It’s hard to resist cravings when it’s cold, so here are four dietitian-approved winter dinners that offer comfort without major calories…

We all love winter comfort food – even dietitians, but they have a few tricks for making winter favourites healthy.

Here are five dietitian-approved winter dinner recipes, and a few expert diet tips, to help you maintain a healthy eating plan throughout the chilly season…

Lamb cassoulet with haricot beans & rainbow carrots

Serving her family a healthy dinner is important to dietitian and mom of two, Terry Harris, from Discovery Vitality.

“The pre-planning of meals – especially supper – is key to healthy eating,” says Harris, “and it is also the best way to lose weight.”

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When it comes to dinner, she loves lamb cassoulet with haricot beans & rainbow carrots, a recipe developed by the Vitality HealthyFood Studio.

Ingredients

  • 220g onion
  • 120g carrot
  • 120g celery
  • 1kg lamb leg cubes, trimmed of fat
  • 1,6l homemade beef or chicken stock
  • 250g rainbow carrots
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 tins haricot beans, drained and rinsed
  • Large pinch salt
  • Large pinch pepper
  • 15ml canola oil
  • 10ml tomato paste

Method

  1. Finely chop the onions, carrots and celery making sure to keep them separated.
  2. Warm a large pot, add the oil and brown the lamb cubes. Cook the lamb until evenly browned all over. Remove from the pot and set aside.
  3. Add the onions to the pot and sauté until they are opaque, then add the carrots and cook for five minutes. Add the celery and cook for another five minutes.
  4. Return the lamb to the pot with the tomato paste. Cook for five minutes, then use stock to deglaze the bottom of the pot, scraping off any caramelised pieces.
  5. Add the rosemary, and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally.
  6. Peel the rainbow carrots and set aside until needed.
  7. Open the tins of haricot beans, strain and rinse them. Set aside until needed.
  8. Cook the lamb for 1½ hours, and then add the carrots, cook for a further 20 minutes and then add the haricot beans.
  9. Check the seasoning before serving. Serve with pearled barley or brown rice, garnished with more rosemary.

Serves: 6-8 

Terry Harris, from Discovery Vitality, recommends this recipe for lamb cassoulet with haricot beans & rainbow carrots

What about dessert?

“Although baked winter puddings are usually loaded with sugar, butter and eggs, you don’t have to completely forgo a small serving,” says Harris.

“Enjoying a little of what you love can help you steer clear of feeling denied. Just be sure you are making a mindful choice and not reaching for a second helping on impulse.”

Harris says that if you have a sweet tooth, but want to steer clear of an overload on calories, there are a few healthier options:

“Grilled pineapple or baked apples make delicious winter treats especially with a scoop of plain yoghurt. Dipping just the tip of fresh strawberries into melted chocolate or a steaming mug of homemade hot chocolate prepared with cocoa and milk may be just enough of a sweet treat that you are craving after your healthy evening meal.”

Time to unwind

Feeling stressed is just one of the reasons we often turn to fattening, comfort food. So how does this dietitian unwind after a busy day?

“It can sometimes be incredibly difficult to disconnect from work and completely unwind after a busy day,” admits Harris.

So just how does she relax?

“I try to go for a quick 30 minute run before walking through the door and have also set a rule for myself that once I am home, I disconnect myself from my phone and completely engage in my children’s needs,” says Harris.

“I don’t allow myself to check my emails or do any social networking until the children are in bed and my husband and I have eaten our dinner. This technology-free time helps me to fully unload my brain from the day.”

Related: 4 Quick healthy dinner ideas (ready in just 30 minutes)

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