Healthy slow cooker recipes & one-pot winter classics

November 03 2016

The clocks have gone back an hour and everybody is complaining that it’s completely dark by 4pm. It seems we’ve reached that time of the year when comfort food is extremely difficult to resist.

But rest assured, it is definitely possible to create your favourite winter warmers without having to worry about taking excessive calories on board.

From healthy slow cooker recipes to easy-to-make one-pot wonders, we’ve come up with some delicious and nutritious meals to get you through the autumn and winter months.

Nutritious one-pot recipes

1) Hearty beef and mushroom stew

Beef and mushroom stew - healthy slow cooker recipe

If you usually go to the gym at the end of the day, the last thing you need is to spend hours in the kitchen when you get home. This gorgeous slow cooker recipe provides you with a warming, tasty classic that’ll be ready for when you walk through the door after a long day.

Ingredients (for 2-4 people)

• One large onion (chopped)
• Two cloves of crushed garlic
• 500g of lean diced beef
• Two bay leaves
• 350g of button mushrooms (you can use chestnut mushrooms if you want to be fancy!)
• One tsp of dried oregano
• One tsp of dried parsley
• Two tsp of fresh thyme
• One beef stock cube
• One swede (chopped into large chunks)
• 200ml of cold water
• One tbsp of olive oil
• One tsp of salt
• Cracked black pepper to taste
• A sprig of fresh tarragon to garnish
• Cornflour to thicken if needed

Cooking instructions

Every busy person should own a slow cooker - they make life so much easier. This dish is a perfect example of a simple slow cooker recipe.

The night before

• Add your oil to a pan, before browning off your beef on a high heat. This should take five minutes. Don’t overcook the meat – you only need to sear it.

• Brown off your mushrooms and cook your garlic in the same pan.

• Add everything except the tarragon and cornflour into your slow cooker and place it in the fridge overnight.

The morning (just before you leave the house)

• Put your pot into the slow cooker and stir the contents.

• Place it on a low heat and leave for at least six hours.

• When you arrive later that evening, add some cornflour to your mixture if it requires thickening (mushrooms contain a lot of water, so you might find that the stew is a little on the runny side).

• Add you tarragon as a garnish and ladle your scrumptious stew into a bowl.

The health benefits

Lean beef is a fantastic source of protein. According to SELFNutritionData, there are 29g of protein in a 100g serving of 5% lean beef – all for just 193 calories. Mushrooms are also underrated from a nutritional point of view. As well as being full of vitamin D and B-vitamins, mushrooms are a strong source of selenium, which is thought to help protect our cells from damage that can cause chronic disease.


2) Clean-eating Chicken Jalfrezi

Clean-eating Chicken Jalfrezi

If it’s warming, comforting food that you’re after, you simply can’t go wrong with a curry. You don’t have to go all in with a carb-heavy portion of rice and a naan bread. Why not spoon some of your fiery Chicken Jalfrezi on to a jacket sweet potato instead?

Ingredients (for 2-4 people)

• Two cloves of garlic (crushed)
• One large onion (chopped)
• Four full chillies (you decide the strength!)
• One green pepper (chopped into thick slices)
• One can of chopped tomatoes
• One tbsp of tomato puree
• One tbsp of olive oil
• One tsp of turmeric
• One tsp of garam masala
• One tbsp of curry powder
• One tsp of cumin
• One tsp of salt
• A handful of fresh coriander
• Two tbsp of Greek yoghurt
• 100ml of cold water
• 500g of diced chicken breast
• 1 chicken stock cube

Cooking instructions

• Heat your oil up in a big pan, before throwing in your onion, garlic and tomato puree. This should be done on a medium to high heat.

• Chop two of your chillies up finely (keep the seeds in if you like it hot!)

• Add your garam masala, turmeric, cumin, and curry powder into the pan and stir. Cook for five minutes.

• Once your onions have softened (don’t let them burn), add your chopped chillies and diced chicken into the pan.

• Allow the chicken to cook in the spices for around five to six minutes.

• In the meantime, take your two remaining chillies and slice them vertically from top to bottom. *Note* - you only need to pierce them slightly.

• Add the chopped tomatoes, pepper, whole chillies, stock cube, salt and pepper, and water. Put a lid on the pan and allow to simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes or so.

• Stir in your Greek yoghurt. This will give your curry a bit of creaminess.

• Add your chopped coriander and thicken the mixture with cornflour if you need to.

The health benefits

We recently pointed out some awesome protein-rich foods that aren’t chicken. While it’s nice to have different options, it’s still worth noting that chicken is pretty darn good itself. Lean and packed with protein, this white meat is extremely versatile. Chillies also carry unexpected health benefits, mainly in the form of antioxidants.

Meanwhile, the humble pepper is said to offer more vitamin C than an orange. There are no heavy creams or excessive use of oil here, which means the dish is generally much cleaner than a Jalfrezi that is served up by your average takeaway.


3) Pulled pork casserole

Hearty pulled pork casserole recipe

This is an absolute treat. If you’ve got a slow cooker and you’ve not yet attempted to make pulled pork, you’re missing out! Healthy casserole recipes are a must at this time of year.

Ingredients (serves up to 8 people)

• One 2.5kg pork joint
• Two large onions (quartered)
• Two garlic cloves (crushed)
• 250ml of cold water
• One tsp of fennel seeds
• One tsp of smoked paprika (this adds a smoky flavour)
• One tsp of ground ginger
• Two bay leaves
• One tsp of Worcester sauce
• One tbsp of black pepper
• One tsp of salt
• Four large carrots (chopped into sizable chunks)
• Two large parsnips (chopped into sizable chunks – you can use swede if you prefer)
• One pork stock cube
• Two sprigs of fresh thyme

Cooking instructions

This is another one that you can set on its way in the slow cooker. It couldn’t be easier.

• Crush your garlic and add it to a pestle and mortar along with the fennel, ginger and a splash of your Worcester sauce. Mix together.

• This is your wet rub for the pork. Coat the outside of the meat before placing it into your slow cooker.

• Mix the stock in with your water and pour over the pork. Add the remainder of your Worcester sauce along with the paprika, onions, parsnips, bay leaves and fresh thyme.

• Put the lid on and cook on high for around six hours.

• Once it’s cooked, grab a couple of forks and pull the meat apart.

The health benefits

Pork can be a fantastic source of protein – a three-ounce chop can provide an average man with 43% of their daily recommended intake, according to SF Gate. There are a lot of different cuts, with each having drastically different calorie counts. Pork is sometimes overlooked because it tends to have a higher fat content than leaner meats like chicken and turkey, but as we’ve discussed before, fat is an important part of our diet.

Fennel seeds are an interesting, largely underused ingredient. Renowned for creating a distinctive aniseed flavour, fennel is said to benefit the circulatory system.


4) Ratatouille – a one-pot vegetarian winter classic

Ratatouille recipe

We recently debated the perceived benefits of adopting a vegan diet, and this recipe is ideal for those who want to avoid meat products. What it lacks in complexity, it more than makes up for in flavour!

Ingredients (serves 4)

• Two aubergines (cut into wedges)
• Three small courgettes (sliced)
• Three red or green peppers (sliced)
• Five large ripe tomatoes
• Two cloves of garlic (finely sliced)
• Two large red onions (chopped)
• Two tbsp of olive oil
• A small bunch of fresh basil
• One tsp of salt
• One tsp of black pepper
• One tsp of sweetener
• 300ml of boiling water

Cooking instructions

• Firstly, you’ll want to soften your tomatoes with the boiling water. Score them twice each and pour the water over them. Leave for two minutes and drain off the liquid. Peel away the skins and cut the tomatoes roughly into quarters.

• Heat your oil in a casserole dish and add your red onions and sliced garlic. Cook them until they start to soften (around 10 minutes).

• Add the aubergine and courgette and cook for another five minutes.

• Throw in half of your fresh basil, season with salt, pepper and sweetener, and then cover the dish with a lid and leave to simmer on a low heat for 25 minutes.

• Finally, add your chopped tomatoes to the pan and cook for a further five minutes.

The health benefits

This warming, low-calorie meal is highly nutritious. Aubergines are a great source of dietary fibre and offer a nice mix of vitamins B1, B3, B6 and K. Courgette is also an under-appreciated ingredient. It is a good source of magnesium, which is needed for 300 biochemical reactions in the body – not least muscle functionality.


Claim your free Fitness First guest pass

Find a club near you