11 Ways To Eat Better Now

Here's all the food for a fit and happy 2017—savory breakfast waffles, homemade probiotics, satisfying steak dinners, super-nutritious brownies, and more. Our expert editors offer easy-to-keep resolutions and smart strategies to reach peak health while savoring every delicious bite.

By Cooking Light Editors
Photos by Hector Manuel Sanchez
5 min


A HEALTHY IMMUNE system doesn't come from vitamin C alone; you need a calibrated combination of different nutrients. Certain foods in particular bolster your defenses not only during cold and flu season but all year long. This soothing, hearty soup combines six immunity-boosting ingredients, making each bowlful a prevention powerhouse.

Immunity Soup

Active: 30 min. Total: 1 hr.

This recipe yields a big pot of brothy soup that you can make ahead and enjoy for a couple of days; the flavor just gets better over time. You may be wary of the large amount of garlic, but keep in mind that it mellows considerably after being cooked.

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1½ cups chopped onion
  • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 2 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb. presliced vitamin D–enhanced mushrooms (such as Monterey Mushrooms)
  • 10 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (15-oz.) can unsalted chickpeas, drained
  • 2 lb. skinless, bone-in chicken breasts
  • 1½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 12 oz. curly kale, stems removed, leaves torn

  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium. Add onion, celery, and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic; cook, stirring often, 3 minutes. Stir in stock, thyme, bay leaves, and chickpeas; bring to a simmer. Add chicken, salt, and red pepper; cover and simmer until chicken is done, about 25 minutes.
  2. Remove chicken from Dutch oven; cool slightly. Shred meat with 2 forks; discard bones. Stir chicken and kale into soup; cover and simmer until kale is just tender, about 5 minutes. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves.

SERVES 8 (serving size: 1½ cups)

CALORIES 253; FAT 6.5g (sat 1g, mono 3g, poly 0.9g); PROTEIN 28g; CARB 22g; FIBER 6g; SUGARS 5g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 54mg; IRON 2mg; SODIUM 581mg; CALC 116mg


UP YOUR GAME this year by exploring the food trends that will have you eating better, healthier, and more sustainably.

SWEET POTATO LEAVES A perfect example of no-waste, root-to-fruit cooking, these tender, lightly peppery leaves work in the same ways you would use spinach or kale. Find them at farmers markets and Asian groceries.

GRADE B (DARK) MAPLE SYRUP It's brimming with more antioxidants and deeper maple flavor than Grade A. Available at most super markets.

FERMENTED VEGGIES Fermented raw produce delivers gut-healthy probiotics. We love the organic offerings from Caldwell's, such as beets and carrots.

EXO CRICKET FLOUR PROTEIN BARS Eco-friendly cricket flour packs protein and iron into these chewy, delicious snacks.

SKYR This Icelandic low-fat, high-protein dairy is loaded with live cultures and is creamy-smooth and even thicker than Greek yogurt. Our faves are Icelandic Provisions and Siggi's, available at stores nationwide.

BEYOND MEAT BURGERS Vegans and vegetarians rejoice: Beyond Meat's plant-based burgers, with a whopping 20g protein per patty, offer a pretty darn close approximation of ground beef taste and texture. At Whole Foods.


THE DO-IT-YOURSELF craze for making condiments and other typically store-bought foods is admirable and impressive, but not always practical. Case in point: Seventeen-ingredient homemade Worcestershire sauce? Mmmm, nope. But some foods are absolutely worth making yourself, especially if they're cheap, easy, and more delicious than anything you can buy.

Take labneh, the strained Middle Eastern yogurt—it's hard to find at stores and pricey when you do. In our version, two staple ingredients and one day of giddy anticipation yield the richest, creamiest healthy spread imaginable. And DIY can be incredibly instructive: Scratch-made sauerkraut is like a hands-on class in fermentation science, where you watch cabbage and salt turn day-by-day into tasty relish, with customizable tang and crunch. Try your hand at these two simple projects, and you'll be hooked.

Caraway Kraut

Active: 15 min. Total: 2 weeks

Sauerkraut is an easy entry point to the glories of fermentation. It's easy to make and nearly foolproof, and you can let it ferment to suit your taste (the longer it goes, the softer and more sour it gets).

  • 2 lb. red cabbage, cored and very thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds

  1. Place cabbage in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Firmly and vigorously massage cabbage until it wilts, some liquid has pooled in bottom of bowl, and liquid squeezes out when you squeeze a handful, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in caraway seeds. Firmly pack cabbage in a 1-quart jar. Start by filling jar about half full; tamp cabbage down with a muddler or wooden spoon to pack it down firmly. Add more cabbage, and repeat the process until it's all in the jar (don't worry—it will fit). Pour liquid from bowl on top of cabbage.
  2. Screw on lid, and set jar on a plate or in a bowl. (The kraut will likely bubble over and leak a bit as it ferments.) Let stand at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, until kraut reaches desired flavor and texture, about 1 to 2 weeks. Check every day, starting after 4 days. When you open the jar, the liquid will likely be bubbling—that means it's working as it should. Refrigerate to stop fermentation once the kraut is to your liking. Store chilled in refrigerator for up to 1 month.

SERVES 16 (serving size: ¼ cup)

CALORIES 15; FAT 0.1g; PROTEIN 1g; CARB 3g; FIBER 2g; SUGARS 2g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 0mg; IRON 0mg; SODIUM 250mg; CALC 24mg

Homemade Labneh

Active: 5 min. Total: 24 hr. 5 min.

Labneh (LEB-neigh) is a strained yogurt with a rich texture similar to whipped cream cheese. Use as a bagel spread, or drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Aleppo pepper for a dip, as shown.

  • 2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt (not Greek style)
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt

  1. Arrange a double layer of cheesecloth in a strainer (or, alternatively, line a strainer with coffee filters); spoon yogurt into strainer, and place strainer over a bowl so that it rests a few inches above the bottom of the bowl. Lightly cover strainer with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 24 hours.
  2. Remove strainer from bowl; discard whey. Spoon labneh into a bowl; stir in salt. Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

SERVES 10 (serving size: 2 Tbsp.)

CALORIES 26; FAT 1.6g (sat 1g, mono 0.4g, poly 0.1g); PROTEIN 2g; CARB 1g; FIBER 0g; SUGARS 3g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 6mg; IRON 0mg; SODIUM 110mg; CALC 40mg


CLEAN EATING means simple cooking: fresh, seasonal ingredients prepared with minimal fuss so the whole foods can shine. The trick? Do more with less. These three dinners show you exactly how, with smart technique tips to make every bite sing.

Seared Tuna with Shaved Vegetable Salad

Active: 15 min. Total: 15 min.

Shaving raw root veggies into a side-dish salad is a fantastic approach. They're ready in just a few minutes, their earthy flavors stay vibrant, and a simple vinaigrette tenderizes them while retaining some crunch.

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • ¾ tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ¾ tsp. honey
  • 4 oz. baby gold beets, thinly shaved
  • 1 (4-oz.) fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly shaved
  • 4 oz. baby turnips, thinly shaved
  • 1 (6-oz.) Granny Smith apple, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 4 (6-oz.) tuna steaks
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. torn fennel fronds

  1. Combine 2 tablespoons oil, vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, mustard, and honey in a large bowl. Add beets, fennel, turnips, and apple; toss to coat. Sprinkle salad with sesame seeds.
  2. Heat remaining 2 table-spoons oil in a cast-iron skillet over high. Sprinkle tuna with pepper and remaining ½ teaspoon salt; place in hot pan. Cook 90 seconds on both sides (for rare) or until desired degree of doneness. Remove tuna from pan. Slice thinly, and serve with salad; top with fennel fronds.

SERVES 4 (serving size: 1 tuna steak and about 1¼ cups salad)

CALORIES 366; FAT 15.6g (sat 2.4g, mono 11.2g, poly 1.9g); PROTEIN 43g; CARB 12g; FIBER 3g; SUGARS 8g (est. added sugars 1g); CHOL 66mg; IRON 2mg; SODIUM 636mg; CALC 37mg

Broiled Flat Iron Steak with Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes

Active: 15 min. Total: 25 min.

This one-pan meal is a crowd-pleaser and testament to how 4 ingredients can come together to form a supremely satisfying dish, ready in a flash. We broil the steak over the veggies so the meat juices baste them as they cook.

  • 6 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 6 oz. sweet potato, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced into thin half-moons
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 (1-lb.) flat iron steak, trimmed
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, divided
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • ¾ tsp. black pepper, divided

  1. Preheat broiler, with oven rack 6 inches from heat.
  2. Place Brussels sprouts and potato on a rimmed baking sheet; toss with 1 tablespoon oil, and spread in an even layer. Place a wire rack in pan over vegetables. Rub steak with 1½ teaspoons oil, and place on rack in pan over vegetables. Sprinkle steak with 1 teaspoon thyme, ½ teaspoon salt, and half of pepper.
  3. Broil 10 minutes. Turn steak over; drizzle with remaining 1½ teaspoons oil, and sprinkle with remaining thyme, salt, and pepper. Broil about 5 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.
  4. Remove steak from pan, and let stand 5 minutes. Cut across the grain into thin slices. Place vegetables in a bowl; pour in pan juices, and toss to coat.

SERVES 4 (serving size: 3 oz. steak and about 1 cup vegetables)

CALORIES 289; FAT 15g (sat 4g, mono 7.9g, poly 0.8g); PROTEIN 26g; CARB 13g; FIBER 3g; SUGARS 3g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 39mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 574mg; CALC 32mg

Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms and Onions

Active: 23 min. Total: 23 min.

Use a stainless steel pan instead of a nonstick here, if possible. A stainless surface will better collect fond (also known as browned bits) from the pork, which is then deglazed to lend rich flavor to the mushrooms and onions as they cook.

  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 (1-lb.) pork tenderloin, trimmed
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • ¾ tsp. black pepper, divided
  • 12 oz. sliced shiitake mushroom caps
  • 3 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme

  1. Heat oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium. Sprinkle pork with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Add pork to pan; cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides and a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 145°F, about 15 minutes. Remove pork from pan; keep warm.
  2. Add mushrooms, onions, thyme, remaining ½ tea-spoon salt, and remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper to pan; cook, stirring and scraping pan to loosen browned bits from bottom of pan, until vegetables are soft, about 7 minutes. Cut pork crosswise into thin slices; serve with mushrooms and onions.

SERVES 4 (serving size: 3 oz. pork and about 1 cup mushroom mixture)

CALORIES 243; FAT 9.8g (sat 1.4g, mono 5.3g, poly 2.5g); PROTEIN 27g; CARB 12g; FIBER 2g; SUGARS 6g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 74mg; IRON 2mg; SODIUM 560mg; CALC 25mg


WHEN IT COMES TO SUGAR, how it's delivered makes all the difference. Naturally occurring sugars in fruit, veggies, and even milk typically don't need to be on your worry list as they come bundled with nutrients, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidant benefits. But added sugars—sweeteners in processed food, from cane sugar to honey and high-fructose corn syrup—deserve scrutiny.


IT'S EASY TO BLOW your added-sugar budget on a few small bites of dessert—sweets are often loaded with empty calories and void of benefits. Instead, try a treat you can actually feel good about. These rich chocolate-hazelnut bites don't have a grain of added sugar, and they're packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients. Best of all, they taste divine. Naturally sweet dates blended with creamy almond butter, cocoa, and a hint of salt form a perfectly balanced bite (two, in fact) that leaves you satisfied.

Brownie Energy Bites

Active: 20 min. Total: 1 hr. 10 min.

These two-bite treats taste rich and indulgent, with absolutely no added sugar. Each also contains 3g fiber and 3g protein. We find one to be satisfying, but don't feel bad about eating two—that's only 222 calories. Store chilled in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

  • ½ cup whole hazelnuts
  • 12 whole Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • ⅔ cup almond butter
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Spread nuts on a small rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 350°F until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes, stirring once. Cool 10 minutes. Rub off skins. Reserve 20 hazelnuts. Pulse remaining hazelnuts in a food processor until finely chopped; transfer chopped nuts to a small bowl.
  3. Pulse dates in food processor until almost pastelike. Add almond butter, cocoa, 2 tablespoons water, vanilla, and salt; process until well combined. Turn mixture out into a bowl; divide into 20 equal portions. Roll each portion around 1 whole hazelnut to form a ball. (Mixture will be oily.) Roll each brownie ball in chopped hazelnuts to coat. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

SERVES 20 (serving size: 1 brownie bite)

CALORIES 111; FAT 7g (sat 0.8g, mono 4.4g, poly 1.4g); PROTEIN 3g; CARB 12g; FIBER 3g; SUGARS 9g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 0mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 47mg; CALC 41mg


IF YOU'RE NOT a water person, tossing back 64 or more ounces a day can seem punishing. One little trick makes it less daunting, and even kind of fun: the rubber band challenge. At the start of the day, put rubber bands around your water bottle—the number of bands is determined by the size of your bottle and your personal intake goal (on a 20-ounce bottle, you might use three bands). When you finish the bottle, remove a rubber band. Refill and repeat. Cooking Light staffers swear by this approach. "It's more about a game than actually drinking water—and hydration is the prize for playing the game," says Senior Designer Nicole Gerrity.


MANY OF US instinctively go for a sweet, starchy breakfast—jam-topped bagels, honey-tinged wheat flakes, syrup-drizzled waffles—but research shows that refined flour and sugar are the worst foods to eat after an overnight fast. "[Sugar] rapidly raises blood sugar at a time the body is least able to process it, with adverse effects throughout the day," says David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life Program at Boston Children's Hospital. Concentrated sugars may give you a quick boost, but you'll crash by midmorning, drowsy and unable to concentrate.

THE FIX Switch up your morning routine and think savory. A sensible diet has a little wiggle room for added sugars, but don't use them all up by 9 a.m. Breaking the fast with whole grains, berries, and even vegetables gives you a far better chance to hit daily fiber goals, stay full until lunch, and avoid that midmorning slump. Check out our six simple upgrades for standard sweet breakfasts—some save you more than a day's worth of added sugar.


The Usual: Instant flavored oatmeal

The Upgrade: 1 cup steel-cut (or overnight) oats topped with ⅓ cup thinly sliced avocado + ¼ cup pico de gallo + 1 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese + 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

The Savings: 12g added sugar

CALORIES 272; FAT 12.3g (sat 3g, mono 6.1g, poly 1.9g); PROTEIN 8g; CARB 36g; FIBER 7g; SUGARS 4g (est. added sugars 1g); CHOL 8mg; IRON 14mg; SODIUM 365mg; CALC 240mg


The Usual: Refined-flour waffle with butter and syrup

The Upgrade: 1 frozen whole-grain waffle (such as Van's 8 Whole Grains) + ¾ oz. thinly sliced smoked salmon + 1 poached egg + 1½ tsp. chopped fresh dill + 1½ tsp. chopped fresh chives

The Savings: 20g added sugar

CALORIES 173; FAT 8.2g (sat 1.6g, mono 1.8g, poly 1g); PROTEIN 14g; CARB 13g; FIBER 4g; SUGARS 1g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 196mg; IRON 2mg; SODIUM 596mg; CALC 58mg


The Usual: 2 pieces of white-bread French toast with berry compote and powdered sugar

The Upgrade: 2 slices whole-grain French toast + 1 slice cooked and crumbled center-cut bacon + ¼ cup thinly sliced pear + 1 Tbsp. shaved Parmesan cheese

The Savings: 45g added sugar

CALORIES 294; FAT 10.7g (sat 3.9g, mono 2.7g, poly 2.1g); PROTEIN 18g; CARB 32g; FIBER 5g; SUGARS 8g (est. added sugars 2g); CHOL 199mg; IRON 2mg; SODIUM 519mg; CALC 151mg


The Usual: White-flour bagel with cream cheese and strawberry jam

The Upgrade: 1 toasted whole-grain English muffin, split + 2 Tbsp. hummus + 2 Tbsp. shaved carrot + 2 Tbsp. shaved zucchini + 2 tsp. roasted salted sunflower seeds

The Savings: 30g added sugar

CALORIES 229; FAT 8.7g (sat 1.3g, mono 0.5g, poly 1.8g); PROTEIN 8g; CARB 30g; FIBER 6g; SUGARS 2g (est. added sugars 1g); CHOL 0mg; IRON 3mg; SODIUM 361mg; CALC 90mg


The Usual: Yogurt with honey and granola

The Upgrade: ¾ cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt (or skyr) + 2 Tbsp. thinly sliced cucumber + 6 halved cherry tomatoes + 1 Tbsp. toasted walnuts + 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

The Savings: 23g added sugar

CALORIES 220; FAT 12.9g (sat 3.4g, mono 4g, poly 4g); PROTEIN 16g; CARB 12g; FIBER 2g; SUGARS 10g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 11mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 62mg; CALC 132mg


The Usual: Honey-cluster oat cereal

The Upgrade: 2 large shredded wheat biscuits soaked in ½ cup 1% reduced-fat milk + ⅓ cup thinly sliced banana + 1½ tsp. warm almond butter + 1½ tsp. toasted sliced almonds + dash of ground cinnamon

The Savings: 13g added sugar

CALORIES 322; FAT 8.2g (sat 1.5g, mono 3.9g, poly 2g); PROTEIN 12g; CARB 57g; FIBER 9g; SUGARS 13g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 6mg; IRON 2mg; SODIUM 72mg; CALC 212mg


ABOUT THAT CUP OF COFFEE you need first thing in the morning to rev your motor: It's a waste of perfectly good caffeine. Why? Your body's level of cortisol—an energizing hormone triggered by stress and low blood sugar—peaks early in the morning, and the hormone flows freely up until about 10 a.m. Caffeine inhibits cortisol production, leaving you with less energy. So your system comes to rely on caffeine, which is ultimately less effective than a natural "stress hormone" boost. Moreover, you build caffeine tolerance in the long term.

The solution is simple: Wean yourself off the early-morning cup, and soon you'll find that hormones get you humming instead. Cortisol levels drop as the day wears on, so your coffee will have the biggest energy impact between 10 a.m. and noon and again in the afternoon starting around 2 p.m.


THERE'S NO SHAME in a little adult beverage indulgence over the holidays—it's fun, and you earned it. But it can take a toll on mind and body. With party season in the rearview, now's the time for moderation (maybe you even want to try a dry January). But you can still enjoy delicious drinks. These three simple soda bases have just a handful of fresh ingredients and spices that deliver bold flavor and fizzy refreshment with a fraction of the sugar in store-bought soda. And no special equipment is required: Just mix the syrup with seltzer water. To your health!

Cinnamon Spice Soda

Active: 7 min. Total: 1 hr. 7 min.

Combine 9 Tbsp. brown sugar, ¾ cup water, 6 peppercorns, 4 cinnamon sticks (broken into small pieces), 3 allspice berries, 3 cloves, and 1 crushed cardamom pod in a saucepan over medium-high; bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; steep 1 hour. Strain syrup; discard solids. Cool completely. Stir 1½ Tbsp. syrup into 1 cup (or more, depending on desired flavor) seltzer water. Store syrup chilled up to 2 weeks.


CALORIES 44; FAT 0g; PROTEIN 0g; CARB 12g; FIBER 0g; SUGARS 10g (est. added sugars 10g); CHOL 0mg; IRON 4mg; SODIUM 3mg; CALC 11mg

Grapefruit Soda

Active: 15 min. Total: 1 hr. 15 min.

Combine 9 Tbsp. sugar; 1 cup water; ⅔ cup fresh pink grapefruit juice; 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice; and the rinds, peeled in strips, of 2 lemons and 2 large pink grapefruit in a saucepan over medium-high. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; steep 1 hour. Strain syrup; discard solids. Cool completely. Stir 5 tsp. syrup into 1 cup (or more, depending on desired flavor) seltzer water. Store syrup chilled up to 2 weeks.


CALORIES 43; FAT 0g; PROTEIN 0g; CARB 11g; FIBER 0g; SUGARS 10g (est. added sugars 9g); CHOL 0mg; IRON 0mg; SODIUM 0mg; CALC 4mg

Celery Soda

Active: 14 min. Total: 1 hr. 14 min.

Combine 9 Tbsp. sugar; 1½ cups water; ¾ tsp. celery seed; 4 finely chopped celery stalks; and the rind, peeled in strips, of 1 lemon in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; steep 1 hour. Strain syrup; discard solids. Cool completely. Stir 4 tsp. syrup into 1 cup (or more, depending on desired flavor) seltzer water. Store syrup chilled up to 2 weeks.


CALORIES 38; FAT 0g; PROTEIN 0g; CARB 10g; FIBER 0g; SUGARS 10g (est. added sugars 10g); CHOL 0mg; IRON 0mg; SODIUM 3mg; CALC 6mg


SNACKS CAN BE a delicious part of a healthy approach to eating, and the number of smarter choices on the market is increasing. We've selected the following options, which keep sodium and calories in check and provide the salty-sweet-crunchy satisfaction to carry you through a busy afternoon, no matter what's on your plate.