Diet & Nutrition

Ten cooking hacks to make your winter cooking lighter


Our resident dietitian lets us in on how to create comfort food without the cals.

Cold mornings and even cooler nights are upon on us, so your evening meal routine is probably in the midst of a shake-up. Of course, we all want a meal that’ll warm us up from the inside out, but that doesn’t mean dinner has to turn into a heavy stodge-fest every day of the week.

So, to help keep the winter kilos off this year, here’s ten of my dietitian-approved hacks to make your winter cooking lighter.

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Dollop Greek yoghurt on top of soups instead of thickening with cream

Gram for gram, cream has almost three times the kilojoules of plain Greek yoghurt – even more when you compare it to a reduced-fat variety. So, swap cream for a dollop of yoghurt instead.

Swap puff pastry in pies and casseroles for filo pastry

Made with stacks of butter, puff pastry is packed with saturated fat which is bad for heart health. Filo pastry, on the other hand, is just flour and water, so contains virtually no bad fats.

Go vego

Not full time – just a few meals a week. Vegetarian alternatives, like tofu and legumes, can be lighter on the kilojoules than their meaty counterparts. A fillet of untrimmed steak (100 grams), for example, contains 710 kilojoules and almost four grams of saturated fat, while the same quantitiy of firm tofu offers 502 kilojoules and less than one gram of saturated fat.

Try seafood

Fish, prawns, octopus, mussels… it’s all super nutritious and delicious – and it’s an easy way to lighten up supper. I’d recommend at least two to three seafood nights a week.

Swap your cut

On the nights when meat is on the menu, it’ll pay to choose a lean cut or ditch the skin if you’re having chicken. A fully trimmed lamb chop, for instance, contains 733 kilojoules and 3.4 grams of saturated fat, while an untrimmed version packs almost 1200 kilojoules and three times the saturated fat.

Adopt an air fryer

Yes, it’s a bit of an investment, but it’ll pay dividends in the long haul. Air fryers help you to achieve that much-loved crispy deep fried finish without all the oil, so it’s a much lighter way to cook.

Mix up your mash

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with potato – but when you mash it with loads of butter and cream, it’s not the healthiest side. So, lighten up your mash by replacing half of the potato with pumpkin or cauliflower. Oh, and skip the butter and cream while you’re at it.

Tweak your pasta

There’s a similar train of thought with pasta. It’s not innately bad for you, but it’s very easy to overdo. Swap some of the pasta in your weekly bolognese with noodles made out of veggies, like zucchini or carrot.

Sweeten your morning porridge with fresh fruit rather than raw sugar or honey

Made with good-for-you rolled oats, porridge is a super healthy morning meal – but not when you drench it in sugar. So, opt for a sweet fix with fresh berries or passionfruit instead of honey.

Swap your go-to apple crumble and ice cream for cinnamon roasted pears

Nothing beats curling up on the lounge at the end of the day with a piping hot pud – but for a run of the mill weeknight, an apple crumble and ice cream is rather indulgent. For a healthier dessert, quarter a pear, cover it in cinnamon and wrap it in foil, then bake until soft and serve with a dollop of yoghurt. Delish.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.