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3 healthy and comforting dinners for cold winter nights

Cold weather and gloomy afternoons make us crave hearty, warming food. Indulging every once in a while is fine, but too much heavy or rich food can lead to weight gain which can increase your chances of health conditions such as chronic disease.

Given that it can be more challenging to get outside and exercise during the winter months, you may need to pay a little bit more attention to your nutrition to ensure that you’re achieving a healthy energy balance.

Luckily, you can have the best of both worlds: healthy and filling foods that don’t contain too many calories.

Here are a few of our favourite healthy and comforting recipes for those cold winter nights:

Spaghetti bolognese

Serves 4

Spaghetti bolognese is a staple dinner in many Australian households. This one has a great flavour but contains a few extra servings of veggies as well as a leaner style of beef mince, making it even more nutritious but with fewer calories.


1 tablespoon of dried basil

1 tablespoon of dried oregano

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon of olive oil

2 medium-sized carrots, grated or finely diced

2 sticks of celery, finely sliced

1 brown onion, finely diced

200 grams of white button mushrooms, sliced

500 grams of extra lean beef mince

2 400 gram tins of chopped tomatoes

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

1 tablespoon maple syrup

300g dried spaghetti


Add the olive oil to a large frying pan (or saucepan) over medium to high heat. Add the basil, oregano and garlic, and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the carrots, celery and onion to the pan, and saute until soft.

Add the beef mince, and cook until just browned. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, maple syrup and tomatoes and bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and cover with the lid. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened to your liking, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti as per the instructions on the packet.

Serve with fresh parsley or basil and grated parmesan.

Spicy lentil dahl

Serves 4-6

Dahl is the ultimate healthy comfort food: hearty, creamy and ultra-warming. This is also a very versatile recipe — it can be served by itself, with boiled rice or topped with mango chutney alongside some naan. This dish is also vegan and vegetarian friendly.


1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp turmeric

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely diced

2 ½ cm piece of fresh ginger, grated

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 brown onion

300g red lentils

400ml can of light coconut milk

1 vegetable stock cube

1 bunch of fresh coriander


Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add the spices, garlic, ginger and chilli, stirring until fragrant. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened.

Add lentils to the pan and stir before adding the coconut milk and enough water to cover the lentils by a few centimetres. Crumble in the stock cube and stir to combine. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes or until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Top with chopped coriander and serve warm.

Homemade burrito bowl

Serves two.

Whether takeaway or homemade, burritos are a truly delicious comfort food. This recipe loses the tortilla and substitutes full-fat sour cream and cheese for lighter versions, resulting in a full-flavoured yet nourishing dinner.


1 pouch of microwavable brown rice

2 baby gem lettuce, finely chopped

½ a red onion, diced

200 grams of cherry tomatoes, halved

1 bunch coriander, finely chopped

2 chicken breasts

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

60 grams of light cheese, grated

⅓ cup of low-fat Greek yoghurt

1 can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 small can of corn kernels, drained

½ avocado

1 lime, juiced


Heat the oil in a frypan over medium to high heat. Cut chicken breasts in half lengthways and sprinkle with spices and a pinch of salt. Add to frypan and cook until golden brown on the bottom, before turning over and cooking for another few minutes, until completely cooked through and no longer pink. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Mash avocado using a fork, add half of the lime juice and a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside. Combine tomato, onion and coriander in a separate bowl with the remaining lime juice, and set aside.

Cook rice as per the instructions on the packet, and divide between two bowls. Top with the beans, sliced chicken breast, cheese, lettuce, salsa, corn, guacamole and Greek yoghurt.


Acknowledgement of Country

Capital Chemist acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we operate, live and gather as employees, and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.