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11 Healthy Makeovers of Your Favorite Family Recipes

In celebration of Grandparents Day, we bring you healthier versions of those familiar family favorites. Enjoy these delicious comfort food hits without sacrificing flavor.

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cookiesCourtesy Kelli Shallal

No-bake peanut butter oatmeal cookies

You know that oatmeal is just plain good for your heart. If you love the delectable combo of peanut butter and chocolate, you’re in for a treat with these lightened up no-bake cookies from Kelli Shallal, Phoenix dietitian nutritionist behind Hungry Hobby. Shallal cut the original Southern recipe’s sugar in half, added natural peanut butter and almond milk, and ended up with a winner!

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casseroleCourtesy Liz Weiss

Sweet potato casserole

You know the difference between sweet potatoes and yams, right? Dietitian Liz Weiss, of shares this tip for making this popular side dish a healthier option: “Who needs mini marshmallows when you can add crunchy, nutrient-rich pecans to the top of this lightened-up Turkey Day casserole? At Thanksgiving, I like to fill my plate with a little bit of this and a little bit of that. So even though I say this casserole serves eight, at the holidays, it will likely yield 10 servings.” You can get the full recipe found on Liz’s website.

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biscuitsCourtesy Ann Dunaway Teh

Whole wheat biscuits

If you’re looking for smart ways to get more whole grains, start here: After all, nothing says “home” like a hot and flaky biscuit. My grandma made the best, and since she passed away we have all tried to reproduce her masterpiece, but no one has succeeded. It’s like she needs to be the one measuring and mixing. Next time, I’m trying these whole wheat biscuits from dietitian Ann Dunaway Teh. Whole wheat flour boosts the fiber content, while kefir provides probiotics for gut health.

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coleslawCourtesy Teh of

Classic coleslaw

Dietitian nutritionist Teh of also lightened up the classic coleslaw by swapping high protein Greek yogurt for mayo. Tangy-ness still included with apple cider vinegar, and savory flavors from garlic, black pepper and celery seed. Perfect side dish for your family BBQs and weekend birthday parties.

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pieCourtesy Tawnie Kroll

Sweet potato pie

This tuber belongs on this list twice because it may just be one of the healthiest veggies around. Southern sweet potato pie is a must for any special occasion. Dietitian Tawnie Kroll, the brains behind Kroll’s Korner blog, lightened up this favorite for y’all to enjoy. Starting with fresh sweet potatoes (not canned), packed with vitamin A, fiber and potassium, this dessert is sure to please your family and friends.

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dumplingsCourtesy Holly Clegg

Chicken and dumplings

Holly Clegg, cookbook author and food blogger, remade her family’s chicken and dumpling recipe. Pure comfort food at its finest! Not only is Clegg’s version lower in total fat and calories, it’s super easy—use a store-bought rotisserie chicken and this family dinner idea is ready to eat in less than 30 minutes.

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casseroleCourtesy Kristen Smith

Cheesy Greek yogurt potato casserole

Cooking with Greek yogurt is more common than you might think—check out these savory recipes. Kristen Smith, dietitian and founder of, shares an amazing makeover of her family’s dish, a cheesy Greek yogurt potato casserole. Her strategy was to ditch the rich sauce made with heavy cream and butter for a lighter version made with Greek yogurt, saving tons of fat calories. Secondly, she kept the peels on the potatoes for more fiber. The result is a tasty and impressive family dinner idea!

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browniesCourtesy Katie Pfeffer-Scanlan

Avocado brownies

Yes, you can substitute avocadoes for butter—it’s just one of the surprising healthy substitutes you’ll want to try. If your grandma made ooey-gooey-chocolately brownies, these avocado brownies from dietitian Katie Pfeffer-Scanlan provide the same flavors with fewer calories and sugar. Healthier monounsaturated fats from the avocado offer guilt-free creamy goodness.

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Chicken parmigiana

Even this decadent Italian favorite can be remade, as the experts at prove. They used no-salt-added whole canned tomatoes, lean skinless boneless chicken breasts, and light angel hair pasta. This healthy chicken parmigiana recipe boasts 45 grams of protein and less than 400 mg sodium, definitely improved from the original without sacrificing flavor.

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saladCourtesy Whitney English

Confetti carrot and pea salad

Dietitian and blogger, Whitney English, lightened up her mom’s confetti carrot and pea salad by reducing the oil and sugar of the original recipe. Sweet and vitamin-C-packed orange juice as the main dressing ingredient resulted in a new-and-improved version of one of her childhood favorites.

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casseroleCourtesy Laura Lea

Green bean casserole

You may not be worried about your weight this time of year (who in their right mind would be?), but it’s still nice to know that green beans are a sneaky weight loss ally. In my family, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without the traditional green bean casserole. I can’t wait to try this lightened version from cookbook author and holistic chef Laura Lea. The secret is fresh green beans (for a fiber boost) and coconut milk instead of canned cream soup for a serious reduction in sodium. Still creamy, hot and delicious, without the calorie bomb.

Jennifer Bowers, PhD, RD
Jennifer is a doctoral-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with nearly 25 years of experience. The majority of her career has focused in health care, disease prevention and nutrition education for all ages - from middle school to graduate school students.  She owns a private practice focusing on freelance writing and extracurricular nutrition clubs for children. When she's not working, Dr. Bowers enjoys swimming, running, hiking, biking, camping, cooking, and reading.

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