Give Those Winter Comfort Foods a Spring Makeover
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Spring is finally in the air! But the weather hasn't exactly gotten the memo just yet. When it's balmy and bright one day but cold and chilly the next, deciding what to wear isn't the only problem. It can be seriously tricky figuring out what to eat every day—one morning you're grabbing an iced coffee and the next you're sipping on green tea just to stay warm!
That's why we've spoken to the experts and rounded up 10 small changes you can make to your meals now that will ease your taste buds into spring. Plus, "switching up your food choices each season makes a lot of sense from a nutrition and mental standpoint," says Melissa Buczek Kelly, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., owner of MBK Nutrition & Wellness.
"Mentally, it's a nice change for you to try new things. It helps keep things fresh and exciting on your plate, with less of a chance of getting bored with the same old." Because you know how being bored with the same chicken and rice you meal prep week after week can lead to poor food choices. Not to mention, eating in season means access to fresher, more nutritious, and affordable options at your local farmers' market. Get ready to transform your winter staples into delicious spring recipes.
If You Like Roasted Chicken, Then Eat Chicken Stir-Fry
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A roasted chicken is the ultimate Sunday night feast but that whole cozy feeling of something cooking in the oven isn't so appealing when spring arrives. Cut back on time and boost your nutrient intake with an easy stir-fry recipe made with sautéed chicken breasts and seasonal vegetables.
"It's pretty traditional to serve root vegetables with roasted chicken during the colder months, but a nice seasonal change is to incorporate spring veggies like asparagus, fennel, radishes, and leeks," says Lindsey Pine, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Tasty Balance Nutrition. "An added bonus is that these are all quick-cooking ingredients, so you can spend more time enjoying long days outside instead of stuck in the kitchen."
If You Like Oatmeal, Then Eat Overnight Oats
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Starting the day with a steaming bowl of heart-healthy oatmeal is a wise choice. But for a different texture, try swapping warm oats for overnight oats, served straight from the fridge. This should get you started: 20 overnight oats recipes that will change your mornings forever—seriously. Twenty.
Old-fashioned rolled or steel-cut oats are full of satiating fiber, says Kelly. Translation? No embarrassing tummy rumblings before lunchtime. For a balanced (and tasty) breakfast, she suggests combining oats with a protein such as your choice of milk and nuts or nut butter. "Then top your mason jar of overnight oats with cool mix-ins like fresh berries or cherries," she says.
If You Like Lasagna, Then Eat Eggplant Parm
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Whoever said that lasagna isn't healthy hasn't tried this delicious low-cal three-cheese spinach lasagna recipe. But for an even lighter take on this classic comfort dish, swap out the noodles for eggplant. Just make sure that you roast the eggplant instead of frying it, so you'll lower the fat content and end up with soft (not mushy) slices. (Here are five more fried foods that are better baked.)
Once the eggplant is roasted to perfection, layer your slices with rich tomato sauce and some shredded cheese before baking in the oven until the sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted. Simple. Get the recipe for Italian Cheesy Eggplant, here.
If You Like Tuna Casserole, Then Eat Tuna Niçoise Salad
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When winter potlucks turn to spring picnics, Nana's trusted tuna casserole just isn't going to cut it. "Lighten up that tuna dish by making a classic French Niçoise salad, loaded with heart-healthy olives, green beans, tomatoes, radishes, steamed red-skinned potatoes, and a Dijon mustard dressing," suggests Pine.
Enjoy your salad on the go (or in the park) with these tuna Niçoise lettuce wraps made with juicy cherry tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and a roasted garlic-lemon vinaigrette. Feel free to swap out the tuna for salmon, as it's just as tasty and you'll still reap the healthy fat benefits.
If You Like Baked Potatoes, Then Eat Potato Salad
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Potatoes get a bad rap, but they're rich in vitamin C, potassium, and fiber, says Pine, which is great news because a baked potato loaded with tasty (and healthy) fillings is the ultimate winter warmer. You can make over this cold-weather favorite for spring by creating a super-fresh and healthy potato salad (that means ditching the mayonnaise).
No mayo? No problem. "Try making a creamy potato salad with plain Greek yogurt instead of mayo to add protein and probiotics to a dish that is typically heavy and high-calorie," says Pine. "Leave the potato skins on for extra fiber."
If You Like Apple Pie, Then Eat Apricot Tart
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From Thanksgiving through the end of the year, it's all about pie—apple, pumpkin, pecan, you name it, you want it. There's no shame in your pie game when you go easy on the sweeteners. But when warmer weather hits, it's time for a seasonal upgrade.
Satisfy your sweet tooth by taking advantage of spring's bounty with this gorgeous apricot tart. Apricots are packed with dietary fiber and vitamins A and C, and their season is short and sweet so it's worth getting your fill while you can. Extra bonus? This fruit-filled and almond-topped tart is vegan, too.
If You Like Hot Chocolate, Then Eat Homemade Chocolate Fro-Yo
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Red wine hot chocolate was this winter's most decadent drink, but there's no need to say goodbye to antioxidant-rich cocoa now that spring is here. When those chocolate cravings hit, opt for a cool dessert like a scoop of creamy, chocolate frozen yogurt.
This recipe is super tasty and so easy (you don't even need an ice cream maker). "Simply blend plain Greek yogurt, frozen banana, unsweetened cocoa powder, and a touch of the sweetener of your choice in a food processor," says Pine. Then freeze for a few hours and enjoy. "Your body will thank you for the antioxidants from the cocoa powder, prebiotics from the banana, and probiotics and protein from the yogurt."
If You Like Mac 'n' Cheese, Then Eat Pasta Salad
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Healthy twists on mac 'n' cheese are great and all (if you haven't tried adding puréed butternut squash, then you haven't lived), but now that fresh spring greens like asparagus and spinach are in season, it's time to pimp out your pasta dish.
"As a base for your salad, start with 100 percent whole-grain pasta, farro, barley, or quinoa," says Kelly. "Then, add grilled asparagus or zucchini, fresh herbs, lentils, a drizzle of olive oil, and a good squeeze of fresh lemon to brighten up this light spring side dish."
Don't be tempted by store-bought dressings, either. They won't score you any points on the wellness scale. "Stick to your own marinade or dry seasoning to stay in control of how much and what type of oil and sodium you use," she says. Need a healthy brown paper bag lunch? Try one of these healthy pasta recipes.
If You Like Turkey Chili, Then Eat Turkey Soup
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There's nothing like snuggling up to a warm bowl of chili (made with lean protein, natch) and a Netflix series to tackle those winter blues. But now that the sun has come out (or is trying to), all that chili can make you feel a little weighed down.
Shake things up with a tasty soup. Keep your turkey and veg ingredients the same as you normally would, but swap out the usual tomato sauce for a low-sodium chicken broth instead. You'll end up with a much lighter meal that's still full of protein and flavor. (Next up, check out these 20 chilled soups for staying slim that are loaded with fresh veggies and fruit.
If You Like Grilled Cheese, Then Eat Berry Grilled Cheese
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When it comes to everyone's favorite hot sandwich, don't worry, you can indulge in healthy grilled cheese sandwiches year round. To upgrade this comfort staple for the new season, try adding a handful of fresh juicy blueberries or raspberries. It may sound a little weird to add fruit to a sandwich (at least one that doesn't have any PB in it), but the combination of sweet and salty tastes amazing.
Photo: Amanda K. By the Bay