Lasagna, Lightened Up

by in Meal Makeovers, March 3, 2009

Lasagna Rolls
With meat, cheese and oodles of pasta, it’s no wonder this bad boy carries a hefty total of 1,000-plus calories per serving. But you can create a lasagna masterpiece that is leaner — and here’s how.

The Noodles
Lasagna is usually a big meal that works well for a crowd or leaves lots of leftovers. If you’re worried you’re going to overdo your portions, a good idea for cutting calories is using half the noodles in the box and creating a smaller lasagna plate.

Switching to whole-wheat noodles won’t cut calories but will add fiber. Most people don’t get the recommended 28 to 40 grams of fiber per day, and I’m always working with my clients to figure out ways to get more.

If you want to cut out pasta altogether, use portobello mushrooms, zucchini or yellow squash or thinly sliced eggplant instead. Layer them as you do the lasagna noodles and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

The Meat
Ground chuck is the fattiest choice for your ground beef. Look for 90 to 95% lean ground beef. Use half to a third of the amount your recipe calls for. You can also mix various lean meats with the beef such as ground bison, veal or turkey.

Another idea is combining half the ground beef with beans or chopped mushrooms, which adds tons of fiber and easily cuts out fat. You can also make seafood lasagna — seafood is very low in calories and high in the antioxidant selenium.

Want to get adventurous? Try combining texturized vegetable protein (a.k.a. “TVP”) with half the ground beef. TVP is made from soy, which has no cholesterol and is high in protein. Better still, it picks up the flavor of whatever you combine it with.

The Cheese
Choose part-skim ricotta and mozzarella. You might think adding grated Parmesan is harmless, but half a cup adds 200 calories and 14 grams of fat alone. Sprinkle a tablespoon or two for added flavor or forgo if you can.

The Sauce
Create a tomato sauce with crushed and diced tomatoes, onions, garlic and lots of low-calorie fresh herbs such as parsley and basil. Add as little oil as possible (if any) — it’s 120 calories per tablespoon. If using prepared sauces, avoid those made with highly processed ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup.

A Winning Combination
When it comes to the final filling mix, more isn’t always better. Aim for less meat and cheese and more veggies. You can also forgo the meat and just use cheese and veggies — that’s what I do!

TELL US: Do you have a secret lasagna ingredient?

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Comments (50)

  1. Orly Phillips says:

    I brown ground turkey, and add FENNEL SEEDS and SWEET ONION to the drained, browned turkey. I layer that mixture into a lasagna, and use 2/3 the amount required of part skim ricotta & cheese. NO ONE CAN TELL THE DIFFERENCE!

  2. Morie says:

    Wow, interesting comments. The ground chicken/turkey idea is fine but can have more fat in it than beef if you don’t grind your own. Most ready ground has light/dark/skin ground with it. Love Cindy’s idea of adding cooked barley, so healthy too! And Glen, well, he probably isn’t very health consious and doesn’t try variations on recipes.

  3. Heather says:

    My mom-in-law told me how to makes a traditional lasagna with 2%cottage cheese, marinara, 1 cup lowfat motz, 95-97% lean ground beef. You can also use several cans of Del Monte Tomato, garlic & Oregano. I like to add this with a meat layer.

    The trick with using the cottage cheese…you need to beat in an egg…otherwise the lasagna will be soupy. For small container 1 Egg, I always buy the larger 24 oz & use 2eggs.

  4. JoAnn2602 says:

    I use whole wheat lasagna noodles, and no one can tell the difference. My son asked me one day if I thought whole wheat noodles would be just as good in the lasagna, and I told him that was what he was eating. I use Skinners. I don't like the other whole wheat noodle products, but I can't tell the difference in the lasagna ones. I also use the 2% cottage chesse as I really dislike ricotta cheese. I use the recipe on the lasagna package that does not require cooking the noodles first; I think this may be why the whole wheat are good. They cook for over an hour in this recipe…so easy to make.

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