Casseroles are comforting and delicious meals that can be enjoyed anytime and anywhere. Unfortunately, many of the classic casseroles are loaded with too many calories, fat and sodium. Thankfully there are healthy casserole recipes that are ideal alternatives to the traditional ones.
In general, healthier recipes use low-fat cheese, whole grain pastas, brown rice, low-fat cream soups, lean meats, and egg substitutes.
Casserole dinners are easy to make, served warm, and guaranteed crowd pleasers. If having a dinner party, the advantage of a casserole is that it can be prepared ahead of time and then heated up. If you want the healthy alternative, a few substitutes can preserve the great flavor while lowering the fat and calories:
- Baked mac and cheese – This dish is an excellent side to most meals. Reduce half the cheddar cheese or other hard cheese and replace with low-fat creamy cottage cheese for a healthier recipe. For added nutrition put layers of spinach or thinly sliced vegetables of your choice in the middle. Switch to whole-wheat pasta for extra fiber and a robust flavor.
- Cheesy chicken spaghetti – This casserole is traditionally made with chicken breasts, noodles, sour cream, and coated in breadcrumbs or crackers. It’s pretty easy to make it healthy: make it with low-fat cheese and skinless chicken breast. Add some vegetables – either a bag of frozen veggies or two cups of stewed tomatoes are a good source of lycopene. For extra fiber, add multi-grain pasta for a delicious twist. Or add three handfuls of fresh spinach in with the chicken and other ingredients, which is rich in Vitamin A, for an even healthier alternative. Instead of breadcrumbs, try coating the top in slivered almonds – they are richer in flavor too.
- Green bean casserole – Green bean casserole is a traditional American favorite, popular at Thanksgiving, where green beans are mixed together with a sour cream sauce or with canned mushroom soup. It was first created in 1955 by the Campbell Soup Company. French fried onions are added to the top, and then sometimes it is coated in a baked cheddar crust. To make it healthier, skip the canned soup, which is usually high in sodium and fat. Replace it with half a cup of low-fat milk and half a cup of sour cream. Increase the mushrooms to 1 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms. Replace the cheddar coating with low fat cheese, soy cheese, or with slivered almonds.
How Will It Benefit Me?
Healthy casserole recipes usually contain much less fat, more veggies, and are ideal dishes to help increase metabolic rates or to provide filling nutrition for those on a diet.
- Source of Energy – Healthy casserole recipes are ideal sources of complex, slow-burning carbohydrates to help maintain balanced blood sugar levels. Incorporating whole-grain foods like wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa or bulgur in your casseroles are key to improving the overall nutritional value of the dish.
- Source of Protein – Many common ingredients of casseroles (and healthy casserole recipes) contain high amounts of protein. Proteins are the building blocks of the human body. These proteins can be different meats, like chicken, beef, pork or meat substitutes. Legumes, black beans, lentils, chickpeas and pinto beans are also high in protein. Tofu, tempeh and other soy products are also versatile protein sources. Simply by changing the key protein source in the casserole you are able to create a casserole to match the occasion.
- Other Important Nutrients – Adding a variety of nutritious ingredients to healthy casserole recipes makes these dishes even more beneficial to health, flavorful and colorful. Broccoli, cabbage, kale, spinach and cauliflower contain rare nutrients that help prevent or reduce the risk of cancer. Carrots, pumpkin and other yellow and orange vegetables provide beta carotene and vitamin A. These are ideal for maintaining the overall health of the skin and eyes. Yellow, green and red bell peppers are rich in vitamin C, and add color and zest to the dishes.
Cheese is a staple in most types of casseroles. While adding depth and flavor, the downside of this is that this ingredient can contain high levels of fat and sodium. While every cheese is different, on average a cup of diced cheese has 67% of your daily fat and 139% of your saturated fat, with 34% of your daily sodium and 532 calories. Replace a cheese crust with slivered almonds or breadcrumbs for the healthy alternative.
When choosing healthy casserole recipes, sizing should be an important consideration. Use smaller casserole pots for making healthy casserole dishes for two to three persons. Bigger casseroles are for parties and huge households. Most nutritionalists recommend eating smaller meals four or five times per day, rather than three larger ones.
Overall, healthy casserole recipes are versatile dishes. They can be tailor-made to your own tastes or those of your guests or to fit your own dietary requirements. Substituting traditional ingredients like breadcrumbs, rice, or pasta, usually high in caloric and carbohydrate content, with healthier options like whole grain pasta, wheat bread, and brown rice instantly make the dish a healthier choice. Heavy hard cheese can substituted for low-fat milk and low fat or soy cheese. With the guilt, the excess fat and calories gone, casseroles might become your ideal comfort food again.
With so many healthy alternatives, now you can transform any popular casserole recipe into a healthy casserole dish. Substituting low-fat and nonfat dairy products is an easy way to maintain the desired flavor while reducing overall caloric intake. Here are 4 healthy casserole recipes for delicious casseroles everyone is going to love.
Ham And Cheese Breakfast – Make the switch to a healthier recipe for this morning classic. Eliminate several egg yolks and use nonfat milk. Add gruyere cheese, even in a small amount, for a delicious and nutty flavor and aroma. Also include whole grain, fiber rich bread instead of white bread.
What Makes It So Healthy?
Healthy casserole recipes are simple and versatile. They include nutritious and healthy ingredients, which are strategically used to boost nutritional value and bolster potential health benefits. Including healthy ingredients in such recipes is an easy way to increase the quality of your food for better health. With so many healthy options currently available, casseroles can be made healthier and more nutritious without compromising overall palatability and taste.
Healthy casserole recipes are cooked using casserole pots, whose functions and design make them ideal for cooking. The ovenware is designed to facilitate extended cooking. Thus, healthy casserole recipes are not burned or dried out. Some casseroles will have a crispy crust on the outer layer which preserves the ideal food flavoring and nutrients throughout the dish.
Healthy casserole dishes are visually appealing and appetizing making them hard to resist. That is why such dishes have been used to persuade picky eaters into eating healthy dishes with lean meats and vegetables. If you do not usually enjoy eating veggies, you may put them in a healthy casserole recipe to help disguise their flavor or texture so you can get the necessary nutrition you need.
All important ingredients used in healthy dishes are carefully chosen considering their nutritional value. Typically milk and cheese ingredients should be replaced with their low-fat or healthier forms. Vegetables are primarily added to boost nutritional content and benefits.