Guest Post: Reimagining Traditional Meals in a Healthy Light

Susan Yoo-Lee, mother of two, brings us a Vegan alternative to Mac-n-Cheese and healthier versions of the infamous Grilled Cheese AND Sloppy Joes!


It's raining, it's cold, it's dark and you're craving some of your favorite childhood foods that mom used to make. Only now, you're healthier and you don't want to use all of that cream, butter and pounds of sugar. The question is, how do you make food taste good without all of the bad stuff?

Surprisingly, there are so many alternative products that not only elevate the taste of your favorite dishes, but are healthy for you. From mom's amazing macaroni and cheese recipe to dad's signature Sloppy Joes, here are three of my favorite recipes re-imagined for a healthier lifestyle. Most importantly, none of the taste is sacrificed.


Reimagining Traditional Meals

Vegan Truffle Macaroni and Cheese

My 8-year-old loves her macaroni and cheese. Since she is vegetarian, this is a great meal choice for her. Over the years, we've tried many recipes, and her favorite one is made with cashew cheese -- perfect for those that have dairy allergies like me.


Vegan Cheese Sauce

1 box of elbow pasta (gluten free, whole wheat -- your choice)

1 tsp. truffle oil

3 stems of parsley (dried parsley works, too)

Pepper to taste


Start making the vegan cheese sauce from Get a pot of water going and follow the instructions on the box to cook your elbow pasta. Mix the cheese sauce and elbow pasta together. Add 1 tsp. of truffle oil to the mixture and a little bit of pepper. Chop up the parsley and sprinkle it on top. Serves 4-6.

Veggie Grilled Cheese

Most people have fond memories of eating grilled cheese sandwiches. While grilled cheese can be the simplest of meals, it can also be one of the greasiest and unhealthiest. By packing the sandwich with veggies and swapping out the butter for Earth Balance, you can create a much more healthy meal.


1 ciabatta loaf bread

8 extra sharp cheddar slices

4 slices of tomato

1 handful of spinach

Earth Balance butter


Cut the ciabatta loaf into eight slices. On one piece of bread, stack two slices of cheddar, one slice of tomato and a few pieces of spinach. Melt some Earth Balance butter on an iron pan over medium heat. Place the sandwich onto the pan and put another iron pan on top of it for weight. Once you notice the cheese melting, flip the sandwich over. After a few minutes, it will be ready to eat. Serve with your favorite tomato soup. Serves 4.

Lightened-up Sloppy Joes

I don't eat meat, but this is a beloved family recipe from when I was a child! Rather than using fatty ground beef and preservative-packed store-bought sauce, this recipe relies on lean ground turkey and a serving's worth of vegetables.


1 pound of lean ground turkey

2 cloves of garlic (we love garlic so we usually add a little bit more)

¼ cup chopped onion

¼ cup of green bell pepper

½ jalapeno (we like it spicy, but you don't have to add it)

2 chopped carrots

¾ cup of ketchup

1 tsp. of yellow mustard

1 T. brown sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

6 whole wheat hamburger buns (gluten-free works, too!)


Combine all veggie ingredients and ground turkey in an iron skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir everything until fully cooked. Drain the liquids. Add mustard, ketchup, and brown sugar. Mix all the ingredients together. Reduce the heat to low until the sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the mixture onto hamburger buns and serve with sweet potato fries. Serves 6.

What are some of your childhood favorites, and how do you keep them healthy? Let us know in the comments below.

Susan Yoo-Lee is a mother of two and the editor at The Scratch, a blog where professional funny people take a crack at saving you a buck. She founded Mommas in the House in 2009 when she was pregnant with her 2nd child. Currently, you can see some of her published work on,,,,, US News & World Report,, and more.

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