Eggplant Parmesan, Lightened Up

Growing up in an Italian family, eggplant “parm” was a staple in my house. While it was cheesy, fried and delicious, nowadays I’d rather cut back on some of the calories and fat with these tips and delicious recipes.
Eggplant-Parmesan Sauce

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Close up of Pasta in a white bowl

©Food Styling: Vivian Lui Prop: Marina Malchin

Food Styling: Vivian Lui Prop: Marina Malchin

Growing up in an Italian family, eggplant “parm” was a staple in my house. While it was cheesy, fried and delicious, nowadays I’d rather cut back on some of the calories and fat and focus on the delicious fresh ingredients.

Nutrition Facts

Breaded and fried eggplant packed in layers of oily cheese can make for a casserole with upwards of 300 calories and 20 grams of fat PER CUP (and we all eat more than a cup serving). And that’s not counting the hefty portion of pasta that usually comes along side it.

Baked (or Grilled), Not Fried

Cooked eggplant has only 30 calories per cup, so the easiest change to make is to forgo the frying and enjoy the eggplant roasted or grilled. When it’s not drenched in oil,  the natural flavors really come through. Season thick slices of eggplant with a little olive oil, salt and pepper,  then grill or roast until just tender. Add more flavor with dried oregano and a pinch of red pepper flakes. If you prefer to have the eggplant breaded, follow the traditional method of dredging in flour, egg wash and breadcrumbs -- transfer to a sheet pan sprayed with nonstick spray and bake until golden.

Top cooked eggplant with large spoonfuls of marinara sauce and a small amount of cheese. Place under the broiler to melt and you’ve got a cheesy (yet sensible) dish. Use one tablespoon of both part-skim ricotta and mozzarella per slice. Cutting back on the calories from oil and cheese makes room for a smart portion of pasta – figure about 1 1/2 cups of cooked pasta per person. Another twist would be to add cubes of eggplant to marinara sauce (pictured) and serve that over pasta with a sprinkle of cheese.

Recipes to Try:

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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