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Sneaky Cooking Tips to Stop Winter Weight Gain

A quick marinade makes any lean meat instantly more flavorful. (Photo courtesy Peter Ardito)

We get it–it's cold, dark and you want to curl up in sweat pants and stick your face into something ooey, gooey, slightly cheesy and warm. Just because you're jonesing for some comfort food doesn't mean you have to write off your diet for the day. Chef Jessica James and Amy Goche, registered dietician and member of the National Restaurant Association's Nutrition Executive Study Group shared with us their top culinary secrets to amp up flavor and cut calories when it comes to those winter favorites. The pair helped create Applebee's Weight Watchers dishes for the chain's menus, with each dish clocking in less than 550 calories. Below, tips, cooking tricks and a super easy recipe to jazz up almost any dish.

If you want something creamy...
Make a citrus gremolata instead. "I'm always trying to break the conception that eating healthy means you can't indulge," says James. Try this recipe below to as a no-calorie alternative to add some flavor to soups or as a sauce or dressing.

Lemon Greomlata


  • Zest of one large lemon
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Thoroughly combine all ingredients in a small bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate for one hour.

When you're ordering from a menu...
Check out the description, says Goche. "Some healthy keywords to look out for are grilled, broiled or sautéed. Stay away from any items in cream-based sauces."

A must-make marinade...
"If you're cooking at home, marinade! It boosts flavor to lean meats that the fat would usually do," says Goche. Her quick marinade is a splash or orange juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic and some chopped herbs of your choosing. Combine, and let sit on the meat anywhere between a half hour up to 12 hours.

More Recipes: Low-Cal Recipes for Your Favorite Comfort Foods