8 Ways to Make Any Meal Healthier

Healthy meals don’t have to be bland and boring. When you make healthy food choices, you can eat anything you’re craving in moderation. No, we’re not pulling your leg. Making simple ingredient swaps within your standard recipe can completely transform the nutrient profile of your meals.

Let’s take a plate of spaghetti and meatballs as an example. A typical version of this recipe might include pasta, frozen meatballs, and a jarred sauce. The problem here is that traditional dried spaghetti is a refined carbohydrate, low in fiber and digested by the body quickly, which creates a spike of sugar in the bloodstream and triggers insulin release. This rush of insulin can cause one to feel hungry, leading to a higher risk of overeating, weight gain, and type-2 diabetes. Additionally, meatballs are a source of saturated fat, and the premade ones, especially those highly processed, contain lots of sodium. But if you make this same dish using whole wheat pasta, homemade black bean meatballs, and a few handfuls of spinach, your meal suddenly includes more fiber, less fat, and more plant-based protein.

This is just one example, but you can make these changes, swaps, and additions to various meals. Baking instead of frying, using spices instead of other condiments, or experimenting with a blend of cauliflower rice or chickpea pasta are all ways you can make your average meal a lot healthier. Read below to see how to incorporate some of these tips into your Meatless Monday cooking.

Bake Instead of Fry

There are many healthier cooking methods than frying. Baking or air frying (using convection heat instead of oil) still results in a crispy exterior for your potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and veggies without the excess fat from pan frying.



Bring on the Beans

Beans are a tasty and inexpensive way to add protein, fiber, and heartiness to a meal. There are so many types, each with its unique flavor and characteristics. Black, pinto, and kidney beans do well in stews and fillings, while chickpeas and butter beans are fun additions to warm/cold salads and pasta. Check out our beans resource center for more recipes and bean cooking tips.

Build Around a Salad

Salads come in many shapes and sizes, so try making them the centerpiece of your dinner plate rather than just a side dish. Cut down on refined carbohydrates like pasta by building around a kale Caesar, Greek salad, or quinoa tabbouleh salad. You’ll find that this creates a much lighter dinner and is easier on the tummy.


Experiment with Vegetable Rice and Noodles

Love pasta? Crazy about rice? Us, too; however, these carbohydrates are generally made from refined flour and do not contain as many nutrients as their whole-grain counterparts. To make healthier versions of your favorite carb-heavy dishes, try experimenting with noodles, pasta, and rice made from legumes, whole grains, and vegetables. Zucchini noodles, chickpea pasta, cauliflower rice, and lentil linguini can now be found at grocery stores around the country or cooked at home. If these aren’t available, any whole grain or brown rice can be used as an alternative.

Garlic White Bean Avocado ToastIncorporate Simple Sauces and Condiments

Not everything has to be slathered in mayonnaise, ranch dressing, or alfredo sauce. You can add tons of flavor to sandwiches, salads, or pasta dishes with sauces that are low in calories and saturated fats. Mustard, pesto, barbecue sauce, peanut sauce, or a dash of something spicy can all be used to keep meals interesting.


Turn It into a Soup

This might sound crazy, but you can turn almost any typical meal into soup. By using vegetable broth, water, or your special blend of stock and spices, you can cut down on the calories, carbs, and fat in a meal, while still eating something delicious and filling. Pasta can become a flavorful Italian minestrone stew; coconut curry can be transformed into a sweet-and-spicy broth, and your taco night can quickly turn into a black bean soup. Start experimenting to see what combinations work for you.

Swap the Meat for Plant-Based Alternatives

Meat is okay in moderation, but it’s best to cut down your consumption whenever possible. Thankfully, there are many animal-free alternatives, like tofu, beans, lentils, mushrooms, cauliflower, and plant-based meat products. A lot of these have the same texture and properties as meat with fewer negatives.

Use Spinach and Leafy Greens Liberally

Whether you’re cooking a big stew, creamy red pepper pasta, curry, or smoothie, you can always boost the nutrient content and heft of the meal by adding a few handfuls of leafy greens. The greens cook down to nearly nothing but provide a nice subtle flavor and freshness to your food.

Easy tips to make any meal healthier

Want to know which ingredients to buy for amazing plant-based meals? Check out our list of Inexpensive Plant-Based Ingredients That Won’t Go Bad.