There’s no doubt that hearty casserole can be just what the doctor ordered when it’s a cold, dreary winter day. But you also know that some casseroles are so loaded with fat and calories that they aren’t a healthy choice. You don’t have to forgo your favorite winter casseroles because you can lighten them up so you can enjoy a hearty wintertime meal without sacrificing your healthy eating goals.
1. Cut the Heavy Cream, Butter and Full-Fat Cheese
Dairy products can be healthy, but most experts recommend choosing low-fat versions. That means that your winter casseroles should never have heavy cream, butter or full-fat cheese in them. Choose half-n-half, canola oil or part-skim cheese to cut both calories and fat without ruining the flavor of your casserole. Easy, right?
2. Chose Lean Meats to round out Your Casserole
Many casseroles make great use of meat, but some of them can go overboard on the amount. Your first step is to cut back on how much meat you put in your casserole. Read ahead to see how to replace that meat. You should also choose lean cuts of meat. Think chicken breasts, white fish, sirloin steak, 93% lean ground beef or center pork chops. This allows you to get the taste of the meat without the guilt.
3. Beef up Casseroles with Beans or Lentils
When you eliminate some of the meat in your casseroles, you need to fill that space with something else. Beans are a great choice because they are low in calories and fat and are full of fiber and protein, which can satisfy your appetite. Any kind of bean or lentil will do and most have a mild enough flavor that they won’t dramatically alter the taste of your casseroles.
4. Load Your Casserole with Veggies
Like beans, vegetables are low in calories and are fat-free as well as having a lot of fiber to fill you up. You can mix and match veggies in all of your casseroles for flavor and nutrients. Peas, green beans, corn and carrots are great options and can be found frozen year-round. Broccoli and Brussels sprouts are other great options. Add them to tuna noodle or beefy cheese casserole and you have a complete meal.
5. Skip the Canned Soups
Many casseroles call for a can of cream of something soup. Those canned soups are high in fat, but they are also loaded with sodium, which isn’t good for you either. Instead, use homemade stock or broth with a bit of cornstarch mixed in. You can also add herbs and seasonings to mimic the flavor of the soup. The cornstarch will act as the thickener so you won’t even miss the soup.
6. Choose Whole Wheat Pasta over the Plain White Kind
The great thing about whole wheat pasta is that it contains way more fiber than the white kind. That means it fills you up and you can likely get by with less. Use a little less pasta in your noodle casseroles and you can save hundreds of calories on one plate. Look for 100% whole wheat as the first ingredient in your pasta.
7. Watch Your Portion Sizes
Even when you lighten up your casseroles, you still need to stick to one portion. Weigh or measure your casserole so you can keep things in check. That way you can enjoy a favorite without underestimating the calorie dent it makes in your daily quota.
What’s your favorite winter casserole? How do you keep it healthy?