Meatloaf, Lightened Up

I recently ran the numbers on a classic meatloaf recipe and found that it had almost 800 calories and 65 grams of fat per serving! Here are some great ways to lighten up this American favorite.

I fondly remember my mother making meatloaf on winter nights when I was kid -- so filling, warm and delicious. When I ran the numbers on a meatloaf recipe recently, I discovered it had almost 800 calories and 65 grams of fat per serving! Mom's version may not have been that heavy-duty (fingers crossed), but traditional recipes are famous for fatty meats and heavy sauces.

Here are some ways to lighten up this American favorite.

Main Ingredients

Traditionally meatloaf is made with ground beef. Fatty cuts such as chuck are popular because fat helps keep the meatloaf moist. There are better ways to do this without all that saturated fat. Switching from high-fat ground beef to a leaner version (90-95% lean) will shave off 220 calories and almost 30 grams of fat per serving! Meatloaf mix (a combo of beef, pork and veal) is also a lower-fat option, but won’t offer the same reduction in fat.

Contrary to what many beef lovers may say, ground turkey makes a fantastic meatloaf. Try making the switch -- even the most loyal meatloaf fan won’t be disappointed. Choose lean ground turkey breast meat for the biggest reduction in calories and fat.

Keep your meatloaf moist and add flavor with fresh ingredients such as vegetables, garlic and herbs (steer clear of those meatloaf spice mixes that are often loaded with sodium). Breadcrumbs and egg will help prevent the meatloaf from falling apart. Some recipes call for rolled oats to prevent drying out (and a little extra fiber never hurts).

Chopped vegetables will further preserve moisture and add flavor, vitamins and iron. Choose flavorful veggies such as chopped spinach, eggplant or portobello mushrooms. My husband likes to sauté onions in with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Once they cool, he adds them to his turkey meatloaf mixture for a sweet burst of flavor –- now I can't have meatloaf without it!

Toppings

High-calorie toppings such as bacon or canned cream of mushroom soup add tons of fat and sodium; globs of sugary, salty ketchup is also popular. Try a few strips of turkey bacon or canned tomato sauce mixed with a small amount of ketchup and balsamic vinegar or Worcestershire sauce.

Servings & Sides

Keep servings reasonable -- a pound of meat will serve four people. Make a large turkey meatloaf and have leftovers in sandwiches or wraps. Try making individual loaves and serve with some healthy and satisfying sides such as steamed or roasted vegetables and a baked sweet potato or lightened-up Parmesan mashed potatoes.

And while meatloaf may be a mom classic, I read that chefs all over the country are putting meatloaf back on their menus because it’s comforting and affordable. Check out this piece in the San Francisco Chronicle. (Note: The recipes in this article look delicious but are not necessarily Healthy Eats-approved.)

    Healthy recipes to try:
TELL US: What's your secret ingredient to healthy meatloaf?

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