and maybe a few more blueberries spilled onto the floor. Expect things to move a little slower when small hands are at work, but enjoy the moment (and the mess!). Safe, simple ways to get kids involved in meal preparation include reading about the food, helping choose ingredients at the grocery store, squeezing citrus, stirring, washing and prepping produce, measuring, and setting the table.
These quick, easy, and healthy recipes are sure to nourish your family on a cold winter day and are exciting alternatives to your classic winter soups and stews. They also offer a variety of ways to encourage the whole family to help out.
1. Breakfast: Chia Seed and Blueberry Oat Bran
Why oat bran? Oats get a lot of attention in the media and steel-cut oats really steal the show. Oat bran, however, deserves far more recognition than it currently receives. It is a nutritious and low-calorie food. It’s high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which can aid in heart health and blood sugar control.
Aside from the health benefits of oat bran, its sweet, nutty taste and creamy texture make it delicious and filling. But the best part of all is that oat bran is so easy to prepare. Just pour boiling water over the oat bran, let it sit for a minute or two, and enjoy!
- 1 1/3 cups oat bran
- 2 1/3 cups water or milk (or substitute coconut milk and adjust for preferred consistency)
- 2 teaspoons chia seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 teaspoons maple syrup
- 2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- Optional: Add cashews, walnuts, or nut butter of your choice
Boil water or milk.
Pour boiling water over oat bran and chia seeds, cover with a towel, and let sit for 1–2 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed. Add all other ingredients and stir to combine. If you have a young child, you can ask them to count out 15 blueberries in each bowl.
2. Lunch: Spaghetti with Ricotta and Lemon
Spaghetti is one of the most universally adored foods on the planet. It’s delicious, easy to prepare, and best of all, it’s delightfully versatile. It can be dressed up or down depending on preferred tastes.
Children often request “plain” spaghetti, meaning just the noodles, typically with some butter or olive oil and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Lots of grown-ups love plain spaghetti, too. But spaghetti can also be also enjoyed tossed with veggies and well-sauced.
Speaking of sauce, if you’re looking for a healthier way to achieve a creamy texture, use skim milk ricotta cheese in place of heavier sauces or creams. Skim milk ricotta is high in protein and has a subtle flavor, making it more agreeable to younger palettes. This recipe can be made with any variety of spaghetti depending on your taste and health preferences. If you want a break from noodles, try making this recipe with spaghetti squash!
- 1 pound spaghetti (or substitute spaghetti squash)
- 1/2 pound ricotta or skim milk ricotta
- 1 lemon, grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: Spinach, baby arugula, or fresh basil
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook according to package directions.
Drain but reserve cooking water. In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and optional greens. Mix in spaghetti, adding cooking water to desired consistency.
A good job for kids is to squeeze the lemon juice into the bowl and help mix the ingredients together.
3. Dinner: Fried Egg Muffins
Plop a fried egg on just about any variety of toasted bread and it’s going to taste amazing. But there’s something about the egg and English muffin pairing that’s simply divine. Maybe it’s the way the yolk seeps into all those nooks and crannies inside the muffin? Plus, kiddos tend to love English muffins. Add a slice of good quality cheddar cheese, and you have an unbeatable dish.
This recipe is about as easy as it gets. It’s warm, packed with flavor, and has an element of surprise (breakfast for dinner!). Add some baked veggies to the plate and you’ve got yourself a healthy, wholesome meal.
- 1–2 English muffins (any variety)
- 1–2 eggs
- 1–2 slices cheddar cheese
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat pan to medium-high. Fry eggs. Toast English muffins. Top muffins with fried eggs.
Squeeze lemon juice directly onto eggs. Top with cheese (great task for a little one!). Add salt and pepper to taste.
Note: Children often prefer scrambled eggs to fried eggs so modify as desired.
Serves 1 or 2
4. Side: Simply Scrumptious Baked Veggies
Salad can take a backseat in the winter, but that doesn’t mean greens are out. Greens are very much in. One of the easiest and quickest ways to boost your winter greens (and all veggies) intake is to bake them with just a few ingredients to bring out their flavor. Baked veggies can be enjoyed as a side dish for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a quick afternoon snack.
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to choosing the vegetables for this dish. A good rule of thumb is to seek out variety. If you’ve been going hard on the kale for a few weeks, try swapping it out for roasted cauliflower. Aim for consuming different colors of vegetables or choose what’s in season. For best taste, stick to one or two types of veggies per pan (plus garlic or onion). If you don’t prefer cauliflower, you can’t go wrong by throwing some brussels sprouts and sweet potato together. When too many types of vegetables are added to the dish, the flavors get a bit muddy. You can also get creative with the seasoning in this recipe but the combination in this recipe tastes good 100% of the time. Make a big batch of veggies to last a few days and reheat as needed. Once you learn how easy it is to bake roasted vegetables, this vegetarian dish will become one of your new staple dinner recipes!
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 1 1/2 pounds bok choy
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 tablespoons tamari sauce
- 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roughly chop cauliflower and bok choy. Mince garlic.
In a large mixing bowl, toss veggies with olive oil, tamari sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup, and black sesame seeds (another great job for the kids).
Pour mixture into a large baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring vegetables halfway through. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.
5. Dessert: Baked Apples with Cinnamon
With so many indulgent, calorically dense dessert options out there, it can be tough to get your family (or even yourself) to swap out the sweet treats for a fruit. But when you bake the fruit and add a bit of spice, it transforms into something akin to dessert. Think of this recipe as the yummiest part of a warm apple pie—the perfectly balanced sweetness and tanginess of the apples.
This is an ideal dessert to enjoy on a cold winter evening, snuggled up under a cozy blanket with a book or movie. And, like most recipes, you can add or subtract ingredients according to your taste and health preferences. Simple tweaks to this recipe include swapping out a couple of apples with pears, adding crushed nuts, or omitting the maple syrup. Most recipes will call for peeling the apples but that extra step is not necessary. Leave the skin on for an extra dose of nutrients.
- 2 large Fuji apples
- 2 large Granny Smith apples
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- Optional: Add nut butter, crushed almonds, or even a few chocolate chips after apples have baked
Heat oven to 350 degrees (F). Cut apples into chunks. Place apples in a medium baking dish and toss with coconut oil, cinnamon, salt, and maple syrup.
Bake for 20–30 minutes or until apples are soft and fragrant. Let cool slightly and toss with optional ingredients or serve as is.
When the weather gets chilly, there’s nothing better than warming up with a hearty, flavorful meal. With just a few simple recipes in your repertoire, you can keep your whole family nourished all winter long.