13 Old-School Foods Getting A Fresh Update In 2023

While it's exciting to follow culinary trends, sometimes you just can't beat classic dishes that have been around since you were a kid. It's not just because they're reminiscent of childhood but because they've become firm favorites over the years. They're often simple recipes that don't use hard-to-source ingredients or gourmet cooking techniques. However, while they aren't about to disappear, you may start to discover some modern interpretations that take into account food trends happening right now.

Whole Foods reveals that the majority of people in the U.S. love foods they remember from a time gone by. However, what's happening today is that they're being given a contemporary overhaul. This is to fit with a greater interest in healthy foods. Ingredients are also being switched up to accommodate dietary needs, such as plant-based, keto, paleo, and gluten-free diets. Consumers want to indulge in comfort foods, but in a healthier way.

Here are 13 old-school foods getting a fresh update in 2023.

Mac and cheese

The comforting thought of a gooey, carb-filled mac and cheese dish will never go out of fashion. This old-school classic is an all-time favorite, whatever the latest food trends or however fancy-schmancy your culinary creations are. When you're in need of the food equivalent of a cuddle, the soft pasta and velvety cheese sauce envelop you. However, with a real focus on healthier ingredients, this traditional fare is being reimagined into a lower-cal, lower-fat mac and cheese... without forgoing the cheesy taste. You can also inject different cuisine elements. Try our kimchi mac and cheese for a Korean twist.

If you want to cut down on the fat, add shredded mozzarella to a pan with some reduced-fat cheese, 0% fat yogurt, and some almond milk. Save full-fat, strong-tasting Cheddar cheese for sprinkling on top before melting it under the broiler. Another option is to mix dairy-free milk with low-fat cheese and also light cream cheese. Add some cooked chicken to up the protein factor if you like, and use larger pasta tubes for a more robust dish before baking in the oven. It looks like mac and cheese. It tastes like mac and cheese. It's just less calorific and fat-laden, is all. But that's not an excuse to eat more; otherwise, it defeats the objective.

Pizza rolls

If there's one food that's universally loved, it's pizza. There are all types of these cheesy, doughy pies, from thin and crispy crusts to soft and deep-filled. And there's just about every pizza topping combination possible, including banana, anchovies, and pineapple. Whatever style of pizza you create, there's no getting away from the fact that they're pretty heavy on carbs. Pizza rolls are no exception, but you can switch out a basic ingredient and reduce the carb intensity.

This idea comes from @fitfoodieee on TikTok. Grab some Mission Carb Balance flour tortillas or some other variety. Cut into four evenly sized strips and add marinara sauce on the bottom half of the inner strips. Place the outer pieces across the middle of each of these so that the curved edge touches the sauce. Add grated cheese to the sauce and pepperoni on the upper part. Fold the lower half up, then the meaty part, and then the two flaps to the side. Secure the square tortilla with a cocktail stick and fry in a pan until browned on both sides. Bite into your homemade pizza roll. Another simple suggestion is to roll some pepperoni and a cheese string in a flour tortilla and air fry. 

Corn dogs

When the big food brands start following a trend, you know all new products will hit the shelves. Kellogg's is well and truly investing in the plant-based market in 2023. This means there's likely to be an increasing number of old-school foods being given a fresh update. The breakfast boss brand has already introduced a meat-free Eggo waffle. And part of its Incogmeato range is undoubtedly a new take on a snack that's been around forever, the corn dog. The vegan sausage meat is enveloped in a pancake, making it perfect for a morning snack on the go.

Are you a fan of fairground-style junk food but don't want the good taste to come with a lot of unwanted carbs? You could try making your own healthier version with a corn dog recipe without heavy batter. Here's how: Mix mayo, sugar-free syrup, and egg whites with salt and almond flour to make your batter. Cut hot dogs in half and insert a wooden stick. Dip these in the low-carb batter and fry in avocado oil. Dip in mustard and ketchup. The idea behind these newly emerging recipes is that you don't have to totally miss out on the foods you've enjoyed since childhood. You just need to make them less unhealthy. Since making corn dogs doesn't involve a complex list of gourmet ingredients, making interesting changes also adds a healthy dose of culinary creativity.

Cream cheese bagels

Biting into the luxuriously soft and crunchy cream cheese bagels is beyond moreish. However, this breakfast winner isn't exactly healthy-eating-friendly since it's loaded with dairy and carbs. Before you banish this creamy treat, think about how to update it to make it more appealing in 2023 and beyond. Instead of a bagel, spread cream cheese on thick slices of cucumber. Sprinkle on Everything Bagel seasoning and add a kick with some chili flakes.

You could add plant-based cream cheese, such as Kitehill's almond milk variety, to your bagel. There's no reason why you can't enjoy mini cream cheese stuffed bagels that combine creaminess with doughiness with a modern, carb-cutting twist. Melt cream cheese and grated mozzarella in a microwave before adding almond flour, baking powder, and an egg. Roll out between some parchment paper and cut into eight pieces. Add a dollop of cream cheese in the middle of each and fold the cheesy dough around this. Roll these balls into Everything Bagel seasoning, add to a lined baking tray, and brush with egg. Bake and enjoy fresh from the oven. What a way to start the day, the keto-inspired way.

Tater tots

One must-have kitchen staple in every family home has always been tater tots. Not only are they delicious and so darned versatile, but they also complement so many other down-to-earth favorites, from meatloaf to chicken pot pie. You can even use them as a potato topping for casseroles or pies or add some ingredients to these crunchy bites to turn them into a snack. A great tip to cut the high GI levels of potatoes is to use sweet potatoes instead. Of course, these are high in carbs too, but less so. Mash peeled sweet potato slices in a food processor and add ground flax, salt, and almond flour. Shape into croquette-shaped tots and bake in the oven.

Another idea is to ditch the carbs and modernize this old-school favorite using cauliflower. After blitzing cauliflower rice in the blender, add an egg, nutritional yeast, and almond flour. Season with salt and pepper, oregano, and garlic powder. You should have a doughy consistency that you can shape into tots and bake until golden brown and crunchy. Frozen food titan Green Giant is in on the action and makes three varieties of potato-alternative tots: cauliflower, sweet potato, and cauliflower with broccoli and cheese. Think about all the different dishes you make using mashed potatoes. You could use tater tots instead in plenty of these, and with veggie varieties, you can eliminate some carbs too.


Even saying "meatloaf" can stir up memories of family tradition. Perhaps you remember being a kid and sitting around a big table of good ol' country-style dishes. Certain foods represent so much more than nutrition, encompassing love, relationships, and culture. However, tastes are becoming more sophisticated as palates experience cuisine from around the world. If you combine this with the on-trend appetite for bold flavors and healthier ingredients, you've got a refreshingly contemporary idea: an Asian-inspired turkey meatloaf.

Mix Panko breadcrumbs with some ground turkey with some seasoning, chopped onion, and minced garlic. Soy sauce, sesame oil, and Korean gochujang sauce add Asian flavor. You also need Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, and eggs. Glaze your meatloaf with a glaze of ketchup, gochujang, brown sugar, and soy sauce. Save some glaze to add to your cooked dish at the end. You can also make your meatloaf patties with venison and oats or a meat of your choice. Mix quick oats, milk, and salt. Leave sit so that the oatmeal softens a little. Add low-fat shredded cheese and an egg and mix in the meat. Make a glaze with mustard, ketchup, and brown sugar. Cook in an air fryer and serve with salad.

Chicken pot pie

So many people still want to enjoy old-school foods such as chicken pot pie. However, it's a wonderful part of the culinary journey that, over time, traditional recipes change with some twists added to the mix. Martha Stewart's secret ingredients for pot pie include adding cremini mushrooms and butternut squash to elevate the flavor. Often, these tweaks create healthier dishes that are still as tasty as they've always been. It's true that chicken pot pie is not the unhealthiest meal out there, but with its creamy filling and pastry lid, it's not the lowest fat or lowest carb dish either.

You can also try making a lighter and healthier pie. Add a can of low-fat, low-sodium mushroom soup to peeled, diced, and cooked sweet potato. Mix in cooked chicken and low-fat, unsweetened Greek yogurt. Add some frozen mixed vegetables. Spread the mixture in a dish. Individually roll sheets of phyllo pastry and then cut them to create ribbons and tousle these before adding them to the top. Or try sautéeing chopped leeks with diced carrot and celery before adding frozen peas and whole raw chicken breasts. Once cooked, shred the meat, add flour, stock, and milk to make the filling, and add scrunched-up phyllo pastry. Keep the pie crust lid and ditch the heavy cream and flour sauce instead. Use pureed cooked cauliflower to thicken the bone broth and milk before baking in the oven.

Fettuccine Alfredo

If you had to name one pasta dish that's long been at the top spot in the U.S., there's a high chance that fettuccine Alfredo would come to mind. With its ribbons of al dente pasta covered in a creamy sauce, it's an old-school classic that's still going strong. That doesn't mean to say that modern-day culinary wizard can't have some fun creating new recipes based on the country's love for this favorite Italian dish.

Instead of pasta, use spiralized zucchini for a low-carb meal. Mix light cream cheese and butter with the veggie noodles, Parmesan, garlic, onion powder, and seasonings. Forget heavy cream and cheeses and instead create a lighter version with a vegan sauce. Make this by blending cashew nuts, onion, garlic, and lemon juice with nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and some leftover pasta water. Another idea is to blitz-boiled cashew nuts with pan-fried cannellini beans, garlic, Parmesan, nutritional yeast, and some water. Stir this creamy sauce into the cooked pasta over the heat so each ribbon is coated and the ingredients come together. There are many ways of making silky sauces without cream or dairy products.

Sloppy Joes

If you love the mushy taste of ground beef on bread, you might like trying out some contemporary variations of a sloppy Joe. Indeed, one of the all-time easiest U.S. classics isn't going to win any awards for healthiness. But before you banish it completely, try changing the fat level of the meat, the bun you use, or the flavor profile. You'll still get that recognizable texture and taste but with a refreshed quality. You could also try our vegan sloppy Joe recipe made with red lentils.

For leaner sloppy Joe, use ground beef that's high-grade and low in fat. Beef with a higher fat percentage may be more budget-friendly, but it's worth it if you value lowering the number of calories. Be mindful of using a healthier bun, such as a wholewheat variety. Just check the ingredients to ensure nothing that might lessen its wholesomeness has been added. After adding some spices, sweeten the beef with some sugar-free barbecue sauce. Big up the taste with some Southeast Asian flavor. Add curry powder, garlic, and ginger paste to some ground beef. Mix in some mint sauce and fry with chopped fresh chili and onion. Off the heat, add chopped tomatoes, light cream cheese, and low-fat grated cheese. Serve in a toasted bun. Try sloppy Joes made with ground turkey instead for a leaner version.


Meatballs are amazeballs, and one of the reasons is that they're so succulent and the fatty meat taste is mouthwatering. There're many ways to eat them, too, such as in tomato sauce with spaghetti or served with gravy and some mashed potato. And while there're plenty of different recipes, most involve meat, seasoning, and perhaps some binding ingredients such as bread. Meatballs are still moreish, but they can also be a healthier dish. They're an Italian classic, though nothing stops you from changing up the flavors with a Greek twist, for instance. You can try our Greek-inspired meatballs made using lamb for a diverse protein.

For juicy, less fatty meatballs, stir a packet of dried gelatin into some buttermilk which is low in fat. Add this to seasoned 5% fat ground beef after mixing in egg white. Excluding the yolk means cutting back on calories. The buttermilk makes the meatballs lovely and juicy. A great tip is to microwave a small amount of the meaty mix to check if the seasonings are right. Once you've baked your meatballs in the oven, fry them for that crunchy, seared texture. Try making ground turkey meatballs and cooking them in an air fryer. Another option is to mix ground chicken with almond flour, seasoning, and herbs, plus an egg. Bake and serve with a dairy-free tzatziki dip and lemon wedges.

Fried chicken

Fried chicken has been part of the comfort food legacy in the U.S. long before KFC began in the 1930s, but the commercial chain took it across the globe. The softness of the meat, the crunch of the coating, and the greasy taste of fried chicken are what make it so undeniably crave-worthy. It's a staple in homes for family meals, but if you want to refresh it with some modern culinary values, there are plenty of interesting variations to try.

Marinate chicken breast strips in sugar-free barbecue sauce and coat them with spiced and seasoned crushed cornflakes. Bake and brush some more sauce over the crispy tenders. You're getting that crunch without deep frying. Or, since pickles are on-trend in 2023, leave chicken breast pieces in some pickle juice for a few hours. Take them out, pat them with a kitchen towel, and cover them with egg before coating them with crushed barbecue chips. Add the chips to a bag big enough to shake and completely coat each piece. Air fry and serve with a tomatoey dip and a dill pickle. 

Whoopie pie

The history of whoopie pie is rooted in the Amish community. However, over the years, it's become a dessert classic. Since these sweet sandwiches are so sublime, you may balk at changing them in any way. However, you don't need to be a nutritionist to know that the after-dinner course often wreaks havoc on your health. As 2023 moves into new ways of reinventing old dishes, it's no big surprise that this classic has attracted some updates too.

Instead of adding a creamy filling to some carb-tastic chunky cookie-cake slabs, try a different idea. Blend banana with peanut butter and cocoa powder, pour small circles on a baking sheet and bake in the oven. For the filling, mix cream cheese and plain Greek yogurt with honey or maple syrup and vanilla extract. You can also use Fitbake cake mix to make a keto-friendly whoopie pie to make the cookies. Spread the brand's buttercream frosting in the middle. If you don't want to make your own, there are options. Try Coconut Girl, an awesome dessert pitch that made it onto Shark Tank, which offers a paleo-friendly, dairy-free version in three flavors: Aloha Chocolate, Beach Bum Maple, and Hang Loose Vanilla.

Ice cream sundae

The most popular dessert in the U.S. is officially ice cream. And one of the favorite ways of eating ice cream is in a sundae. There's something nostalgically magical about a glass sundae dish filled with creamy dairy scoops dripping with chocolate and strawberry sauces. Nuts and cherries are fabulous to add as toppings too, as you create layers of deliciousness. There are so many varieties of this classic treat, and this includes ideas that bring in modern trends for healthier foods.

Freeze mashed-up bananas mixed with Greek yogurt and vanilla extract for a fruity sundae that isn't made with any ice cream at all. If you use low-fat yogurt, you're cutting down the calories tremendously. You'll want to leave your mixture in the freezer for at least a few hours. You can also make the ice cream with coconut milk, almond milk, and maple syrup with salt and vanilla extract. Freeze into cubes and blend these when you want to enjoy a dairy-free sundae. For the chocolate sauce, try cocoa powder and agave. With plenty of plant-based ice creams available, there're a lot of choices today for vegans and those who're simply trying to cut down on fat and their dairy intake.

New ways of creating old-school foods give long-time favorites fresh updates that fit new culinary trends.