Ingenious Ways to Lighten Up Heavy Fall Dishes without Losing Flavor

Eventually, the chill in the air is going to lure you to eat more rich food and then regret it later. But you can have those creamy, meaty, carb-laden dishes with no side effects if you simply find slightly healthier versions of your favorites. So many of our much-loved fall dishes are loaded with butter and cream and sugar and everything good in the world. But sometimes, these dishes can be just as creamy and flavorful with lighter ingredients substituted in the recipes.

1. Easy Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Chowhound

Pork tenderloin is such a lean, yet tender meat, and the fall pears and figs provide a sweet complement to our beloved other white meat. Get our Easy Roasted Pork Tenderloin recipe.

2. Roasted Spaghetti Squash

Chowhound

Inspired by classic cacio e pepe, here's a lower carb version of the simple pasta dish using noodles made from spaghetti squash. The cooked strands are tossed with a simple sauce of minced garlic and shallots warmed in olive oil, black pepper, and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Get our Roasted Spaghetti Squash recipe.

3. White Chicken Chili

Chowhound

This chicken chili is a little lighter than traditional beef and kidney bean chili. Smashing some of the cannellini beans thickens the broth, and a squeeze of lime juice at the end balances the richness and heat with a bright kick. Get our White Chicken Chili recipe.

4. Butternut Squash Mac n’ Cheese

Cooking Light

By pureeing cooked butternut squash into the sauce, the dish keeps its rich cheesy mouthfeel and depth of flavor, but skips all the cream of a béchamel. This recipe also uses three different strong cheeses so the flavor still pops but with less cheese overall. Best part, it sneaks in an extra vegetable to a warm and comforting winter meal. Get the recipe here.

5. Jalapeno Cilantro Yogurt Spread

Chowhound

Football season means snacks on snacks. That usually means chips and dip will be spread over a table like a cornucopia of temptation. Skip the cream cheese blue cheese dips for a game or two and switch it out with one of our favorite lightening ingredients – fat-free greek yogurt! It keeps the dip thick and adds a tangy note to your favorite game-day go-tos. Get our Jalapeño Cilantro Yogurt Spread recipe.

6. Cheesecake with Whipped Cottage Cheese

Parsley Sage Sweet

Cottage cheese has a bad rap out there as a diet food eaten with pineapple by sad women, but trust us – it is one of the most versatile ingredients in the substitution arsenal. By pureeing or whipping it into a smooth texture, it’s mild flavor enables it to blend into a myriad of dishes – from dips to gratins to this ethereal cheesecake recipe with less than half the calories of one from that… ahem…factory. Get the recipe here.

7. Zucchini Lasagna

Oh Sweet Basil

Summer (or fall) squash make an easy alternative to noodles in this recipe, but feel free to try it on your favorite family lasagna recipe as well. To combine a few of the tips in this list, use some whipped cottage cheese with garlic and basil in place of the ricotta and mozzarella for a high protein and low fat substitution. Even better, make two and bring one to a friend! Get the recipe here.

8. Pot Pie with Sweet Potato Crust

The First Mess

Chicken or vegetable pot pie is a winter classic. It sticks to your ribs and is a one-pot wonder that reminds us of our childhoods (shout to to Marie Callender!). But by using thinly sliced sweet potatoes rather than puff pastry for a crust, you get the benefits of an extra vegetable while cutting out all the additional butter! Get the recipe here.

9. Shepherd's Pie with Cauliflower Topping

Wellness Mama

Another one-pot wonder loaded with ground turkey and vegetables makes this easy dish a winter winner! The typical topper of buttery mashed potatoes piled high is familiar, but mashed cauliflower subbed in means it still tastes like the same dish.  Pro-tip, few dishes freeze as well as shephards pie, so do yourself a favor and put one away for later! Get the recipe here.

10.  Hasselback Apple Crisp

Diets in Review

Apple desserts can be weighted down by copious amounts of pastry, and butter, and toppings. The fruit has plenty of sweetness on it’s own, so instead of a turnover covered in ice cream, the apples are sliced like hasselback potatoes to better caramelize, then topped with a of oatmeal streusel for a dessert that won’t derail your day. Get the recipe here.

11. Spaghetti Squash Chicken Alfredo

iFood Real

Chicken alfredo! Notoriously unhealthy, but oh so good, so this recipe employ’s two of our lighten-up suggestions – greek yogurt AND nixing the pasta for spaghetti squash. Deployed in tandem, we are suddenly able to eat chicken alfredo every night of the week! Get the recipe here.

12. Banana Applesauce Chocolate Cake

Mom on Time Out

A moist chocolate cake is what everyone wants to tuck into late at night in front of a fireplace with some sweet Netflix options cued up. By using the bananas you forgot about in the fruit bowl for a little too long and a bit of applesauce, the butter and oil normally dominating a treat like this are eliminated. So when you wake up with crumbs in your pjs, you won’t have to worry about buying bigger pjs. Get the recipe here.

13. Spiced Wine

Saveur

Hot cocoa with schnapps, buttered rum, pumpkin whipped cream something or other. All delectable choices to imbibe on a winter’s eve, but a black hole of sugar and booze. For a holiday party or a night in, try spiced wine. The recipes vary, but it’s typically warmed wine with spices and just al iittle sugar for a whole bottle. Feel the magic of fall spices without anything extra. Get the recipe here.

— Header image: Roasted Pumpkin Soup from Chowhound

— Original article by Vanessa W. Simmons on Oct. 22, 2015; updated article by Amy Sowder Sept. 15, 2016

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