Healthy Meal Makeover: Lighter Lasagna

Turkey Lasagna

Resist the temptation to reach for high-fat frozen meals. Homemade foods can be tastier, more healthful and less expensive. Here are ways to improve the nutrition profile of a popular comfort food.

Homemade lasagna often tops the list of best-loved casseroles. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t earn kudos for being healthful. A frozen version can be a nutrition nemesis, too. Our makeover suggestion cuts fat and calories from homemade lasagna and boosts the nutritional value without slashing flavor. Try the following ideas to make the casserole dishes you serve to your family more health-friendly.


Lasagna typically contains ground beef or sausage, which can be high in fat. By using lean ground turkey breast, you cut the calories and fat. Look for ground turkey breast, which has only 100 calories and 1.5 grams of fat in a 3-ounce serving. By comparison, 3 ounces of extra-lean ground beef contains 218 calories and 13 grams of fat. Generic ground turkey includes white and dark meat, and perhaps skin, may have up to 200 calories and 11 grams of fat.


Eating 100-percent whole grains, such as whole wheat pasta, adds fiber to the diet and offers many health benefits. Fiber helps ward off such diseases as colon cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Fiber also helps to regulate blood glucose levels, promote regularity, and satisfy hunger longer than low-fiber foods. For a fiber-rich diet choose whole grain pastas, breads and cereals, plus brown rice, barley and oats.


Getting kids to eat vegetables can be challenging. To ramp up the vitamins in lasagna, add a few veggies, slightly disguised. Zucchini, yellow summer squash, shredded carrots and red sweet pepper are nutrition powerhouses you could also add to this lasagna recipe.


When adding cheese to any dish, it’s easy to go overboard. To keep calories and fat in check, use only the amount called for in the recipe. Low-fat cheeses melt better in cooked dishes and shred more easily than fat-free cheeses. Also consider using hard cheeses, such as Parmesan and Romano, which are fairly low in fat and go further because of their strong flavors. A tablespoon of Parmesan cheese, for example, has only 2 grams of fat yet yields a big flavor nudge. Ricotta and mozzarella cheeses partner excellently in lasagna while they keep down fat and calories. Look for “part skim” rather than “whole milk” on labels when choosing cheeses. Many low-fat versions of popular cheeses are available; look for low-fat cheddar, Swiss, Monterey Jack, provolone and more


Stir in or sprinkle on fresh herbs and spices for savory or robust flavors that diminish the desire to add salt. Try fresh herbs from the produce aisle or dried versions from the spice aisle. Basil, sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary and cilantro offer delightful additions to a wide variety of recipes. You’ll quickly learn to appreciate the flavor and health impact fresh herbs make in many recipes.