Lighten Up
With These Classics!

It’s the end of the year and the festivities have begun, but there are nights that call for a regular dinner at home. These All-American meal makeovers and healthy recipes will help keep you on the straight-and-narrow during party season -- or any other time of year!

Healthy oven fried chicken

Once Halloween rolls around on the calendar, it seems like the rest of the year is nothing but gatherings with lots of goodies and heavy-duty dinners. But don't put your healthy eating habits on hold until the New Year! Try these classic, All-American dishes that have been made over as healthier recipes of the meals you love.

Crispy oven-fried chicken

This chicken recipe is still lick-your-fingers-good, but it's even better since it's baked, not fried. The added seasonings give it some added spice, and the breadcrumbs provide the crunch!

Serves 4 people

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 large skinless, boneless chicken thighs, lightly pounded
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F and place a baking sheet in the lower third of the oven.
  2. Put the flour, celery salt, garlic salt and cayenne into a shallow bowl and mix to combine.
  3. Place the eggs and panko breadcrumbs into two separate shallow bowls.
  4. Lightly cover the chicken thighs with the flour mixture and then dip into the beaten egg. Dredge the chicken in the breadcrumbs, pushing down so they adhere well.
  5. Brush the baking sheet with some oil and then dip the breaded thighs in the oil, coating well on each side. Place the chicken onto the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, turning once after 15 minutes of cooking. Serve immediately.

Healthy baked French toast

What's not to love about a classic French toast breakfast? Here are a few things: the added fat and calories from frying and the sweet toppings often drizzled over the top of the finished product. This baked French toast recipe is great since it cuts out the oil typically used for frying. That, and the fact that it is delicious, adds up to a welcome breakfast dish!

Serves 4 people

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 slightly beaten egg
  • 1 slightly beaten egg white
  • 3/4 cup fat-free milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 8 (1-inch) slices firm-textured French bread
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a shallow bowl, add the egg, egg white, milk, vanilla and cinnamon and mix together by beating with a fork.
  3. Place the slices of bread in the egg mixture and soak each for 1-1/2 minutes per side for each slice, and then place onto the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Place the baking sheet in the oven and cook for six minutes or until the bread slices become golden brown. Flip slices over and bake for an additional seven minutes.
  5. Sprinkle the French toast with powdered sugar and serve immediately with maple syrup or honey, and a pat of butter.

Oven baked french fries

A favorite next to your burgers, french fries are a crowd-pleasing side dish. Ditch the fried portion of the preparations and bake them instead! Try something a little more out-of-the-ordinary by making a homemade savory dip instead of ketchup to go with your fries: roasted red pepper herb dipping sauce.

Serves 4-6 people

Oven roasted french friesIngredients:

  • 5 medium baking potatoes
  • Canola oil to drizzle over potatoes
  • Salt for seasoning
  • Optional seasonings: paprika, black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Scrub the potatoes and cut them into desired thickness. Soak them in cold water for 10 minutes, and then pat them dry.
  3. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle them with some canola oil and sprinkle with salt. If you're using the other seasonings, sprinkle on now.
  4. Bake them for about 10 minutes, flipping the potatoes a few times as they cook, until they're golden and crispy.

Veggie macaroni and cheese

Not only does a lot of the fat get cut from this classic dish, but a generous amount of veggies are added. That's great news if you're looking to scale back on fat and up the ante on those filling and nutritious vegetables. Classic goodness without the guilt!

Serves 4 people

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound macaroni
  • 1 cup cooked asparagus, diced
  • 2 cups spinach, sautéed
  • 1 cup tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese

Directions:

  1. Cook macaroni in salted water according to package directions.
  2. Melt the butter in saucepan, add flour and stir for one minute. Gradually add the milk and stir over low heat for five minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheddar and mascarpone cheeses.
  4. Drain the pasta and add to the cheese sauce. Add the asparagus, spinach, onions and tomatoes. Stir until combined.
  5. Transfer to 9 x 5-inch baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F until bubbly.

White chili

Using lean turkey sausage instead of ground beef will not only cut fat from your favorite cold-weather dish, but will give you a new flavor option for a beloved classic. Flavorful and easy to put together, this chili will warm you up without putting your diet on overload.

Serves 6-8 people

Ingredients:

  • 5 links turkey sausage
  • 1 (15 ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 fresh tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup water, chicken broth, beer or white wine
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish

Directions:

  1. Cut the sausage links into 1-1/2 inch pieces and cook until browned.
  2. Add all the ingredients (except the cheese) into a medium-large saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  4. At the very end of cooking, add the cilantro to the saucepan.
  5. Garnish with cheddar cheese on each individual serving.

A classic dinner dish at home doesn't have to turn into meal overload. Slight alterations will provide all the flavor and fun but without as much fat.

Try these healthier meal options

Lemon herbed chicken with yogurt-dill sauce
Vegetarian stuffed peppers
Meatless Monday: Mushroom stroganoff
The Sneaky Chef knows her substitutions

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