Four Delicious Low-Calorie Recipes

A bowl of minestrone soup with Italian herbs and a little parmesan cheese

When you’re committed to a weight-loss plan, it’s easy to feel discouraged over having to avoid so many high-calorie foods. You also might struggle to find recipes that conform to your diet and please the rest of your family at the same time. Dieting moms often spend precious time making alternative meals for themselves. So, consider instead the countless foods that you can eat while trying to lose weight: fresh vegetables, hearty beans and pulses, lean meats, seafood and so much more. In fact, you can include in your healthy recipes almost any ingredients you like, as long as you keep the portions of high-calorie foods small and fill your plate mostly with lower-calorie fare. The following four recipes are great examples of meal ideas that are healthy, delicious and satisfying while being kid-friendly at the same time.

1. Minestrone Soup

Classic minestrone soup comprises a variety of vegetables and beans cooked in flavorful broth, along with pasta and a generous amount of Parmesan cheese. For a lower-calorie version of this already healthy dish, switch regular pasta for a whole grain version. Use just a handful of dry pasta per person, and go easy on the Parmesan. Minestrone traditionally includes onion, celery, carrots, zucchini, fresh or canned tomatoes, cannellini beans and leafy greens such as spinach, chard or kale. You can, however, use any vegetables and beans that you have on hand. Saute all the vegetables other than the greens in a little olive oil. Add garlic, salt, pepper and Italian herbs until they’re partially cooked, then add the tomatoes, beans, pasta and stock. Simmer until the pasta is al dente, then add the greens and cook for a few more minutes. As soon as the greens have wilted, the soup is ready to serve.

2. Grilled Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

Delicious low-calorie, high-protein shrimp take just minutes to cook on the grill. Skewer medium-size shelled shrimp or grill larger ones whole, brushed with just a little olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Alternatively, you can saute the shrimp, which also takes only minutes. Prepare a stack of sturdy lettuce leaves, such as romaine or butter lettuce, to use as wraps for the shrimp and other toppings. Toppings can be healthy and Mexican-inspired, such as black beans, sauteed peppers and onions, salsa and hot sauce. Or, incorporate Asian flavors with dishes of sliced green onions, shredded cucumber and raw carrots, oyster sauce, sriracha and chopped peanuts. Use the peanuts sparingly; they're high in calories. Everyone at the table can customize his own shrimp wraps.

3. Spaghetti Squash With Turkey Bolognese

Substitute ground turkey for the ground beef in a traditional Italian bolognese sauce, use spaghetti squash for the pasta and you’ll have a lower-calorie, lower-carb and lower-fat version of a family favorite that’s still just as delicious. Cook spaghetti squash whole in a 400 F oven for an hour. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and then use a fork to shred the soft middle part into noodle-like strands. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by sauteing mushrooms, diced onion and other diced or shredded vegetables, such as carrot, celery and zucchini, with the ground turkey. Season it all with garlic, salt, pepper and fresh or dried basil and oregano. Add diced tomatoes from a can, or a jar of your favorite tomato-based pasta sauce (check the ingredients to make sure it’s low in fat and sugar). Simmer the sauce while you wait for the squash to cook, and optionally give it a greater nutritional boost with the addition of some spinach or kale. A healthy side salad makes this a more complete meal.

4. Slow-Cooked Pork and Bean Chili Verde

Chili verde traditionally uses pork shoulder, but you can substitute pork tenderloin, a considerably leaner cut that will stay tender and moist when cooked in a Crock-Pot. Dice the tenderloin into bite-size pieces and add it to the Crock-Pot along with cumin, dried oregano, a jar of salsa verde and a drained can of pinto, black or kidney beans. You can also add diced vegetables such as summer squash, carrots, spinach and bell peppers. Cook everything on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours—or until the pork falls apart at the touch of a fork. Eat a bowlful of the chili verde as it is, or serve it with whole grain tortillas or brown rice.