Green Bean Casserole, Lightened Up

With the fried onion topping and heavy cream and cheese mixed in, a typical green bean casserole loads serves up 550 calories in just one side dish. You can still enjoy the classic flavor while slimming down some of the fatty ingredients. Here’s how.

With the fried onion topping and heavy cream and cheese mixed in, a typical green bean casserole serves up 550 calories in just one side dish. You can still enjoy the classic flavors while slimming down some of the fatty ingredients. Here’s how.

The Nutrition Lowdown

Green beans provide tons of nutrients, such as fiber, beta-carotene and vitamin C. A cup of fresh, plain beans contains 40 calories and no fat. A traditional Thanksgiving green bean casserole usually includes sticks of butter, cups of heavy cream (or cream of mushroom soup) and either loads of cheese or fried onions on top. All this tallies up to 550 calories and 35 grams of fat in just a single serving.

Many quick casserole recipes use canned soups to add flavor and packaged French fried onions for crunch, but as with most pre-packaged foods, they're loaded with sodium. Why add all that fat and salt when you can make your own variation from fresh ingredients?
Quick Substitutes

It’s all about substitutions when lightening up this classic dish. The heavy cream packs on 821 calories per cup. Typically a recipe feeds around eight people, so that’s about 100 calories alone from artery-clogging fat. Instead, make your own creamy sauce by combining flour (or cornstarch) and low-fat or skim milk. Or take some plain yogurt and combine it with chicken broth or stock. If you don’t have time to make your own, choose healthy varieties of canned soups or stocks with less sodium and avoid the creamy ones.

Some green bean casserole recipes call for cheese -- it tastes unbelievable on green beans, but portion control is the key. Aim for 2 tablespoons of shredded or grated cheese per serving or just halve the amount in the recipe. If possible, choose a low-fat variety of cheese, but steer clear of fat-free cheeses since many don’t melt well and lack flavor. Read more of our tips for selecting healthier cheeses.

Instead of those fried onions, add a few tablespoons of chopped onions for flavor and what about some panko breadcrumbs for the crunch? If you just can’t do without the fried stuff, then add a few tablespoons (2 tablespoons have 45 calories and 3.5 grams of fat).

You can also pick up canned green beans to save time, but they can be chewy and have added sodium. If you're worried about that, get fresh or frozen ones.

    Lighter green bean casseroles to try:

Of course, a casserole isn't the only way to go. We love our green beans dressed up just a bit with extra flavoring. If you're looking to make them more of the star of the dish, try these recipes:

TELL US: How do you prepare your green bean casserole?
Keep Reading

Next Up

Rice and Beans, Lightened Up

Did you know combining rice and beans creates a perfect protein? Problem is, many folks sabotage this healthy dish by adding too much fat. Done right, rice and beans can be a simple, spiced-up masterpiece that’s delicious and healthy.

Baked Beans, Lightened Up

Always represented at picnics and barbecues, canned baked beans can be a deceivingly high-calorie side dish. Try making your own more flavorful (and lightened up) version.

Cupcakes, Lightened Up

They may come in pretty little packages, but cupcake calories can get ugly! Here are some lighter ways to enjoy these tasty pastries.

Lighten Up Your Meat

When you're making burgers, meatballs or other ground-meat dishes, combine equal parts of beef or pork with a leaner meat like turkey or chicken.

Nachos, Lightened Up

Every so often I get a big time craving for spicy, cheesy and crunchy nachos. But when most restaurant orders top 1500 calories and 100 grams of fat, I’d much rather make them myself. Use these tips to indulge wisely.

Quiche, Lightened Up

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 reduce the calories and fat in this Mother's Day staple.

Cheesecake, Lightened Up

Velvety smooth, sweet and creamy, but with more than 600 calories and 45 grams of fat per slice, can it be part of a healthy diet? Here’s how you can have your (cheese)cake and eat it too!

Stuffing, Lightened Up

Thanksgiving turkey would be lost without stuffing (or dressing) on the side. But sticks of butter and pounds of sausage are not mandatory ingredients. Here are a few ways to slim down this holiday favorite and some creative additions to try.

Tiramisu, Lightened Up

In honor of Italian week, we’re lightening up this all-time favorite dessert. Find out how you can enjoy this delectable classic without all the guilt.

Tacos, Lightened Up

Fried shells, fatty meats and piles of high-cal toppings can make tacos a belly buster. But they don't have to be; use our tips to give a make healthier tacos.