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When there is a chill in the air, it’s common to crave comfort foods that may or may not be so healthy. A little planning and creativity can go a long way in helping families eat more nourishing foods that are also likely to be a lot more affordable than fast foods.

“Get the kids involved in selecting ingredients, washing vegetables and fruits, preparing bowls of toppings, setting the table, and choosing what they want on their plate,” says Lacey Anderson, a WakeMed dietitian.

Lacey recommends focusing on making your family favorites at home with a fun and healthy twist. She suggests trying these fun meals and getting creative with your own ideas.

Fun with Family Favorites

  • Add new veggie topping options to your taco nights – create a rainbow of options.
  • Get creative with a make-your-own salad bar to go along with a favorite soup.
  • Make different chili recipes; let the kids pick the type of meat, beans and veggies to use. Let them dump beans and other ingredients in the pot.
  • Set up a sweet potato bar with lots of toppings, including veggies, nuts, meat, fruits such as raisins or diced apples, herbs and spices.
  • Build burrito bowls; get creative with ingredients and themes – let your kids make suggestions.
  • Omelet stations are fun for slower weekend mornings – pick a theme or just use what you have; chop up leftover veggies.

Simple Breakfast Sandwich



Eggs are a high quality and affordable source of protein to start the day. Get creative with different toppings.


  • 1 egg
  • 1 whole-grain English muffin or two slices whole-grain bread
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 slice low-fat cheese

Optional Toppings:

  • Slice of tomato
  • 2 slices turkey bacon
  • 1 patty turkey sausage
  • Handful of spinach or arugula leaves
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Hot sauce
  • Sliced avocado


  1. Spray a small pan or skillet with cooking spray. Prepare egg according to preference:
  2. Scrambled: Crack egg in a bowl. Stir with a fork until yolk is broken and mixed with the rest of the egg. Pour into a skillet over medium heat. Gently move the egg around the pan with a spatula as the egg cooks. Egg is done when it is fluffy and no longer runny. Over easy/sunny side up: Crack egg in pan over medium heat, keeping the yolk intact. Cook until egg white turns white/solid, and egg yolk is warmed through.
  3. While the egg is cooking, toast English muffin or bread.
  4. Once the egg is done, season with a dash of salt and pepper. Assemble the sandwich by placing cheese and egg on one half of the English muffin or toast, and add toppings.

Tip: This recipe is a great way to use bread that may be going stale. Toasting bread will freshen it up and make it tasty.

Healthy Hot Chocolate



This hot chocolate recipe is as quick and easy as mixing a packet of hot chocolate mix. It’s a healthy swap for a winter favorite.


  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 3 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. honey or maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt


  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a mug and heat in the microwave for 2 minutes or until milk is hot.
  2. Stir and enjoy. Tip: Use an immersion-blender or regular blender for a fully-blended, slightly frothy, creamy consistency.

Flavor suggestions:

Chocolate-Peppermint: Add 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract or melt one peppermint candy in with the ingredients.

Mexican-Inspired: Add a dash of cinnamon and cayenne pepper.

Carrot Banana Breakfast Muffins



  • 1½ cups grated carrots (about 2 large carrots)
  • 1½ cups mashed banana (about 2-3 large bananas)
  • ½ cup egg whites or 2 eggs or ½ cup applesauce
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour or whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup oatmeal, ground or oat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • Optional: nuts, spices, honey/maple syrup, etc.


  1. Preheat oven to 355°F.
  2. Combine your carrot, banana, egg whites (or substitute) and vanilla.
  3. Mix your flour, oatmeal and baking powder into the wet ingredients, stirring until just combined.
  4. Pour your mixture into your muffin tins.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through and a skewer inserted removes clean.

Turkey Chili



  • Cooking spray
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini (6 ounces), diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 16 oz. lean ground turkey
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can, no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 (28 oz.) can, no-salt-added crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (15.25 oz.) can no-salt-added beans of any kind, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder


  1. Spray a large soup pot with cooking spray.
  2. Sauté onions, carrots and zucchini over medium-high heat until the onions turn clear.
  3. Add the garlic and sauté 30 more seconds.
  4. Add the ground turkey and cook until brown.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients; mix well and bring the chili to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Sloppy Joes



  • 1¼ lbs. 93% lean ground beef or sirloin
  • 1 carrot, minced
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup red bell pepper, minced
  • 4 oz. mushrooms, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste


  1. Chop all of the vegetables very fine, using a chopper or food processor.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.
  3. Add the meat to the pan and break it up as it cooks.
  4. Cook the meat until it browns, then add onion, garlic, carrots, mushrooms and red peppers to the skillet.
  5. Reduce heat to medium and add red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, and cook 5 more minutes.
  6. Add tomato sauce and paste to pan, stir to combine.
  7. Cover and reduce heat to simmer and cook an additional 5 minutes.

This blog is adapted from an article in our Families First Magazine. Interested in getting future issues of Families First delivered to your home? Subscribe here.

WakeMed Children's Hospital