February 11, 2014

One-dish meals can have multiple benefits

Casseroles are not usually considered healthy food.

However, a one-dish meal that can easily be prepared ahead of time is perfect for busy nights and especially great for these cold months, when it feels nice just to have the stove on with delicious smells wafting throughout the house.

If you and your family rely on casseroles, it makes sense to give them a little makeover so your meals will be nutritious.


Most casseroles have a grain or potato base. To add fiber to your casserole, consider switching the grain to a whole grain. Whole grain pastas or brown and wild rice varieties can be easily substituted into your recipe. Both take a little longer to cook; however, this makes them ideal for casseroles, since often the grain is overcooked and mushy.

If you are using potatoes, try leaving on the skins or using sweet potatoes. Leaving the skin on white potatoes adds fiber and nutrients. Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin A.

If you are using mashed potatoes, in a shepherd’s pie for example, try mashing one sweet potato into your other potatoes. The mixed mashed potatoes are a beautiful color and still have a mild flavor.


If you are using meat in a casserole, look for leaner varieties. Keep in mind that 70 percent lean ground beef is actually 30 percent fat. 

Since it is cheaper, you may still want to use fattier meat, but remove as much fat as you can before you add the meat to the casserole. Straining and even rinsing cooked ground beef will remove quite a bit of fat. An even better idea is to substitute beans for meat.

Ground beef and chicken do not add a lot of flavor to a casserole, so this is an ideal place to substitute beans. Try chick peas for chicken or black beans or lentils for ground beef. The beans will provide protein (especially when eaten along with whole grains) and they are really high in fiber.

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