Healthy Twists on Favorite Classics

As we step into 2024 (Happy New Year!), many of us are eager to embrace fresh starts and positive changes. I love the beginning of a new year, as it symbolizes resolutions, transformations, and aspirations for a more productive and fulfilling 12 months ahead.

The nature of these aspirations varies from person to person. Some aim for financial milestones, be it saving for retirement or that dream vacation. Others set their sights on adopting a healthier lifestyle, committing to new fitness routines or conquering personal milestones like a 5K or half marathon. As for me, unsurprisingly, some of my goals revolve around food—how can I reinvent this or that beloved dish? How can I give a classic recipe my family loves a healthier twist?

In the spirit of supporting those on a journey to better eating this month I’m excited to share some ways to enjoy your favorite foods in a healthier manner. These deliciously realistic swaps will set you on a path that’s not only nutritious but also sustainable!

Healthy twists: Mac ‘n Cheese

Mac ‘n Cheese

Kids and adults enjoy this classic…and it’s not hard to understand why—carby noodles immersed in gooey, melty cheese is basically a dream come true. I’ve experimented with a variety of different spins, but my Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese is one of the easiest ways to upgrade the dish.

All you have to do is toss roasted sweet potato cubes into your simmering pot of mac and cheese (any Mac n’ Cheese recipe will work). In addition to adding volume, the veggie brings creamy texture, natural sweetness as well as fiber, potassium and beta-carotene. If you have a picky eater in your house, you can puree the sweet potatoes and add to the cheese sauce. Sneaky, but works like a charm!

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Healthy twists: Chicken Parm

Chicken Parm

Whether you’re ordering this staple at your favorite Italian eatery or making it at home, you won’t believe how easy it is to health-ify this iconic classic. I make just one quick swap: I choose unbreaded, grilled or pan-cooked chicken over the traditional breaded and fried version. The rest of the recipe stays true to its delicious roots: Layer your cutlet with warm tomato sauce, melty cheese and serve with pasta—whole grain is a bonus—and loads of steamed or sauteed veggies on the side or mixed in for a wholesome balance. Mangia!

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Healthy twists: Cream of mushroom soup

Cream of Mushroom Soup

The indulgent cream in Cream of Mushroom Soup is what makes it so indulgent, thus swapping the rich soup for a non-dairy version might be a hard sell. But trust me, pureeing cannellini beans with broth provides a satisfying creaminess that rivals the real thing. And here’s an added bonus: the flavorful mushrooms contain anti-viral compounds that can help protect against colds and flu. This rendition is soup-risingly thick, flavorful and soothing—a perfect pick-me-up in the cooler weather.

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Healthy twists: Chocolate chip cookie

Chocolate Chip Cookie

Few things rival the simple joy of sinking your teeth into a chocolate chip cookie. Whether you’re firmly on team chewy or team crunchy, we can unanimously agree that it’s far too easy to devour one or two…or three too many (guilty as charged!)

I’ve found a creative solution. It requires using protein-rich Greek yogurt as the base (spread out to form a giant circle on a baking tray lined with parchment paper) and sprinkling a crumbled chocolate chip cookie over the top. Then freeze and enjoy. You get a colossal-sized cookie that not only takes a while to enjoy but also delivers protein and calcium. It’s not just a frozen treat, it’s one smart cookie!

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Healthy twists: Mimosa


Cheers to mimosas, a classic brunch bevvy featuring a mixture of two common ingredients—zesty orange juice and your choice of effervescent elegance: sparkling wine, champagne or prosecco. While the ingredients are basic, the experience of toasting and sipping is always special.

I like to kick it up a notch and make a dessert-like version by adding a scoop of fruit sorbet into each flute. And while I tend to make my sorbet using the dynamic duo of frozen mango chunks and strawberries (or frozen pitted cherries and pineapple), you can get creative with your own flavor combinations. I also add in a few mint leaves for a burst of freshness, and, of course, champagne. For a booze-free mocktail version that’s just as special and delicious, swap the champagne for a flavored LaCroix Sparkling water. Not only does my joyful mimosa boast a lower sugar content, but it also packs an extra punch of flavor and nutrients (hello, fiber and antioxidants) thanks to all that extra fruit.

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