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Healthy Hearty Alternatives

Switch Out the Bad, Switch in the Good

This is the time of year when all you want is a hearty, warming meal that is rich and flavourful. Whether it’s pasta, lasagna, stews, mashed potatoes or a cheesy macaroni – your body knows what it needs (or wants?). There is nothing wrong with this, as long you make them healthy!  By healthy, I don’t mean tasteless! When the craving sets in for these types of meals, you have some choices to make that can benefit your whole family.

Here are some alternative options that will satisfy your desires and allow you to indulge without guilt!

Make it hearty – Instead of heavy meats and starchy white carbohydrates that make you feel tired and heavy, use chickpeas, lentils, or black beans for a veggie loaf instead of a meat loaf. Choose whole foods like barley, oats, buckwheat and quinoa for the base of a soup, stew or pilaf. These foods are high in protein, fiber and slow burning carbohydrates. You will feel satisfied and full without being overstuffed.

Make it creamy, thick or cheesy – Instead of heavy creams and cheeses that are loaded with saturated fat and calories, that leave you feeling sluggish and uncomfortable, choose naturally creamy alternatives like tahini or cashews for your cheese sauces and lasagnas. Avocados can also be used to cream up a recipe – especially for a velvety dip or a smooth chocolate pudding. Your body will absorb their nutrients much more easily and utilize the fat calories for energy rather than for storage.

Make it tasty – Instead of desserts and beverages loaded with white sugar, artificial sweeteners and preservatives with empty calories and other unnatural substances, choose whole foods that are naturally sweet like butternut squash or yams for a side dish. Make an apple crumble for dessert sweetened with maple syrup or honey. Play with herbs and spices like cinnamon which give a sweet warming accent to your dish or hot chocolate. These foods not only contain natural flavours but are also loaded with vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients.

Choosing some of these healthy alternatives to create your holiday meals will not only provide you with variety, but it will also give you unique flavours to create comforting meals that are sure to please your whole family!


Cheezy Mac!

What’s in it?

1 pound pasta (whole grain or brown rice)

Blend together:

1 1/4 cups water
1 cup plain rice or almond milk
2 cups softened butternut squash cut in cubes (can be steamed or roasted)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast or cashews
3 tablespoons arrowroot powder or tapioca powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons tahini
2 teaspoons mellow white miso (or additional salt)
black pepper to taste
¼ cup brown rice bread crumbs

How it’s made!

1. Put the pasta on to boil, according to package directions. While it's cooking, blend all remaining ingredients together in a blender.
2. When the pasta is al dente, drain it, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water, and return the pasta to pan.
3. Add the sauce mixture and cook, stirring, until mixture boils and thickens. Add a little of the pasta water if more moistness is needed.
4. If the sauce is not as flavorful as you'd like, add a little more mustard and onion powder.
5. Place the pasta and the “cheese sauce” together in a large baking dish and top with brown rice bread crumbs and bake in the oven for 10-20 minutes (if you like the crispy baked kind).
6. If there is extra sauce, leave some aside for another batch.



Marni Wasserman is a Culinary Nutritionist & Health Strategist at Toronto's First Plant-Based Food Studio.  marniwasserman.com