Winter Dinner Survival Guide

Healthy meal ideas to get you through holiday season and beyond.

Lara Rondinelli By Lara Rondinelli, RD, LDN, CDE

Everyone is aware of the dangers associated with overeating during the winter months. My previous column provided some tips for keeping healthy during the holidays. This month, let's focus on dinner.

Hectic winter schedules can leave little time for cooking healthy meals. People often opt for quick, less than healthy meals at fast food restaurants and other places in order to save time. But eating at home usually leads to healthier eating. Since time is precious, here are some fast and easy, healthy dinner choices to get you through the season.

Healthy frozen dinners can be very convenient this time of year. Some people avoid these foods because "TV dinners" have traditionally been very high in sodium. Although some still are, you can find many that contain less than 600 mg of sodium per serving. Stick to these varieties and you'll be getting less sodium than you do at fast food restaurants. Lean Cuisine now has a line called "Spa Cuisines," which are dishes made with whole grains such as brown rice and whole-wheat pasta.

Crock pot cooking can be a huge time saver during the cold winter months. Throw in a lean pork roast in the morning, along with some of your favorite vegetables, and come home to a delicious, healthy meal.

Rotisserie chickens are available in deli sections of most grocery stores. These chickens are cooked and ready to serve, so just remove the skin and enjoy. Pick up a bag of frozen vegetables and cook a few sweet potatoes in the microwave and you'll have dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes.

Breakfast can make for a quick and healthy dinner. Make a veggie omelet (using extra egg whites or egg substitute if you are concerned about dietary cholesterol) with green peppers, onions, and spinach. Serve it with a slice whole-grain toast and a serving of fruit. Or, make an egg sandwich with Canadian bacon and reduced-fat cheese and serve it on a whole-wheat English muffin.

Pizza may not sound like a healthy meal, but you can make a nutritious pizza at home in less than 30 minutes. Start with a whole-wheat pizza crust, then top it with pizza sauce and veggies such as mushrooms, spinach, and green peppers. Sprinkle with reduced-fat mozzarella cheese and bake at 375 degrees F for about 15 minutes. If you want meat on your pizza, choose lean, unprocessed varieties such as chicken, lean ham or Canadian bacon, lean ground turkey, or extra-lean ground beef.

Soups and chilis are wintertime favorites for many people. Cook a huge pot of soup or chili for your family on the weekend and you'll have a couple good meals for the week. You can also freeze soup or chili and just reheat in the microwave. Remember, traditional cream soups are higher in saturated fat than broth-based or bean soups. However, you can modify cream soups to make them lower in fat by using products like fat-free half and half. For an extra healthy chili, use lean ground turkey in place of ground beef and add an extra can of beans for a fiber boost. Or try a chicken chili recipe like the one on the next page.

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Last Modified Date: June 17, 2013

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