How to Make a Healthy Casserole

Quick and Healthy Casserole Recipes

What is a casserole?

A casserole is a complete meal in a dish that provides nourishment along with comforting childhood memories of enjoying a meal around your family dinner table. Depending on the ingredients you use, your casserole can either support your healthy-weight goals, or sabotage your waistline.

What types of casseroles are there?

There are many casserole recipes on the Internet, from lasagna, gratins and potpies, to ethnic favorites. You can make casseroles gluten-free by using rice or quinoa instead of wheat noodles or make a vegetable casserole, such as roasted root vegetables. Some kids’ favorite casseroles include chicken and noodles, taco casserole and pizza casserole. It’s easy to use casseroles for quick healthy meals, providing a better option that fast food for busy families.

How can you make casseroles healthy?

Casseroles, just like any meal you serve, are only as healthy, fresh, and tasty as the ingredients you choose. If you choose a casserole recipe with cream sauce, you can lighten up the recipe by using fat-free half and half, low-fat sour cream or yogurt. If you are using canned creamed soups, choose those with lower fat and sodium contents. You can also increase nutrients and reduce calories by adding more of the healthier ingredients, such as doubling the vegetables, and using less of the higher-fat ingredients, such as cheese and meat. You don’t want to reduce the protein too much though, especially if you are trying to build and maintain muscle. Instead, opt for lower-fat sources of protein such as lean meat cuts (chuck or loin), poultry, fish, or beans rather than higher-fat meat such as sausage.

Why are casseroles popular?

Casseroles make quick and easy meals and they lighten the load of dirty dishes too, by providing a one-dish meal solution. If you really want to make your casseroles simple to toss together, you can use a simple method of precooking casserole meat, which I introduced in my cookbook Jenny’s Country Kitchen…Recipes for Making Homemade a Little Easier! In it, I suggest you purchase meat such as ground beef in bulk and cook it all at once when you get home from the grocery store. Then divide the meat up into freezer bags, label, date, and freeze. Then, when you are making a casserole, simply take the bag out of the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator. You can do the same with chicken by cooking chicken breasts in a slow cooker, shredding the meat and freezing it. Making two casseroles at once and freezing one to use at a later date is another timesaving tip from my cookbook. The more ingredients you prepare ahead of time, the more meals you can make without shopping.

Looking for Ideas for Healthy Casserole Recipes?

Many websites offer free recipes, but this easy vegetarian casserole recipe for Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash that I featured on HBC TV Channel 25 is great for the fall.

Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash Recipe

1 cup chopped tart cooking apples
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. melted butter
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 medium acorn squash, halved and seeded
1 Tbsp. chopped pecans, if desired

In a medium bowl stir apples, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon to coat. Place squash cut-side up, in an 8 x 8-inch microwave safe baking dish. Fill each squash with half of the apple mixture. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 10 to 20 minutes, or until the squash and apples are soft.

Jennifer M. Wood, MS, RD

Jennifer M Wood, MS, RDN is registered dietitian nutritionist and successful food and nutrition consultant in Southeastern Minnesota. As the founder of a nation-wide gourmet food company, Wood wrote Jenny’s Country Kitchen…recipes for making homemade a little easier! (2003), which is a timeless collection of make-ahead, freeze-ahead and pantry-stocking recipes and time saving tips to help busy families put nutritious food on table. Wood graduated with a pre-med bachelors degree in nutritional science in 2001, completed her dietetic internship in 2007 and went on to complete a master’s degree in food and nutrition in 2011.

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