Quiche, Lightened Up

by in Meal Makeovers, May 6, 2010

mini frittata

What would a brunch spread be without quiche? While most consider quiche a “light” choice, you might be surprised at the calorie count. But never fear, brunch lovers — there are many ways to lighten up this Mother’s Day staple.

Nutrition Facts
Traditionally made with a flaky crust (and usually flaky means high fat) plus lots of creamy and cheesy ingredients, quiche can have anywhere from 400 to 700 calories and 25 to 50 grams of fat per serving. Add in extra-fattening ingredients such as heavy cream, bacon or sausage and you’ll be on the higher end of the range. This can mean as much as a day’s worth of artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol in a single serving!

Crust or Crust-less?
A conservative serving of homemade pastry crust alone has 215 calories and 14 grams of fat (9 of which are saturated). Pre-made refrigerated crusts are similar in calories — plus many are made with trans fats (so check ingredient labels).

If the rest of the ingredients remain light (some veggies and a small amount of cheese, for example), you can use the pastry and still keep the meal reasonable. Add a salad with some vinaigrette dressing and you’ve got a healthy and satisfying meal. On the other hand, if the rest of the quiche consists of fatty meats and cups of shredded cheese, it’s no longer a smart choice. Alternatives to pastry include crackers or oats, like in these recipes from Paula Deen and Ellie Krieger.

Since there are so many fattening ingredient choices, pick and choose which route you want to take. If you’d be lost without the crust, go light with the other ingredients (tips on that below) and keep the portions in check. If you’d rather forgo the crust for some extra cheese, go crust-less and make a frittata instead.

Downsizing is always an option, too – make mini-quiches in muffin pans and you’ve got instant portion control.

Eggs, Cheese and …
You can’t have quiche without eggs, but you can cut back on some of the calories and fat by using a combination of eggs and egg whites. Switching to egg whites can help you save about 60 calories and 5 grams of fat per egg. Instead of heavy cream, choose a recipe that uses milk or half and half for even more calorie savings.

As for the cheese, use small amounts of flavorful cheeses such Gruyere, Parmesan or tangy goat cheese. Low-fat cheeses are also an option, but some taste like rubber — part-skim mozzarella, ricotta and low-fat cheddar are usually safe bets. Figure on about one ounce of cheese per serving.

For additional ingredients, turn to low-cal herbs and vegetables and pile them on. Lean protein like roasted chicken or sauteed ground turkey breast will also make the dish heartier. If you love the flavor of bacon and sausage, try turkey bacon or chicken sausage instead.

Give some thought to the combination of ingredients — if you want to use some bacon, team it up with a low-fat cheese. If you’re going all veggie, you have room for full-fat cheeses.

    Here are some winning quiche combos:

  • Shredded chicken breast, roasted red peppers and goat cheese
  • Mushroom, zucchini, fresh oregano and feta
  • Tomato, basil and mozzarella
  • Broccoli, scallions, turkey bacon and low-fat cheddar
  • Artichoke hearts, spinach and ricotta
  • Chicken sausage and asparagus

TELL US: What’s your favorite way to enjoy quiche?

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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