The Midwest is cozy, and that’s great. What’s not so comforting, however, is that while these dishes offer a hug, they are not necessarily the healthiest dishes in the American Heartland.
BUT, that’s an easy fix. Here are 13 ideas for old-fashioned Midwest recipes made with ingredients that are better for you and that you’ll love to eat and make. And then don’t miss 22 meals to melt your belly fat in 2022.
It’s the most iconic condiment in these parts – paired with everything from cheese curds to nachos to salads, even pizza. Jessica Randhawa of The Forked Spoon shares her recipe for homemade ranch dressing. It relies on Greek yogurt instead of the typical buttermilk and other affordable ingredients, takes only five minutes to make, and is much healthier than store-bought, she says.
Potatoes and the Midwest are BFFs, and potato salad is a spud stud dish. This recipe is fattier with a few simple ingredients – it’s lightened with Greek yogurt and a little mayo “to keep the authentic flavor,” says Olena Osipov of ifoodreal. “No one will even guess they are eating a healthier version of this classic side dish because of its great taste and texture.”
Fried chicken is a classic Midwestern favorite, but you can ditch the heavy cooking oil, even the gravy sidekick, and still enjoy a delicious fried chicken meal, says Melinda Keckler, recipe developer and founder of Crinkled Cookbook food blog. In fact, you don’t even need a skillet to make her Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Strips. The chicken is tenderized in buttermilk and then baked in the oven. “The flavor combination may remind you of your Midwestern grandmother’s classic recipe,” she says.
Meatballs with a twist. “These are like those meatballs with grape jelly that were at literally every family campout I’ve ever gone to except these are vegetarian, made from chickpeas,” says Cara Lanz of Midwestern HomeLife.
A Midwest Super Bowl party wouldn’t be a real party without Buffalo Chicken Dip-a fan favorite, but not much to cheer about from a health perspective. This recipe by Cara Lanz of a Midwestern HomeLife scores points-no cream cheese or bottled dressing is used. It’s made up of a creamy white bean hummus layer topped with Greek yogurt blue cheese, chicken, and co-cheese.
“I didn’t know until recently that Midwesterners are the only ones who call mint chocolate chip ice cream ‘peppermint bon bon,'” says Cara Lanz of Midwestern HomeLife. “This mint chocolate chip ice cream or ‘yummy cream’ is dairy-free and made from frozen bananas, chocolate chips and Mint Oreos.” It’s the blended frozen bananas that make the “ice cream.
White Castle’s invention of the slider (or mini burger) in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921, launched a love affair of burgers in the Midwest. But with a trending breakup with red meat consumption, many restaurants have been looking for ways to reinvent this iconic sandwich. At FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar, sliders slide into salmon. Mixed greens tossed in a honey Dijon vinaigrette top the salmon, adding a touch of sweetness and acidity for creating a balanced, summer-inspired dish.
Another Midwest favorite: crispy potato skins. Load me up or not, for a leaner skin try POM Wonderful Pomegranate Seeds – the antioxidant-rich pomegranate boosts health.
The Midwest loves cheese. A healthier version of the adored cheese ball is rounded out by combining pistachios with creamy vegan cheese. Pistachios are a complete protein, so these are great on a protein-packed snack plate.
Morgan Couch, cookbook author and Wisconsin food blogger has a recipe for Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks. Made from egg wrappers and melting cheese, these cheese sticks raise the bar on traditional breaded and fried mozzarella sticks.
There’s nothing fishy about this Midwest favorite combo – the dish gets a nutrition boost in this recipe thanks to roasting in the oven (at 425 for about 15 minutes) rather than baking, says Laura Martin, author of Hidden Veggie Recipes Cookbook. Bonus points: Martin uses a gluten-free coating of oat and almond flour instead of traditional flour, panko or breadcrumbs. “I also add steamed and mashed cauliflower to the batter,” Martin says. “I dip the fish fillets and cheese (low-fat cheese cut into cubes) into oat flour, then into a mixture of equal parts egg and mashed cauliflower, and then into coarse almond flour before roasting them on a well-greased baking sheet.
Using a sugar-free barbecue sauce (there are many store-bought options), cookbook author Laura Martin adds a mix of pureed vegetables (tomato, squash, broccoli, DailyGoodTipss…) to the meat and serves the dish as a shredded/peeled barbecue that can easily hide the vegetables among the barbecue sauce – for kids who have an aversion to vegetables.