Lasagna, Lightened Up

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.

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!

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