Pulling out a bubbling casserole dish of fresh-baked lasagna makes the heart of even the calmest cook flutter with joy. The sleek layer of melted cheese, the aroma of the basil and tomato sauce, and the creaminess of ricotta make lasagna a classic comfort food, but these ingredients also put lasagna on the diet-naughty list. Along with handfuls of cheese, scoopfuls of ricotta, pounds of ground meat, and long links of sausage come tons of calories, saturated fats, and sodium.
But the aspects we love about lasagna — the creaminess, the gooey cheese, the tomato sauce — can still be incorporated into a healthy dish. By making some thoughtful swaps and by scaling back on some particularly deleterious ingredients lasagna can be included in any healthy dinner line up.
Fresh Vegetable Lasagna
Cheeses like ricotta and mozzarella make lasagna rich and creamy, but the addition of copious amounts of beef and Italian sausage can be overkill. Omitting meat and replacing it with fresh vegetables like eggplant, mushrooms, carrots, spinach, and basil adds a light earthiness that balances out the rich cheeses.
PointsPlus Butternut Squash, Sage, and Mushroom Casserole
This dish from Weight Watchers straddles the line between casserole and lasagna, but it uses wide noodles so we’re going to go ahead and call it lasagna. The addition of butternut squash lends a hint of sweetness, while white button and shiitake mushrooms contribute a nice bite and meaty texture. Fat-free evaporated milk paired with sage makes for a lovely, creamy béchamel-like sauce.
This lasagna recipe is reminiscent of the classic Greek dish spanakopita, which uses layers of flaky filo dough to cover a filling of chopped spinach, feta cheese, onions, and eggs. Instead of filo and feta, this dish uses cottage cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan, and no-boil lasagna noodles. This is a quick, easy, and delicious way to incorporate some spinach into your diet.
Vegan doesn’t always mean better-for-you, but it does in this case. Silken tofu mimics the smooth and silky texture of ricotta, while nutritional yeast imparts a Parmesan-like flavor. A vegan mozzarella is also used — and these cheeses can be hit-or-miss — but is not essential to the dish (in my opinion). At under 300 calories per serving, this is a healthier lasagna option.
This lasagna manages to save calories and carbohydrates by eliminating the lasagna noodles altogether. Zucchini is sliced thinly and layered to emulate the texture and size of noodles. Even with lean ground beef and plenty of cheese, this lasagna is still a lighter option than many other recipes.