For many of us, January marks a new beginning, and a time for setting positive resolutions. After the indulgence of Christmas, many of us are keen to eat healthily, cut back on drinking, exercise more, and to generally live a healthier, more balanced life.
However, when it comes to healthy home cooking, it can be hard to know precisely where to start – and eating fresh food in the winter can be less appealing than during the warm summer months. But, the good news is that eating healthily doesn’t have to mean compromising on taste or comfort.
To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of 12 healthy and delicious recipes that are ideal for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacking this January.
Healthy breakfast ideas
Smashed avocado on sweet potato toast
Avocado on toast is one of the most popular breakfasts around – and from a health perspective, it packs a real punch. Avocados are very nutritious and contain 20 different vitamins and minerals, including high amounts of vitamins K, C, B5, B6 and E. They’re high in folate, fibre and potassium, which helps support healthy blood pressure levels, and because they’re packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, they can also help protect against heart disease and high cholesterol.
If you like to eat avocado in the morning, then why not make your breakfast that bit healthier by swapping your toast for sweet potato? Sweet potatoes are also incredibly nutritious: aside from being packed with vitamins, they’re also rich in antioxidants that protect your body from free radicals that are linked to health conditions like cancer and heart disease. This Tasty recipe for smashed avocado on sweet potato toast is a great way to combine these two superfoods – and it’s also quick and easy to make: simply slice sweet potato lengthwise, place in a toaster, top with avocado, and garnish with crumbled feta, cherry tomatoes, or bacon, if liked. A handful of pomegranate seeds, and/or a sprinkling of fresh chilli also make nice touches!
If you like to start your morning with eggs, why not try making a healthy shakshuka? Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern and North African egg-based dish that’s simple, healthy and satisfying – plus it packs in around four of your five-a-day! The word ‘shakshuka’ means “a mixture”, and that’s exactly what this dish is: a tasty and health-boosting mixture of tomatoes, peppers, onions and spices, with poached eggs on top.
Shakshuka is quick to prepare, the ingredients are cheap to buy, and you can make it all in one pan – plus, because it’s so customisable, it’s a great way to use up other ingredients you have in the fridge. This classic shakshuka recipe from BBC Good Food makes a great brunch and lunch as well as breakfast. If you like to watch recipe videos, check out the video below, where the chef throws in some extra mushrooms to make this dish even more nutritious – this is just one example of all the additional ingredients you can add to your own shakshuka.
Banana and cinnamon porridge
Porridge is a staple breakfast during winter, and for good reason: it’s warming, filling, cheap and nutritious – plus it’s easy to customise to keep it interesting each morning. While there are many different ingredients you can add to your porridge to spice it up, the simple combination of bananas and cinnamon is delicious, hearty and comforting, and provides many health benefits.
While porridge itself is healthy, adding bananas gives this breakfast dish another welcome dose of fibre, which can help lower your cholesterol level and improve your gut health. Bananas are also high in potassium, a vital mineral that keeps your blood pressure in check, and the fibre and carbohydrates in this dish can help to keep you feeling full, and stave off unhealthy cravings throughout the day.
Adding a dash of cinnamon doesn’t only make porridge taste better – it also means you consume more antioxidants. Check out this banana and cinnamon porridge recipe by Cook Veggielicious.
Healthy lunch ideas
Moroccan chickpea soup
Soup is a classic lunch dish, but in winter, we often feel like eating something a little heartier. If that’s the case, why not try making some Moroccan chickpea soup – a wonderfully warming and comforting meal that’s just as healthy as it is delicious? Cheap, easy to make and high in protein, one of the best things about this dish is that it’s made using store cupboard staples, so you may not even need to pop to the shops before making it.
Because chickpeas are high in vitamins, minerals and fibre, they have many potent health benefits, including improving digestion, supporting weight management, reducing the risk of disease and maintaining bone health – and because they’re packed with protein they’ll keep you full until dinner time.
Moroccan chickpea soup is also easy to tweak to adapt to all tastes and diets, and can be eaten along with bread or rice – though it’s filling enough by itself. Have a look at this recipe from Hungry Healthy Happy if you want to make your own Moroccan chickpea soup.
Jacket potato with chilli
On a cold January day, few things are as comforting as cutting into a piping hot jacket potato, and settling down for a hearty meal. A jacket potato with chilli makes a perfect mid-week lunch. Knocking up a quick chilli only takes around 10 minutes, and while a jacket potato takes around an hour in the oven, you can keep your chilli on a low heat during this time, allowing the flavours to infuse while you get on with other things. Alternatively, you can save time by cooking your potato in the microwave.
Aside from being warming and filling, baked potatoes are packed with nutrients: they can reduce inflammation, aid digestion and improve metabolism – although if you want to be even healthier, you might want to use a sweet potato instead. Whether you make it meat-based or veggie, chilli can also be very healthy. Because it contains beans, it’s high in fibre and protein, and the peppers and tomatoes are high in vitamin C, which can help to improve your immune system. If you’d like to make traditional chilli con carne, try this BBC Good Food recipe, which uses beef mince. Alternatively, you can make this popular plant-based chilli recipe by Cookie + Kate. Or for more ideas, have a watch of Jamie Oliver make a hearty veggie chilli in the video below.
Super green spaghetti
If you’re looking for a quick, filling and great-tasting winter’s lunch, then why not make a pasta dish that’s packed with health-busting green vegetables – like Jamie Oliver’s super green spaghetti? In January, many of us have winter greens like kale and cavolo nero (black cabbage) sitting in the fridge, and using them to make a silky smooth pasta sauce is a great way to make use of these hardy vegetables. The fact that they’re among the most nutritious plant foods in existence is just an added bonus.
Both cavolo nero and kale are high in antioxidants, vitamins K, A and C, as well as plenty of B vitamins, so they’re enormously helpful in supporting a healthy immune system. Plus, they’re also high in essential minerals like calcium, iron and manganese, which our body needs to function properly. Jamie’s recipe can be made in under 15 minutes – and if you don’t have kale or cavolo nero, you can always use spinach. For an extra protein boost, you can dot some ricotta cheese on top, add a scattering of pine nuts – or serve with a piece of grilled salmon, or chicken
Healthy dinner ideas
Turkey and winter vegetable shepherd’s pie
When thinking of popular winter comfort food, shepherd’s pie is definitely up there. Coming in from the cold on a dark winter’s evening and tucking into mashed-potato-smothered shepherd’s pie can instantly boost your mood – but why not make this classic comfort food a bit healthier? Shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with lamb, like this one from Jamie Oliver, but if you want to cut down on cholesterol, you could always swap red meat for white meat, like this turkey and winter vegetable shepherd’s pie by Tastes of Home.
Or you can leave out the meat altogether and make a winter vegetable pie, like this one from BBC Good Food: packed with carrots, peas, potatoes, onions, cauliflower and tomatoes, just one portion contains all your recommended five-a-day! If you’re plant-based, why not have a go at making Jamie Oliver’s veggie shepherd’s pie, which is packed with lentils and fluffy sweet potato, or this vegan shepherd’s pie by Loving It Vegan, which uses veggie mince and mushrooms?
Cauliflower tikka masala
Chicken tikka masala has long been one of the nation’s favourite dishes, and for good reason. The creamy, spicy curry sauce is packed with flavour and seriously comforting. But unfortunately, comfort food isn’t always healthy, and chicken tikka masala is often no exception because it contains lots of heavy cream, ghee and oil (the average portion contains a shocking 1,249 calories and 90.8 grams of fat!). But if you love the flavours of tikka masala, why not try making this cauliflower tikka masala dish by Vegetarian Gastronomy?
Because it uses coconut milk instead of dairy cream, this dish is entirely cholesterol-free. It also contains cashews, which are packed with fibre, heart-healthy fats and protein. They’re also high in copper, magnesium, and manganese, nutrients that are vital for energy, brain health, immunity, and bone health. Another health-boosting ingredient in this dish is turmeric, which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and can help prevent heart disease, eye conditions and Alzheimer’s. Plus, the cauliflower itself is very nutritious: it can reduce blood pressure, is high in choline (a key nutrient for brain health), and is rich in sulforaphane, which can reduce the risk of cancer.
Healthy fish pie
Fish pie is another classic comfort food favourite. Oily fish is rich in protein and omega-3 fats, which are important for boosting brain health: they can help reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, slow cognitive decline, improve memory and lower stress. However, because fish pie often contains creamy fillings, buttery pastry, cheese, or mashed potato toppings, it can also be very high in fats, cholesterol and overall calories. The good news is that it’s easy to make a few small tweaks and make a healthier version of this beloved dish.
Have a look at these healthy fish pie recipes from BBC Good Food: with recipes including salmon en croute, Mediterranean fish gratins, and fish pie with a swede and potato topping, you’ll hopefully find something to whet your appetite. Or alternatively, check out this healthy fish pie recipe from the BBC, which uses low-fat soft cheese and is only 409 calories per serving. For more fish pie inspiration, have a watch of the video below.
Healthy snack ideas
The cold winter weather can make us feel hungrier than usual, and give us the urge to fill up on comforting, sugary snacks. In January, when many of us have leftover festive snacks in the house, the temptation can be even stronger! If you enjoy snacking or have a sweet tooth, why not try making chia pudding? Chia seeds are a nutritional powerhouse: they’re packed with fibre and omega-3 fatty acids, are high in protein, and contain essential minerals and antioxidants. Eating chia seeds can improve digestive health and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
The idea of snacking on seeds may not sound too exciting, but aside from their health boosting properties, chia puddings are creamy, rich and indulgent. Plus, they’re incredibly simple to prepare and can be eaten as a healthy dessert or breakfast as well as a snack. Have a look at these delicious chia seed pudding recipes: from chocolate and raspberry to coconut cream, there’s hopefully a pudding for every palate. Have a watch of the video below to see how tasty and versatile chia puddings can be.
Nuts are another healthy winter snack. Because they’re high in B vitamins, which convert food to energy, and magnesium, which prevents muscle tiredness, they can ward off winter tiredness – plus they also contain serotonin (a “happy hormone”), which can improve your mood during these dark months. If that weren’t enough reason to get snacking on nuts, they also contain healthy fats that act as natural anti-inflammatories.
Rather than simply snacking on nuts from a bag, why not make your own muesli bars, like these grab and go bars from Taste? Chewy and delicious, these bars are incredibly simple to make – and because they contain oats as well as plenty of dried fruit, they’ll provide a welcome dose of fibre and vitamins, and give you the energy to power through the day.
Spicy cauliflower bites
If you enjoy snacking on food that has a kick, then why not try making some spicy cauliflower bites? Cauliflower may not seem like an obvious choice for a snack, but because it’s so low in calories yet high in vitamins, it’s actually ideal snack material.
There are big benefits to eating more cauliflower: it’s a great source of antioxidants, can aid in weight loss, and because it’s so high in fibre, it helps slow digestion and keeps you feeling full. These sriracha-buffalo cauliflower bites by Eating Well are a healthy alternative to chicken wings: not only do they contain more fibre, minerals and vitamins, but they’re also baked instead of fried, further reducing the calories and fat count.
During the cold and dark winter months, we might all have to work a bit harder to be healthy – whether that’s making ourselves exercise when we don’t feel like it, or ensuring we’re eating a fresh and healthy diet. But as many of these recipes prove, you don’t have to be a whizz in the kitchen to eat well – and you certainly don’t have to live on salads!
Experimenting with different recipes and trying new foods can be extremely enjoyable and rewarding – and knowing you’re taking steps to protect your health is just an added bonus. To find out more about staying well in winter, have a read of our guide to winter nutrition.
Do you have any healthy recipes you’ll be making this January, or do any of our suggestions whet your appetite? We’d love to hear your ideas! Leave us a comment below or join the conversation over on the health section of the community forum.