Take the guesswork out of cooking nutritious meals. Our new book, Healthy Dish of the Day, features 365 wholesome recipes — that’s one for every day of the year. Author Kate McMillan has created dishes tailored to the seasons, with monthly calendars providing an at-a-glance view of the month’s recipes. Welcome spring with asparagus, artichokes and fava beans in salads and stir-fries; summer brings vegetables that are perfect for grilling alongside burgers made from fish and beans. When the weather turns cool, look to root vegetables, leafy greens and hearty grains, as well as roasted lean meats.
Kate also gives comfort food favorites like pasta and pizza a healthy makeover, swapping in multigrain pastas and whole-wheat crusts and upping the quantity of vegetables. The recipes are just as satisfying—and more nourishing. With so many enticing recipes to choose from, this book will help you savor the seasons and eat well all year long.
Here, we ask Kate all about her healthy eating philosophy, along with her best tips for cooking nutritious meals on busy weeknights. Read on, and try recipes from the book below!
What’s your approach to healthy eating?
All things in moderation! I have a sweet tooth and a fat tooth, so any diet that is too restrictive isn’t interesting to me. I love to eat and I was raised to believe that both food and mealtime are to be respected. But there is no mistaking how great I feel when my day is filled with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables!
How did you decide which recipes to include in this book?
Because this book is based on eating with the seasons, I started by simply making a list of when produce is available throughout the year. From there, I though about dishes that span the globe to keep things interesting. As with every book in this series, I wanted there to be inspired and easy-to-follow recipes for everything from a quick and easy weekday family dinner to a show-stopping Saturday night dinner party.
How would you characterize the recipes in the book?
Delicious! We didn’t set out to write a diet book. Rather, we wanted to offer up wonderful ideas for getting as many healthy ingredients into your diet as we could. When possible, we reworked recipes to include healthy substitutions: brown rice, whole wheat pasta, fresh salsas, and barley risottos.
Can you tell us about the core components of a healthy dish?
Fresh and in-season produce is the number one core component. At the height of their seasons, fruits and vegetables will be at their healthiest and they will taste the best. I also tried to use as little fat as possible. Don’t get me wrong, enchiladas are not enchiladas without the melted cheese! But, you can feel great about the Sweet Potato & Pinto Bean Enchiladas in the book, which are loaded with protein from the pinto beans and vitamin A from the sweet potatoes.
This book has recipes for every day of the year. What makes a weeknight recipe for you, and what makes a special weekend one?
Weeknight meals, like the Angel Hair Pasta with Spring Vegetables, should be recipes that don’t take a long time. Ideally, weeknight recipes have ingredients that are mostly already in your pantry. Recipes in the book that are better suited for a weekend are those that are a bit more involved, include more expensive ingredients, and items that are best purchased day-of, such as the Smokey Sea Scallops with Avocado-Corn Salsa.
Do you have any tips for eating well on a busy day?
I think the trick to healthy eating is the same as it is for getting dinner on the table for your family during the week: keep a well-stocked pantry and make a plan. I always make better decisions when I have a loaded fruit basket and a fridge packed with veggies. In general, when I grocery shop, I buy for the next three dinners. With three little girls aged 5-10, I need to have our weekday meals planned out. But, three days out is as far as I can plan! Oh, my other tip: don’t go to the grocery store hungry (or with a 5-year-old that sneaks cookies into your cart).
How does seasonality fit in with healthy eating?
Seasonality and healthy eating truly go hand-in-hand. The fresher the vegetable, the more nutritional benefits you will get. Produce loses it’s nutritional kick as it ages. So, if you are buying out-of-season fruits and vegetables, chances are they’re traveling thousands of miles to get to you, and losing their nutritional benefits along the way. In addition, in-season produce will taste better and it will be less expensive. Bonus!
What are some of your favorite ingredients/techniques for healthy eating?
I am such a believer of the old saying “you eat with your eyes.” I truly think about the colors on my plate at every meal. Actually, it is a bit odd how much time I think about this! Grilled fish looks so much prettier with a tomato and avocado salsa on top and bright green beans on the side. Grilling is by far my preferred cooking technique. It requires very little fat and I love the way it caramelizes meat, fish, and vegetables. I even cook pizzas and quesadillas on the grill. I live in California so I can grill all year long. Lucky!
Any healthy comfort foods or “indulgences” you swear by?
I love to make kale chips when I’m craving salt. I bake kale leaves tossed with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a few drops of sesame oil for an Asian kick. They really are addictive! My girls also love to stick grapes in the freezer. They feel like an indulgence! And then there are times when I just reach for the container of my favorite Haagen Dazs (Vanilla Swiss Almond) and remind myself that I’m a working mom of three and sometimes I just need a real treat. Plus, there’s all that bone-fortifying calcium in ice cream that I don’t want to miss out on!
What does a typical day of meals look like for you?
Breakfast is usually fruit, granola and yogurt (when I don’t have any time) or scrambled eggs with sauteed spinach and salsa (when I do have time, my absolute favorite). Lunch time is usually a big salad with some protein like grilled chicken. I try to eat a really healthy and light lunch because dinner is the main meal in our house. I’m proud to say that we have family dinner just about every night of the week. I try to set a good example for my daughters by preparing and eating healthy dinners that we can all enjoy. One family, one meal…it works for us. Honestly, is there anything better than these words from your kids at dinner: “This is great, Mom!” I rule.
|Asian-Style Chicken Soup
Here, chicken, vegetables and rice noodles are cooked in a clear, spice-infused broth. An abundance of bright green garnishes liven up this one-dish meal. The more green you add, the healthier and more flavorful this soup becomes.
|Spiced Tri-Tip with Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Tri-tip is a full-flavored cut of meat that remains juicy and moist even when trimmed of fat. Brussels sprouts are full of vitamins to enrich this meal even more. To round out your plate, roast baby potatoes at the same time as the vegetables.
|Crab and Jalapeño Burgers with Grilled Mango Salsa
These tropical-inspired burgers use crab as a lean protein base. Crab is bursting in vitamin B-12, which helps form healthy blood cells. Bright mango and red onion provide a big dose of vitamins A and C. The salsa imparts a smoky flavor to the patties, thanks to a quick stint on a grill pan before dicing and mixing.
|Moroccan-Spiced Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa
Moroccan spices, such as cumin, turmeric and cinnamon, help to make this a delicious and aromatic meal. Quinoa is a great gluten-free protein source and has a light and fluffy texture that’s a nice counterpoint to tender root vegetables. Dried fruit and nuts are common in Moroccan-style dishes, and lend sweetness and crunch.
|Cauliflower Steaks with Caper-Anchovy-Garlic Sauce
This dish makes a satisfying vegetable-based main course or a fresh accompaniment to grilled or roasted meat. Brain-fueling cauliflower, packed with B vitamins, is a smart choice in this simple yet elegant dish. Don’t worry if you have some extra pieces of cauliflower that don’t form a whole steak. They look fantastic on the plate next to the steaks.
|Chopped Chard Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette
This colorful salad is as healthy as it is delicious. Fiber-rich chard lends a leafy crunch, while avocados provide a smooth textural contrast and are full of healthy fats. Crisp apples and tart grapefruit add a subtle sweetness without overpowering the simple freshness of the salad.
|Italian Shellfish Stew
Shellfish are a source of lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids and minerals, and they cook quickly in this tomato-based stew. Their porous texture picks up the flavors of garlic, red pepper flakes and red wine. This dish makes for a quick and low-calorie lunch or dinner.
|Roasted Squash Salad with Curry Vinaigrette
Curry powder is known to aid digestion and boost metabolism. It adds great warmth and spice to this vinaigrette, which also makes a delicious marinade for meat and fish. Candied walnuts, tender cubed acorn squash and juicy pears are combined to create a healthy and seasonal fall salad.
|Sweet Potato and Pinto Bean Enchiladas
There’s nothing better than a batch of enchiladas to feed a crowd, especially when they’re packed with superfoods. Carotenoids, which give sweet potatoes their orange hue, work double-time to stabilize blood sugar and aid metabolism. Tangy tomatillos are charred and mixed with fiber-rich pinto beans in this all-vegetable filling. With just a touch of melted cheese on top, and gluten-free corn tortillas as wraps, this new twist on a Mexican classic is light yet satisfying.
|Turkey Meatball Soup with Spinach and Farro
This recipe puts a healthy spin on Italian wedding soup. White pasta is replaced with hearty whole-grain farro, and meatballs are lightened up with a lean turkey meat base. Generous handfuls of vitamin K-rich spinach add a healthy dose of color and potent bone-strengthening benefits.