When it comes to preparing delicious, nutritious meals that fit into your calorie-budget, your crockpot may just become your best friend. Most of us are low on time and that’s why it is so easy to stock up on fast food, instead of slaving away in front of the stove for hours. However, with your crockpot at hand, you can create some fabulous low-calorie meals, such as chili, stew, soup and even a few delicious low-calorie desserts that the whole family will love.
Some of my favorite healthy slow cooker recipes for under 400 calories include:
Slow Cooker Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna
This meal is the perfect cheesy comfort food, and combines the beautiful colors of red cherry tomatoes, dark green leafy spinach and portobello mushrooms.
2 15 -ounce containers part-skim ricotta cheese
1 10 -ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or basil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 6 cups)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)
1 32 -ounce jar marinara sauce
12 to 18 lasagna noodles (not no-boil)
Stir the ricotta, spinach, mushrooms, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, combine the mozzarella and parmesan. Spread about 1/2 cup marinara sauce in a thin layer in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cover with a single layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (4 to 6 noodles), breaking them as needed to fit. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Top with about one-third of the remaining sauce, then sprinkle with about one-third of the mozzarella mixture. Repeat the layers (noodles, ricotta, sauce, mozzarella mixture). Top with the remaining noodles, then the remaining sauce and mozzarella mixture. Cover and cook on low, 4 hours. Uncover and let rest 15 minutes so the excess liquid is absorbed.
Southwestern Three-Bean and Barley Soup
Low in calories, but chock-full of nutrition and fiber. This is the ultimate filling meal at the end of a busy day.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large stalk celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
9 cups water
4 cups (32-ounce carton) reduced-sodium chicken broth, “no-chicken” broth or vegetable broth
1/2 cup pearl barley
1/3 cup dried black beans
1/3 cup dried great northern beans
1/3 cup dried kidney beans
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add water, broth, barley, black beans, great northern beans, kidney beans, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Bring to a lively simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, 1 3/4 to 2 1/2 hours (adding more water, 1/2 cup at a time, if necessary or desired). Season with salt.
High in protein and delicious, fresh ingredients, this tasty meal doesn’t use dairy as its main source of flavor.
1 jar of your favorite salsa (I like to use 1½ jars… just because
3½ cups water
1 lb. chicken breasts
1 lb. dry pinto beans, rinsed
2-3 tablespoons taco seasoning (1 packet if using store bought)
2 ounces or more light cream cheese (totally optional – just adds creaminess)
(salt to taste)
1) Place the pinto beans, salsa, and water in a slow cooker or Crockpot. Stir to get the liquid in and around the beans. Place the chicken breasts on top. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 hours.
2) After about 3 hours, remove the lid and check on the mixture. Stir to keep the beans from sticking to the bottom and add a little more water if necessary. Don’t open the lid more than once or twice – it adds to the cooking time.
3) When the beans and chicken are cooked, gently shred the chicken with two forks. It should shred very easily. Add the taco seasoning and cream cheese and let the mixture sit for another 15-30 minutes. Serve with rice, tortillas, or chips. Top with avocado, cheese, and cilantro.
Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Wraps
This is the perfect fresh, spicy homemade fast-food to come home to at the end of the day. The chicken is drenched in flavor and you can make it mild or spicy.
There you have it – some great crockpot meals that are great on taste and low in calories. It’s the ultimate treat for those of us who don’t have a lot of time to slave in front of the stove.
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 1/2 tbsp taco seasoning
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
1 16 oz jar of salsa
1 yellow onion, diced
salt, as needed (I used 1 tsp)
iceberg lettuce leaves for wrapping
1) Sprinkle seasoning all over chicken breasts, then place breasts at the bottom of the slow cooker.
2) Scatter onion and jalapeno over chicken breasts. Pour salsa over top. Place lid on slow cooker and cook on LOW for 4-5 hours.
3) After 4-5 hours, remove chicken breasts from slow cooker and chop up. Place chopped chicken back in slow cooker and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste.
4) To serve lettuce wraps, spread one lettuce leaf out and scoop about 1/4th cup chicken mixture on top. Roll up lettuce leaf and enjoy!