This chicken and broccoli casserole is surprisingly low-fat and high in fiber. Photograph courtesy of Colleen Gerg.
From meatless chili to chunky vegetable soup, we’ve given you oodles of comforting healthy recipes that even the strictest dieter couldn’t quibble with. This week, nutrition adviser and consultant Colleen Gerg tackles a different kind of recipe challenge: lightening up her mom’s rich, cheesy chicken-and-broccoli casserole.
The casserole was a favorite at family functions when Gerg was growing up. So when she became a nutritionist, she wanted to create a healthier version of the heavy, starchy dish.
She started out by increasing the amount of broccoli in the recipe. The next easy fix was to swap the cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise, and cheddar cheese for low-fat versions, saving 100 calories and 11 grams of fat per serving. She also subbed chicken breast for the mix of light and dark meat her mom used.
“It has a high ratio of protein and vegetables,” she says, “but still has a little bit of the sauciness that you expect from a casserole.”
Traditionally, the casserole was served over egg noodles, but Gerg now serves it over whole-wheat egg noodles or brown rice, adding five or more grams of fiber. She recommends adding a green salad and keeping the casserole portion size in check.
Gerg is a firm believe in the 80/20 rule. “If you’re always eating naked, clean foods, most people are more likely to throw in the towel and go whole hog and then feel bad about themselves,” she says. Especially in winter, she advises incorporating “more palatable” dishes, making sure to lighten them up and watch portion sizes. With only 279 calories and nine grams of fat, this casserole fits easily into a balanced, healthy diet.
Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
Yield: 6 servings
Calories per serving: 279
2½ cups cooked, boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces.
1 16-ounce bag frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and well drained, or 2 cups chopped, steamed fresh broccoli
2 cans condensed low-fat cream of chicken soup
¼ cup Hellman’s or other light mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip or “salad dressing”)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¾ cup reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese
paprika (to garnish)
3 cups whole wheat egg noodles or cooked brown rice, cooked according to package directions
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) In a medium size bowl, combine the cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise, and lemon juice. Mix until well combined.
3) In the bottom of a 2½-quart casserole dish, distribute chicken evenly. Top with well-drained broccoli.
4) Spread chicken soup mixture over the broccoli. Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese over the soup mixture. Sprinkle with paprika to taste or to add color.
5) Bake for 45 to 50 minutes.
6) Serve over whole wheat egg noodles or brown rice.
Note: Can be prepared in advance and frozen. Remove from freezer, thaw one to two hours, and bake 60 minutes.
Colleen Gerg is a nutrition advisor at Privia Health and a nutrition consultant.