Mealtime: Healthy Alternatives to Family Faves

We’ve all seen the grocery stores over the last several days: barren canned-food and toilet paper aisles, cleared-out meat bins and near-empty frozen-food refrigerators. But what’s notable right now are the abundant fresh produce sections—stands full of color and ripe-for-the-picking goodness.

Although it may take a little extra effort right now to cook fresh at home, focusing on good health and nutrition has never been more important.

With so many of us hunkering down at home, now may be the perfect time to put that extra muscle into mealtime and find out just how much better we feel when we level up our healthy eating game. Another huge plus when you raid the fresh produce section? You’ll be a lot more likely to find everything you need on your next grocery run.

Give these fresh recipes a go:

Screen Shot 2020-03-23 at 11.20.53 AMJeweled Asparagus & Wheat Berry Salad
This Zesty Wheat Berry Salad Will Help You Reach Your Daily Fiber Quota
Serves: 4

Salad and Asparagus

  • 1 3/4 cups raw wheat berries (4 cups cooked)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 small lemons, very thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 bunches asparagus (2 pounds), ends trimmed
  • 2 cups parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup dill, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 3/4 cup toasted pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 3 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced on the bias


  • 3/4 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1/2 small shallot, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine wheat berries, 10 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until wheat berries are soft, 45 to 60 minutes. Drain well, and let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss sliced lemon rounds with 1 teaspoon oil on the prepared baking sheet, and spread in a single layer. Roast until lemon slices are caramelized, watching carefully toward the end and flipping halfway through, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool, then finely chop 8 slices. Keep remaining slices whole.
  3. Increase oven to 400°F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the asparagus with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until bright green and crisp tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. To make the dressing, in a blender or food processor, pulse the cilantro, shallot, lime juice, honey, cumin, and coriander until finely chopped. With the motor running, pour in the olive oil in a slow stream. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Scrape the dressing into a medium bowl. Add the cooked wheat berries, chopped roasted lemon, parsley, dill, pomegranate seeds, pistachios, and scallions. Season with salt, and toss to combine.
  6. 6. Arrange asparagus on the bottom of a platter. Spoon wheat berry salad over asparagus. Garnish with remaining roasted lemon slices. Drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

Healthy Chicken TendersScreen Shot 2020-03-23 at 2.21.57 PM
You Won’t Believe How Healthy These Homemade Chicken Tenders Are
Serves: 4


  • 12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken-breast halves
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 2 cups cornflakes, finely crushed
  • Dash of black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Cut chicken into 3- by 3/4-inch strips. In a shallow dish, combine egg, honey, and mustard. In another dish, stir together cornflake crumbs and pepper.
  2. Dip chicken strips into the egg mixture; roll in crumb mixture to coat. Arrange chicken strips on an ungreased baking sheet.
  3. Bake about 12 minutes, or until outsides are golden and chicken is no longer pink.

Nutrition facts per serving: 212 calories, 23g protein, 23g carbohydrate, 3g fat (1g saturated), 0g fiber

Healthy Chicken Tender Dipping Sauces
Ditch the standard ranch dressing and stir up one of these healthy chicken tender dipping sauces. (Or pair these healthy chicken tenders with one of these mash-up sauces you’ll want to slather on just about everything.)

  • Homemade Honey Mustard = 1/4 cup Dijon mustard + 1 teaspoon honey
  • Kicked-Up Ketchup = 1/4 cup ketchup + pinch chili powder
  • Zesty Sour Cream = 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream + fresh lime + fresh cilantro
  • Spiced Mayo = 1/2 cup low-fat mayo + 1 teaspoon dried dill + 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Screen Shot 2020-03-23 at 11.52.47 AMHealthy French Fries
How to Make Healthy French Fries That Taste Just as Good as Fast Food

Serves 4

Can everyone please stop hating on fries as an “indulgent”, “cheat-day” food?

A small potato packs about 130 calories, no fat, 18 percent of your daily vitamin C intake, and more potassium than a banana. Any potential to turn them into an “unhealthy” choice comes with how you cook them. Many restaurants double fry French fries to make them extra crispy. For this riff on healthy French fries, you’ll score the same result by boiling the sliced potatoes for 2 to 3 minutes (to release moisture), then draining, tossing with olive oil, and baking. As a result, these healthy French fries have less than one-third the fat you would get from a medium order at a fast-food joint.

For a bonus fiber boost, keep the skin on the potatoes. It contains at least 50 percent of the root vegetable’s fiber.

The secret ingredient for these healthy French fries: Parmesan, which makes these fries taste decadent. It also adds a hint of salt, so you don’t have to shake on more of the seasoning before you dig in.


  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 medium baking potatoes (1 1/2 pounds total), scrubbed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan


  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; brush with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil. Set aside.
  2. Cut the potatoes lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Transfer to a large bowl. Add remaining olive oil; toss to coat. Sprinkle potato wedges with the salt and black pepper, tossing to coat. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on prepared baking sheet.
  3. Bake in a 450° F oven for 12 minutes. Turn potatoes; sprinkle with the Parmesan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes more or until tender and golden.

Nutrition facts per serving (8 wedges): 155 calories, 4g protein, 22g carbohydrate, 6g fat (1.5g saturated), 3g fiber

Flavor Twists on Healthy French Fries
If you’re in the mood to mix things up, skip the Parmesan and try these three takes on the classic side dish.

  • Chili: Prep the healthy French fries as above, adding 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon paprika when you sprinkle with salt and black pepper. After baking, top each serving with 1/2 cup low-sodium canned chili or one of your favorite homemade chili recipes you can whip up in your slow cooker or Instant Pot
  • Garlic: Prep the healthy French fries as above, adding 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder when you sprinkle with salt and black pepper.

Sweet Potato: Prep the healthy French fries as above, substituting 4 medium sweet potatoes for baking potatoes. Instead of salt and black pepper, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Bake in a 425° F oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until brown and tender, turning once.

Screen Shot 2020-03-23 at 11.56.42 AMGrilled Romaine with Cherry Tomatoes, Charred Corn, and Avocado Cream Dressing
You’ll never want to go back to whatever it was you were eating before!

Everything tastes better on the grill, including vegetables. The best part about cooking on an open flame is the nice smoky finish that adds a depth of flavor to any food. This salad features, ruby red cherry tomatoes and sweet corn. And mixing those two with grilled whole romaine and topping the whole thing off with a creamy avocado dressing will change the way you look at salad forever.

Deconstructed Grilled Romaine Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Charred Corn, and Avocado Cream Dressing
Serves: 3 to 4


  • 2 ears corn, shucked
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

For the dressing

  • 1 avocado, pitted with skin removed
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 garlic clove


  1. Heat a grill or oven burner to medium-high heat. Place shucked corn directly on the grill or lay flat on the oven burner. Once kernels are evenly charred (but not burnt), turn the ear of corn. Repeat this process until both ears are charred (about 10 to 12 minutes). Set aside to cool.
  2. Place lettuce on the grill (or grill pan in the oven) and char the outside (about 1 minute on each side). Set aside to cool.
  3. While corn and lettuce cool, make the dressing. Add avocado, lime juice, salt, yogurt, oil, and garlic to a food processor, and blend until smooth.
  4. Once the corn is cool enough to touch, cut kernels from the ear. Combine corn with cherry tomatoes and toss with dressing (or dollop dressing on at the end to control the amount). Place corn and tomato mixture on top of the lettuce and enjoy.

Spinach Artichoke Pasta SaladScreen Shot 2020-03-23 at 12.40.57 PM
Carbs don’t count when they’re tossed with so many veggies, right?


  • Coarse salt
  • 1 package fresh mushroom or chicken prosciutto or spinach filled tortellini (recommended: Contadina or Buitoni brands) available on dairy aisle in most markets
  • 1/2 pound fresh baby spinach
  • 1 (15-ounce) can baby artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped
  • 1 red roasted pepper, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, cracked from skin
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice, the juice of 1 wedge
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, a couple of splashes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried leaves, eyeball it
  • Black pepper
  • A handful sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, coarsely chopped


  1. Bring 5 or 6 inches of water to a boil in a large pot. Salt boiling water and add pasta. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until pasta is just tender and the tortellini are floating like buoys. Drain tortellini, then cool the cooked pasta by spreading them out on a large plate or a cookie sheet in a single layer.
  2. Coarsely chop baby spinach. Combine with artichoke pieces, roasted red pepper and red onion. Chop garlic, then add salt to it and mash it into a paste with the flat of your knife. Transfer garlic paste to a small bowl and add lemon zest, lemon juice and vinegar to it. Whisk in oil, thyme and pepper. Add pasta and sun-dried tomatoes to the salad. Dress salad and gently toss. Serve or refrigerate.