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10 Healthy Twists on Classic Diner Dishes

  • Sara Haas, R.D.N., L.D.N., certified chef

    Vanilla Coconut Whole-Wheat Waffle

    The best part about these waffles: THey have a big nutrient boost and are low in sugar. "I replaced some of the refined white flour traditionally found in waffle recipes with whole-wheat flour," says Sara Haas, RDN. "I also kept the sugar to a minimum, and since the coconut is naturally sweet, I found that it didn't need syrup—just a topping of some fresh, chopped mango was enough!"

    Get the recipe: Vanilla Coconut Whole-Wheat Waffle

  • Elizabeth Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T.

    A Simple Soda Swap

    Rather than opting for the standard soda or orange juice, try a fun twist on flavored water. Naturally sweetened from 100 percent juice and filled with pomegranate polyphenols, it's easy to whip up at home. Splitting POM Wonderful 100 percent pomegranate juice with water in a 50-50 split (or you can use sparkling water for a fun twist) will help keep you hydrated while providing antioxidants that help fend off free radicals. Plus, by mixing it with water, you lower the total caloric value and help give your body an extra boost of hydration. POM also contains potassium, an electrolyte important for fluid balance and muscle function, which you may need, depending on what led you to the diner in the first place (cough cough, #latenight).

    Get more recipes: Flavored Water

  • Elizabeth Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T.

    Gluten-Free San Antonio Breakfast Skillet

    This breakfast skillet combines all the flavor from the "greasy spoon" options you'd find on a diner menu—without the fat and calories. Using the strong flavors of San Antonio cuisine—jalapeños, paprika, and garlic—enhances the pinto bean gravy, which is gluten-free and adds fiber to the dish. Slathered over a combination of lean ground turkey, potato, and egg, this protein-packed breakfast is an easy way to fill up for the day ahead.

    Get the recipe: Gluten-Free San Antonio Breakfast Skillet

  • Regan Jones, R.D.

    Hashbrown Casserole

    You only need a few ingredients and a couple of minutes to prep before this hearty bowl of hashbrown comfort food is ready for breakfast. Using cottage cheese rather than sour cream gives it an additional protein punch.

    Get the recipe: Hashbrown Casserole

  • Sonali Ruder, M.D., author of The Foodie Physician

    Crispy Oven-Baked Onion Rings

    These onion rings are healthier because they're baked instead of deep-fried. They also use whole-wheat flour and breadcrumbs, and dipping them in buttermilk instead of a heavy egg batter lightens the load.

    Get the recipe: Crispy Oven-Baked Onion Rings

  • Allan Penn

    Potato Salad with Parsnips and Edamame

    It's easy to lighten up a potato salad: Just substitute part of your potatoes for parsnips. Not only does it introduce a new vegetable to the mix, but it also provides a wider variety of vitamins and minerals (bonus!). Then you can add fun veggies, like edamame, for some satisfying protein. And of course, rather than going with full-blown mayo, you can combine the reduced-fat variety with nonfat plain Greek yogurt (go 50:50 on your ratio) to slash calories without compromising on any flavor.

    Get the recipe: Potato Salad with Parsnips and Edamame

    Recipe from The Greek Yogurt Kitchen by Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D. Used with permission by Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

  • Jamie Vespa, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.

    Low-Fat Bacon Apple Gouda Mac and Cheese

    This delicious mac and cheese achieves its creaminess from the addition of fiber-rich butternut squash and low-fat almond milk. Caramelized apples, turkey bacon, and aromatic sage also add amazing flavor while keeping the dish low in fat and high in both protein and fiber.

    Get the recipe: Low-Fat Bacon Apple Gouda Mac and Cheese

  • Jessica Fishman Levinson, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N.

    Apple Cranberry Tuna Salad

    Most tuna salads are filled with mayonnaise, which is high in saturated fat. This apple cranberry tuna salad is made with light mayonnaise and includes shallots and lemon juice for added flavor. Crunchy apples and chewy dried cranberries add texture and the perfect hit of sweetness.

    Get the recipe: Apple Cranberry Tuna Salad

  • Liz Weiss, M.S., R.D., and Janice Newell Bissex, M.S., R.D.

    Peachy Pecan Cinnamon Buns

    "Our peachy pecan cinnamon buns won't make your buns big! This recipe is a makeover of traditional cinnamon buns, which are often made with sticks of butter, cups of sugar, and lots (and lots!) of powdered sugar," say Liz Weiss, M.S., R.D., and Janice Newell Bissex, M.S., R.D. "Our makeover is so much lighter. We use just a few tablespoons of butter and a lot less sugar. And we add chopped pecans for a nutrient boost."

    Get the recipe: Peachy Pecan Cinnamon Buns


  • Tawnie Kroll, R.D.N.

    Mom's Apple Pie

    "I believe making an apple pie from scratch is a healthier alternative because you are using fresh ingredients and you are in control of the butter, shortening, and sugar," says Tawnie Kroll, R.D.N. "You also have the option to use a whole-wheat flour or canola oil for your crust, which is higher in fiber and lower in saturated fat. Like everything in life, it is all about balance!"

    Get the recipe: Mom's Apple Pie

    *If you're tight on time, try this Deconstructed Apple Pie from Meal Makeover Moms' Kitchen


Elizabeth Shaw MS, RDN, CLT

Elizabeth is a San Diego based nutrition communications consultant who works with local and national brands to help encourage healthy living behaviors. You can find her on social media @shawsimpleswaps.
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