Here’s a little insight into how my mind works: Summer is the season of fresh produce, a rainbow of veggies on every plate, and salads eaten on repeat. Winter? A mix of beautifully beige (stay with me), cozy, and comfort-heavy foods. In the latter case, as we’re trying to keep warm in less-than-ideal temperatures, packing in as many vitamins and functional ingredients as possible is typically not top of mind. But, I have good news for you: Having the best of both worlds is totally possible, and these healthy winter recipes will get you there.
It’s that funny time of year too, when everyone’s split between wanting to indulge and being aware that the season of making New Year’s resolutions is right around the corner. I’d be the first to tell you to keep the Christmas cookies coming. However, I’m also learning to embrace a new sense of balance, one that focuses on mindfully enjoying all the sugary sweets I crave while making sure to nourish my body with the supportive foods it needs.
With that approach in mind, I’ve rounded up the top healthy winter recipes that’ll take you from breakfast to dinner with plenty of energy and strength to help you get through this sprint of a season.
feature image by michelle nash
Spiced Sweet Potato Granola with Pecans from The First Mess
Why We Love It: Perhaps you’ve been misled to believe those sweet potatoes are for savory situations only. This granola is here to convince you otherwise. Cooked and mashed sweet potato binds together oats and pecans for a wintertime breakfast or snack that’s sure to warm you up.
Hero Ingredient: Being from New England, I’m never one to say no to a healthy serving of maple syrup—and this recipe delivers. Whether it’s on pancakes, swirled into my morning yogurt bowl, or mixed into this satisfying and maple-y granola, you can really never go wrong.
Gingerbread Overnight Oats from The Healthy Maven
Why We Love It: Overnight oats are a meal prepper’s best friend. When you know your morning to-do list will involve no less than 10 must-get-done tasks, this is the breakfast to make. While I’m all for spending hours happily baking away in the kitchen, an instructions list that requires me to do nothing more than mix together my ingredients and place a jar in the fridge is always appreciated.
Hero Ingredient: For when you’re craving a gingerbread cookie to accompany your first cup of coffee, here’s the perfect healthy substitute. Just a teaspoon of molasses lends a warm, sweet, and slightly smoky flavor to your oats, so while it won’t overpower the other standout ingredients (cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, and maple syrup, to name a few), there’s no denying it’ll rival the best holiday cookie you’ve ever had.
Whole Wheat Butternut Squash Banana Bread from Kara Lydon Nutrition
Why We Love It: I used to think there wasn’t much you could do to improve upon a classic loaf of banana bread, but then I came across this recipe. While some of the old-school methods rely on more than a little sugar to sweeten up the batter, this one knows that you can pull back and play up the natural sweetness of the bananas and butternut squash to make it decadent, moist, and crave-worthy.
Hero Ingredient: A teaspoon and a half of pumpkin pie spice play up the squash’s flavor. If you don’t want to commit to an entire jar, simply mix together a 4:1:1 ratio of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
Cozy at Home Spicy Any-Veggie Soup from Oh She Glows
Why We Love It: There’s so much to love about this soup. It’s simple, comforting, and just about the easiest way to work a million veggies into a single one-pot meal. You can consider this recipe to be more of a template and focus on working in any of the veggies you have in your fridge. Just add your ingredients to the pot and let your soup simmer away.
Hero Ingredient: Red pepper flakes give this soup a little spice. While the recipe calls for two teaspoons, try adding just a teaspoon to start then tasting as you go.
Dreamy Vegan Tomato Soup from Blissful Basil
Why We Love It: While I’m not one for hyperbole, I could legitimately eat tomato soup for every single meal (breakfast included). Some recipes get their creaminess from, you guessed it, heavy cream, but this one works in a whole head of cauliflower for just about the smoothest, heartiest tomato soup you’ve ever had. Pair with a plant-based grilled cheese for the perfect winter warm-up—we love these vegan cheeses.
Hero Ingredient: Nutritional yeast, hands down. Not only does it thicken the soup with cheesy, savory goodness, but it also offers up plenty of protein and B vitamins. I’m all about it.
Winter Kale Salad from Heavenlynn Healthy
Why We Love It: I feel like we’re finally in a place where kale salads are no longer getting a bad rap. Of course, the healthy leafy green contains its impressive share of fiber and vitamin K (translation: strong bones!), but it’s also a substantial base for delicious dressings, fruits, and grains. The color of this salad alone will brighten up your day, and when you take your first bite, prepare to be floored.
Hero Ingredient: Crunchy, buttery, and slightly sweet, hazelnuts add a perfect textural variance to this salad’s other components.
Hummus, Greens, & Avo Bowl
Why We Love It: The amount and variety of greens this bowl offers up is truly remarkable. It balances fiber, protein, and fat to perfection, and includes endless sources of additional nutrient goodness with eggs, sunflower seeds, and hummus. If the mid-afternoon hangries regularly set in at 3 p.m., try adding this bowl to your lunchtime rotation. You’ll be shocked by how much energy you’ll have.
Hero Ingredient: Will our love for avocados ever die? Apparently not—and for good reason. When people talk about mouthfeel, they’re talking about avocados. Creamy, and downright dreamy (not to mention wildly nutrient-dense), this fruit is not only delicious but a surefire way to get nearly everything your body needs all in one go.
Warm Roasted Butternut Squash and Farro Salad from Whitney E. RD
Why We Love It: We’ve reached an age of wellness where we’re asking more from our salads. Not sure about you, but I’ve officially canceled iceberg lettuce and can’t imagine pouring low-fat dressing over my greens ever again (can you?). I want color, I want flavor, and I want variety. Answer: this recipe.
Hero Ingredient: With so much deliciousness to choose from, it’s honestly hard to say, but the chopped dates give a little unexpected sticky sweetness that I’m here to welcome with open arms.
Sesame Roasted Sweet Potatoes from Pinch of Yum
Why We Love It: Sweet potatoes > white potatoes. It’s possible that opinion puts me in the minority, but I’m happy to say it’s the undeniable truth. Sweet potatoes are nothing short of amazing on their own, but when topped up with tahini, sesame oil, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds, they’re irresistible. And while I love it, if cilantro isn’t your thing, feel free to swap it out with another herb of your choice.
Hero Ingredient: Nutty and just a bit bitter, tahini’s complexity both complements and contrasts the sweet potatoes’ slightly sugary bite.
Roasted Kabocha Squash from Love & Lemons
Why We Love It: Squash-based dishes are one of those funny recipes that actually require very little effort in exchange for a significant reward. All this delicious side asks of you is a little time spent preparing your kabocha squash, making your Sesame Ginger Dressing, and assembling your dish.
Hero Ingredient: While not often included in the expected rotation of more well-known winter gourds, kabocha squash should be at the top of your must-eat-no-less-than-once-a-week list of favorite foods. With a sweet, earthy flavor, kabocha squash tastes like the most delicious cross between pumpkin and sweet potatoes. Not only that, but it’s full of beta-carotene, fiber, and vitamins A and C. Just further proof that eating well can and should taste good.
Vegan Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
Why We Love It: There’s nothing not to love about this wildly warming and comforting meal. Mac and cheese is a classic that I’ll be happy to serve myself seconds of any time of the year, but the combo of cheese and carbs is my inevitable ticket to sleepy town. With cauliflower, nutritional yeast, and almond milk to mimic this dish’s expected creaminess, you still get the flavor you want without feeling weighed down by all the dairy.
Hero Ingredient: A tablespoon of salty, umami-rich white miso added to the sauce will make you want to dive in spoon-first (even before the macaroni is mixed in).
Kabocha & Kale Miso Sesame Soba Salad from The Full Helping
Why We Love It: This dish is essentially a salad disguised as the most delicious pasta you’ve ever consumed. Soba noodles get the garden treatment with the addition of kabocha squash, kale, cabbage, and green onions plus a sweet and savory miso-sesame dressing to tie it all together.
Hero Ingredient: After eating this pasta, you’ll never underestimate how much you can crave the crunch of red cabbage again.
Deluxe Butternut Macaroni N’ Tease from My New Roots
Why We Love It: I’m admittedly skeptical when I see recipes including words like “best” in the title. I expect a dish’s superiority to be able to speak for itself. This is the surprising exception, because when recipe creator Sarah Britton prefaced this vegan mac and cheese with “deluxe,” she meant it. If nothing else, the pasta to B-vitamin-packed sauce ratio can’t be beat.
Hero Ingredient: For the most part, a mac and cheese is only as good as the topping that covers it. While I always love panko or a breadcrumb version, the sunflower crumble topping makes this recipe. While not a single ingredient, the simple mix of seeds, nutritional yeast flakes, and a few seasonings is truly next level.
Healthy Spinach and Alfredo Pasta from Hummusapien
Why We Love It: Healthy Alfredo? Can it really be possible? You bet. Plant-based and nutrient-packed, this take relies on soaked cashews and, get ready, artichoke hearts for a super creamy Alfredo sauce. It’s silky, velvety, and essentially everything you’ve ever wanted to eat from a bowl.
Hero Ingredient: A squeeze of lemon offers up a hint of acidity to balance out the flavors of this indulgent-tasting dish.
Adaptogenic Hot Chocolate
Why We Love It: I’m the odd sort of person who looks forward to the moment when the temps dip below 50 degrees and it feels at least somewhat appropriate to wrap my hands around a warm mug of cocoa. If you wait until the weather’s a bit more conducive to your hot chocolate habit, that’s fine, but please promise me your first cup will be filled with this relaxing take on the classic. Thanks to the mix of maca and cacao, this superfood-filled recipe is grounding and meditative—and the perfect way to wrap up your evening before settling in for a restful night’s sleep.
Hero Ingredient: A scoop of anti-inflammatory collagen powder gives this drink a little body and heft while simultaneously supporting your gut, skin, hair, and nail health.
Vegan Peppermint Hot Chocolate from Choosing Chia
Why We Love It: December is the one month a year when we’re each fully justified in consuming as many peppermint-flavored foods as possible. If you’re in agreement, I’d suggest sipping on this warming beverage as much as you can. Using only all-natural ingredients, this cocoa is reminiscent of the mini marshmallow-filled packets of your childhood, only about a million times better.
Hero Ingredient: I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you can already taste the chocolatey goodness just by looking at the picture above. You can thank the four ounces of dark chocolate in this recipe for that. Be sure to grab a bar that’s at least 70% cacao—not only do the health benefits increase, but you’ll also get a deeper, smokier flavor from your hot chocolate the darker you go.
Vanilla Fig Smoothie with Cinnamon Whipped Cream
Why We Love It: Have yet to fall in love with figs? Here’s the recipe that’ll make it happen. While not too sweet, they certainly don’t hold back when it comes to flavor. Add to that the fact that figs are also full of potassium and fiber, and I’m sure you’re ready to start your love affair with the fruit ASAP. I love smoothies for many reasons, but just like soups, they’re a super simple way to pack all the nutrients you could ever need into a single decadent glass. Sip, sip, hooray.
Hero Ingredient: There’s no better match for figs than vanilla. Just a touch of vanilla extract brings out the figs’ natural sweetness without overpowering their figgy flavor.
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Can’t wait to try all 17!!!