I have to admit when I was in college, Hamburger Helper was one of my favorite meals (that and frozen pizza!). It was a one pot meal that was so easy and quick and tasted so good. Did I feel a little guilty eating it? Yes. So, while I was learning all about nutrition in my college courses, I started to tweak it a bit, by adding a bag of frozen vegetables into the pot and using lean ground beef. I see many customers buying those same meals in a box for the same reasons I did in college. While I don’t buy them anymore, I do love creating healthy one-pot meals for my family for those busy nights.
I wanted to share some ways my family makes healthier one pot meals.
- Using lean beef cuts. Did you know there are 29 lean beef cuts at the meat case? Here is a wallet guide for the leanest cuts. Remember theses names: Round, Loin and Chuck. That will help you shop for leaner cuts at the grocery store.
What is lean? Less than 10 grams total fat, less than 4.5 grams saturated fat (the kind that increases cholesterol) and less than 95 mg cholesterol in a 100 gram portion (3-ounce portion = 85 grams). Customers ask me if ground turkey or ground chicken is better than ground beef. Let’s take a look, I’ve compared the calories, total fat and saturated fat content in 3-ounce servings for you right off the grocery store shelves:
What you can see is that just because ground turkey and chicken tend to have a health halo, it doesn’t mean they are always the best choice. Using 93/7 or 96/4 lean ground beef are excellent choices for a heart-healthy diet just as well as 99/1 ground turkey or 95/5 ground chicken.
As a registered dietitian, I love the nutrients beef provides:
Other ways you can make one pot meals healthier:
- Using whole grain noodles. Ronzoni Healthy Harvest is one of my favorite brands – my family doesn’t complain about the flavor being too grainy.
- Adding lots of vegetables.
- Minimizing sodium.
I connected with two of my favorite dietitians and who are experts at meal makeovers, The Meal Makeover Moms. Janice and Liz shared their favorite recipe for a one pot meal makeover and it’s a recipe I have had my eye on for a while. It’s simply delicious and my family was wild about this recipe.
Liz adds: “We gave Hamburger Helper a makeover by making it from scratch. The boxed “mix” includes ingredients we’re not crazy about: artificial food colors and monosodium glutamate, and it’s high in sodium. Our homemade version calls for nutritious ingredients including lean ground beef, whole wheat pasta, and frozen spinach. It’s family friendly, and you’re sure to have lots of leftovers the next day!”
Healthier Hamburger Helper
Photos Shared by The Meal Makeover Moms.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
- 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound 95% lean ground beef
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 32 ounces chicken broth (preferably low sodium)
- 8 ounces no-salt-added tomato sauce
- 1 cup fat-free milk, divided
- 10 ounces chopped frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
- 12 ounce bag whole grain wide egg noodles (Ronzoni Healthy Harvest)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup fresh chopped basil
- Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently until softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook additional minute.
- Increase heat to medium-high. Add meat, Italian seasoning, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook until no longer pink (break up large pieces), about 5 minutes. Drain any excess fat.
- Stir in broth, tomato sauce, ¾ cup of the milk, and the spinach. Cover and bring to a boil.
- Stir in pasta and return to boil. Reduce heat and cook at low boil, covered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, about 9 minutes.
- In a bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and remaining ¼ cup milk until well combined. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the pasta. Maintain a low boil and stir gently until the mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
Nutrition Information per Serving (1 generous cup): 290 calories, 8g fat (2.5g saturated), 400mg sodium, 38g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 20g protein, 80% vitamin A, 15% calcium, 20% iron
Just a note on spinach: When a recipe calls for cooked fresh spinach, 1 pound of fresh spinach will yield 10-12 cups of torn leaves, which will cook down to about 1 cup. One package (10 ounces) of frozen spinach leaves yields about 1-1/2 cups after cooking. Therefore, you can substitute 1 package (10 ounces) frozen spinach leaves for 1-1/2 pounds of fresh spinach.
Thanks Janice and Liz!