Take a bite out of calories

I love to eat. A lot. So when I feel my waistband tightening from all the extra bites I’ve taken, I know it’s time to eat less and limit calories. Them’s cuss words to me – eat less and limit. I face the age old dilemma of balancing how much I eat for pleasure, taste, and sensation against how much do I really need. I stumbled upon the key one day when I read about a study discovery found by fellow dietitian Barbara Rolls, a professor and the Helen A. Guthrie Chair of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State University.

The key, she found, to eating as much as you want but still staying within the parameters of what you need is changing the amount of water in foods. Water adds weight and volume to our plate but no calories. When I take a typical meatless lasagne and add shredded zucchini and carrots, mushrooms and spinach, the casserole weighs more and the scrumptious pasta square on my plate is taller, but the calories are less. In nutrition-speak, this is known as calorie density.

In a one-year trial, lowering calorie density led to weight loss. The study told one group to eat smaller portions and low-fat foods. That lowered calorie density. That group lost 15 pounds in the first six months.

The other group got similar information about fat but were told to eat more fruits and vegetables, soups, and other foods with low calorie density. And they lost 20 pounds in the first six months.

At the end of the year, both groups had kept most of the weight off. They regained only 1½ pounds.

That’s good news! The recipe below is a lightened up fall/winter appropriate casserole – add even more veggies by serving with a large side salad. Other ideas? Create hearty soups loaded with veggies and sneak shredded and finely chopped veggies into chilis and casseroles. For my omnivorous folk, sneak spinach and finely shredded carrots into meatloaf!

Skinny Veggie Lasagna

Prep time:  

Cook time:  

Serves: 9

  • 3 cups chopped veggies of your choice (i.e., broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and red peppers)
  • ½ chopped sweet yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup low fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg or 2 eggs whites
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 12 uncooked oven-ready whole grain lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup low-fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
  1. Chop the veggies. Saute the onion and garlic in the oil over medium high heat. Add veggies and saute until tender. Set aside.
  2. Whisk egg into ricotta cheese and stir in fresh spinach.
  3. Pour a little sauce in the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan. Top with 4 lasagna noodles,1/2 cup ricotta mixture, ½ of the veggies, and ¾ cup sauce. Repeat; top entire pan with noodles, remaining sauce, and mozzarella cheese.
  4. Cover and bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes more or until cheese is bubbly.
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