Diet Detective’s Hearty and Healthy Calorie Bargain Recipes

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Detective’s Hearty and Calorie Bargain

Diet Detective’s Clean, Fresh and Healthy Spaghetti and Meatballs

Serves 8


2 (25.5-ounce) bottles marinara or tomato sauce with no more than 50 calories per 1/2 cup (reserve 1/2 cup for meatballs)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 pound 100 percent white meat ground chicken breast
1/4 cup 100 percent whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup seasoned whole-wheat bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped white mushrooms
1/2 cup tomato or marinara sauce (reserved from the sauce)
3 egg whites
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder

1 pound 100 percent whole-wheat spaghetti
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Combine the sauce ingredients in a 10-quart pot and set over low heat. Do not allow the sauce to boil.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients and knead well. Use a mini ice cream scooper or your hands to make 14 to 18 meatballs. If you’re using your hands to make the meatballs, you might want to have cold water nearby or spray your hands with a little cooking spray to prevent the mixture from sticking. Spray a 14-inch pan with cooking spray, heat the pan and brown the meatballs on all sides. Transfer the browned meatballs to the pot with the sauce. Raise the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through.

While the meatballs simmer, cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and divide among 8 plates.

Top the spaghetti with equal portions of meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle each portion with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan, and serve at once.

Nutritional Information: (1 serving), 461 calories, 80 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 4 g fat, 30 g protein

Health Perks: Using veggies in the meatball ingredients is great for several reasons. First, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. High intakes of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are linked to a lower risk of lung, prostate and colorectal cancer. Broccoli is also high in potassium, vitamin A, vitamin K and folic acid, all of which are vital to health. Second, white mushrooms are a good source of three important B vitamins that help convert food to energy and promote healthy skin, hair, muscles and brain function. They are also a good source of selenium, a trace element that functions as an antioxidant in the enzyme glutathione peroxidase. This important enzyme helps neutralize the free radicals — unstable oxygen molecules — produced by normal cellular processes. Last, adding veggies to the traditional meat mixture is a way to reduce the overall number of calories without reducing portion size.

Diet Detective’s Rich and Famous Onion Soup

Serves 8

3 large red onions, chopped
3 large Vidalia onions, chopped
10 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 cups beef broth
1/2 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8 slices whole-wheat toast
8 slices low-fat cheese

In a 10-quart pot sauté the onions and mushrooms in the olive oil on medium-high heat for 30 to 40 minutes until well browned but not burned. Add the honey after the first 10 minutes to help the onions caramelize.

Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute, add the beef broth, wine, bay leaf and thyme. Take out 1 cup of liquid, whisk in the flour, and then return the mixture to the pot. Cover partially and simmer for about 30 minutes until the flavors are well blended. Season with salt and pepper and discard the bay leaf.

Ladle 1 cup of soup into each of 8 oven-proof bowls, cover each with a slice of toast and top with a slice of cheese. Put into the oven (or toaster oven) at about 350 degrees until the cheese browns.

Health Perks: Onions contain more quercetin than any other common fruit or vegetable. This potent antioxidant has been linked to a reduction in the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and a variety of cancers (such as prostate and lung cancer). Onions also contain other phytochemicals known for their anti-cancer and anti-microbial properties.

Nutritional Information: (1 serving), 278 calories, 10 g fat, 31 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 16 g protein

Charles’ Chicken Parmesan

Serves 2

4 (3-ounce) skinless and boneless chicken breasts
2 egg whites
1/4 cup 100 percent whole-wheat bread crumbs
1/4 cup 100 percent whole-wheat flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Onion powder to taste
Garlic powder to taste
1/2 cup bottled tomato or marinara sauce with no more than 50 calories per 1/2 cup
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Pound the chicken breasts as thin as you can — basically paper thin. That’s critical, because it cuts the cooking time and the amount of cooking spray needed (plus, it helps make the portion seem larger). You can ask your supermarket or butcher to pound them for you.

Coat the chicken lightly with the egg whites, then with the bread crumbs and then the whole-wheat flour. Lightly spray a 12-inch frying pan with cooking spray and turn the heat to high. Give a quick spray to the tops of the chicken breasts and cook, sprayed side up, for 3 to 5 minutes. When the “up” side to starts turning white, turn off the heat, flip the chicken over, cover the pan and let the chicken steam-cook 5 or 6 minutes more. Season with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder to taste. Drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover the pan until the cheese melts, and serve with steamed asparagus and a side salad.

Health Perks: High-protein foods like boneless and skinless chicken breasts slow the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract, and slower stomach emptying means you feel full longer and get hungry later. Protein also helps keep blood sugar stable, avoiding the quick rises that can occur when you eat carbohydrates. Also, eating foods that are low-fat, low-carb and high in protein will help you avoid other less healthy, high-calorie foods. Last, the body uses more calories to digest protein than it does to digest fat or carbohydrates.

Nutritional Information: (1 serving), 323 calories, 5 g fat, 20 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 47 g protein

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