What to Look for in Healthy Recipes

How can you tell if those so-called 'healthy recipes' you've found really are what they claim to be? Here are the pointers to look out for.

You may love cooking, but up until now you've made whatever recipes you wanted with little concern for whether they're healthy or not.

Or you may have barely opened a cookery book and have never looked up a recipe online, but now you want to start cooking nutritious, tasty recipes for yourself and your family.

How can you sort the healthy recipes from the recipes that won't help you achieve your health and weight goals?

What is a Healthy Recipes? 

Finding the right recipes is not as baffling as it seems at first. There are a few key elements to look out for in recipes.

  • Plenty of healthy ingredients
  • No or few unhealthy ingredients
  • Healthy cooking methods
  • Clearly marked nutritional information

Finally, you'll want to make sure the recipes sound and look tasty and delicious! After all, there's no point in cooking a nutritious recipe if it looks like warmed-up sludge.

A well-devised recipe should certainly tempt your tastebuds!!

A Healthy Angle on Recipes

Once you start looking for nutritious recipes, you might discover many ingredients you may never have cooked with before, even if you're very experienced in the kitchen (quinoa, anyone?).

And it can be exciting to expand your repertoire with different ingredients and with cooking methods you're not so experienced in.

Equally, you'll uncover recipes for dishes you've been cooking for years but which offer them up in a way that's far better for your waistline and overall health - and without sacrificing flavour.

Sure, you may find your tastebuds need to 'acclimatise' to different levels of salt, for example, but they will do.

And we're sure that once that happens, you'll love the difference in flavour and there'll be no looking back!

(For more information about healthy ingredients and cooking methods, see our articles on healthy foods and healthy eating habits.)

Try This Recipe!

Below is an example of a traditional favourite, Beef Moussaka, that our Accredited Practising Dietitians at 12WBT have adjusted in small but significant ways to turn it into a healthy version.

What are the ingredients that make it healthy?

  • Just a light spray of olive oil
  • Lean beef
  • Low-fat milk
  • Reduced-fat cheese
  • Vegetables in the form of eggplant, onion and garlic, and only a moderate amount of potato
  • Tomato paste, a surprisingly good source of the antioxidant lycopene and vitamin C
  • No butter or sugar, which some moussaka recipes include

As an added healthy option, add a serving of salad or mixed steamed vegetables as a side dish.

Give this recipe a go and see how delicious a healthy meal can be, and scroll to the end for more recipe ideas!

Beef Moussaka

Note: The amounts in this recipe are for a woman wanting to lose weight in a healthy way by following a 1200-calorie-a-day meal plan. Other calorie and ingredient amounts apply for men and for those with different lifestyle goals.


If you sign up to 12WBT, you can set your profile according to your gender and goals. The Nutrition Plans and ingredient amounts are automatically adjusted to suit your profile.

2 Serves 15 min prep time 60 min cooking 356 cals/serve

Recipe Ingredients

  • 1g olive oil spray
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 200g lean beef mince
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 desiree potato
  • 1 eggplant, cut into 1cm-thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour
  • 3/4 cup low fat milk
  • 25g reduced-fat tasty cheese, grated

Recipe Method

  1. Spray a saucepan with olive oil spray and heat over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until soft. Add mince. Cook, stirring to break up lumps, for 4 minutes or until browned. Add tomato paste. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  2. Stir in oregano and 160ml (2/3 cup) water. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 10 minutes or until sauce is slightly reduced.
  3. Meanwhile, cook potato in boiling water for 8 minutes or until just tender. Drain and set aside to cool slightly. Cut into 5mm-thick slices.
    Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Spray eggplant with olive oil spray. Cook for 5 minutes each side or until tender and golden.
  4. Combine flour and 2 tbs water in a small bowl. Place milk in a saucepan and whisk in flour mixture. Cook, whisking constantly, over low heat for 10 minutes or until sauce boils and thickens. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese and season with freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Preheat oven to 200C. Arrange potato in a single layer over base of a 3-cup-capacity baking dish. Spread over mince mixture. Top with eggplant, overlapping slightly. Pour over white sauce.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until light golden and sauce is bubbling.

Mish Tip

If you prefer, use two individual 375ml-capacity (1 1/2 cup) ovenproof dishes or ramekins.

More Healthy Recipes

Like the sound of that? There are hundreds more nutritionally balanced recipes available to 12WBT members.

Here are just a few, including a tasty and healthy breakfast treat, a deliciously healthy soup and even a dish that's usually naughty, but not the way Michelle Bridges serves it!

Why not try the following healthy options?

More Healthy Options

Those are only some of the tasty, nutritious and very healthy offerings you'll find on Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation.

We're sure you'll love them - and your body will thank you for cooking in such a healthy way!

To find out how to plan healthy meals for your week ahead, read our article on using a meal planner.