5 Winter Dishes Lightened Up

Everyone has their cherished cold-weather foods that warm the soul and feed the body. Unfortunately, many popular wintertime meals are heavy, laden with calories and fat that offer a "stick-to-your-ribs" quality. If you don't want a little something extra sticking to your ribs once spring arrives, try lightening up your favorite eats with a few easy swaps. Below, how to recreate five heart-healthy popular hot dishes that taste just as good as the original versions:

Eggplant parmesan. Who doesn't love a pile of eggplant topped with savory tomato sauce and gooey mozzarella cheese? But most restaurant versions of this rich dish feature breaded, fried eggplant and have calorie counts that are through the stratosphere.

A better solution: Grilled eggplant. Salt eggplant rounds, lightly spray each side with cooking spray, and grill until they're brown and soft on both sides. Layer them with tomato sauce and low-fat mozzarella and bake until bubbling. Add wilted spinach leaves or roasted pepper slices for extra flavor.

Meatloaf. A slimming secret is to substitute lean ground chicken or turkey in place of beef. Cooked diced peppers and onions mixed in with the meat provide extra flavor, and you can even top with fat-free cheese mixed with salsa for a south-of-the-border twist.

Chicken pot pie. Skip the butter, flour and heavy cream that traditionally give this dish its thickness. Instead, substitute a can reduced-fat cream of celery soup. Simply mix the soup, frozen vegetables of your choice, and cooked chicken pieces together and put into a pie tin. Top the pie with reduced-fat refrigerated crescent-roll dough and bake for a satisfying winter night's dinner.

French fries. There's no rule that says French fries have to be fried to be good. Slice up some potatoes, lightly salt them, place them on a baking sheet and spray them with cooking oil. Then bake them at 450 degrees, turning once, until they're crispy all over. Want a nutritional boost? Substitute butternut squash slices for white potatoes.

New England clam chowder. A bowl of this creamy, briny soup packs in a boatload of calories, so lighten it up. Adding extra vegetables and clams gives the soup body, while cutting the heavy cream to half a cup and using reduced-fat milk instead of whole milk slashes fat. Enjoy with whole-grain crackers or bread.


Eating Well magazine, www.eatingwell.com

"Hungry Girl: Recipes and Survival Strategies for Guilt-Free Eating in the Real World" by Lisa Lillien (St. Martin's Griffin, 2008), www.hungry-girl.com.