When it comes to quick meal ideas, pasta usually tops the list since you can boil up a pot in less than 10 minutes. Spaghetti is usually a favorite of kids, so you don't have to fight with them to eat their dinner. However, if you're not careful, the calories in a spaghetti dinner can quickly add up, leaving your quick and easy meal less than healthy. Fortunately, there are several ways to keep the calories and fat under control, so your family has a tasty spaghetti meal that they enjoy and is good for them, too.
Spaghetti is a naturally low-fat, low-calorie food, so it can be a very healthy dinner option. The reason why a spaghetti meal usually winds up loaded with calories is that the portion size is too large. Consult the nutritional information on your pasta's packaging to see what a serving size actually is and how many calories it contains. In most cases, a serving is a half-cup of cooked spaghetti. When filling your family's plates, be mindful of how much spaghetti you're adding to each so you can keep the calories under control.
Skip Cream Sauces
Cream sauces like classic Alfredo or a basic garlic cream are certainly delicious, but the butter and heavy cream used to thicken them can turn a low-calorie spaghetti dinner into a dieter's nightmare. Even vodka sauce, which contains only a small amount of cream and butter, can add serious calories to your family's dinner plates. Instead of these creamy sauces, opt for a lighter, tomato-based sauce that is lower in calories and fat. When you're short on time, open a can of crushed tomatoes and heat it up with some garlic and onion for an easy and low calorie sauce that's ready in a hurry.
Load Up on Veggies
If your family is having a difficult time cutting back on their spaghetti portion, bulk up their servings with low calorie, low fat veggies. Chop up your family's favorite vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, peppers, cauliflower and eggplant. You can top a plate of spaghetti and tomato sauce with the uncooked veggies or sauté the veggies in a little vegetable oil and garlic and toss with the spaghetti. The addition of the vegetables will make a plain spaghetti dinner more filling but without adding a ton of calories and fat. When your family's craving a creamy sauce for their spaghetti, use pureed veggies as a base for a rich, thick sauce that doesn't contain calorie-laden cream or butter.
Say No to Cheese
Parmesan cheese may be a staple on your dinner table when serving spaghetti, but it can add unnecessary calories to your meal. The same goes for mozzarella and ricotta cheese. If you feel like your spaghetti and sauce is lacking flavor, try adding fresh herbs like basil, sage and rosemary to boost the flavor. Garlic can also help turn a bland spaghetti sauce into a tasty treat. Crushed red pepper flakes, freshly ground pepper and dried oregano can also add spice to your spaghetti sauce without adding too many calories.