7 Slow Cooker Meals Under 500 Calories

A hearty, home-cooked meal was never simpler.

Updated on September 7, 2022

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When chilly evenings roll in, it feels comforting to serve up warm, hearty, home-cooked meals. The good news is you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to create dishes that are tasty and nutritious. Just pull your slow cooker down from the shelf and get creative.

"Slow cookers are convenient and typically require little cleanup,” says Lauri Watson, RD, of Summerville Medical Center in Summerville, South Carolina. They are also great for tenderizing tough cuts of meat and the slow, steady cooking does a great job combining the flavors of your veggies, protein, and seasonings, she adds. 

These seven tasty recipes will warm you up and keep you feeling satisfied all season long.

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Creamy steel-cut oats

Slow cookers are not just for soups and stews. They can be great for whipping up breakfast, too. Toss the ingredients for this steel-cut oatmeal into your cooker the night before and enjoy sweet oats in the morning. Steel-cut oats have a different texture than typical rolled oats and contain a bit more fiber and protein, making them ideal for kick-starting your morning.

Watson recommends using a four-to-one ratio—1 cup of oats to 4 cups of your favorite liquid, such as water, coconut milk, or unsweetened almond milk.

Want to eat breakfast like a dietitian? "I always add a banana to oats," Watson says. "I find that a banana breaks down during cooking and adds natural sweetness without adding sugar." One quarter cup of dry oats, made with 1 cup unsweetened almond milk and a quarter of a large banana, contains just 221 calories. 

For some extra flavor and texture, top your bowl with fresh fruit, low-fat granola, all-natural pumpkin puree, maple syrup or honey, fresh fruit preserves, or a sprinkling of chopped nuts or nut butter.

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Belly-warming pumpkin chili

Nothing screams "fall" quite like pumpkin. From lattes to pies, the season just isn’t complete without this quintessential autumn flavor. And pumpkin isn’t only for desserts—it can be the star of savory dishes, too.

Start the day by loading your slow cooker with one 15-ounce can of pureed pumpkin, two 15-ounce cans of your favorite beans, one chopped onion, two minced garlic cloves, and a sprinkling of your favorite herbs and spices.

Pumpkin contributes vitamin A, which is important for your vision and a healthy immune system. Beans contain fiber and protein, essential for healthy digestion and for the growth and repair of your body’s cells. (Before loading in your beans, give them a good rinse to get rid of any excess sodium.) If you’re looking to maximize the protein in this dish, add one pound of browned and drained lean ground turkey to the mix. You can customize this pumpkin chili by tossing in any veggies you have on hand. Ground turkey included, one-fifth of this pot contains 385 calories.

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Nutritionist-approved lentil soup

If you’re looking for a filling meal, this one-pot wonder is perfect. “Lentils are a good source of protein and fiber and typically take less time to cook than other beans or legumes,” says Watson.

To create this tasty concoction, combine 2 cups of soaked lentils with 4 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth, one chopped onion, four sliced carrots, two minced garlic cloves, and ground black pepper to taste. Set the dial to low and let your soup simmer for about eight hours, giving the flavors time to combine and deepen.

When you're ready to serve, load your bowl with one-fourth of the batch. Each serving is packed with fiber, protein, and bone-boosting manganese and contains roughly 200 calories.

Watson recommends pairing this dish with a dollop of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt. When you include a slice of homemade zucchini bread or muffin on the side, the combination totals about 360 calories.

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Savory stuffed peppers

Bell peppers are at the peak of perfection from summer to fall and make nutritious shells for a flavorful filling.

Slice the top off four peppers and clean out the seeds. On the stove top, brown 1 pound of lean ground turkey and combine with a cup of cooked brown rice, one chopped onion, an 8-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, one chopped garlic clove, and salt and pepper to taste.

After filling your peppers with the mixture, place them in your slow cooker. Fill the space between the peppers with a bit of water or another can of crushed tomatoes. Set your cooker to low and cook for six to eight hours. Ten minutes before you sit down to eat, top each pepper with a sprinkle of shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese (if desired).   

One pepper contains fiber, protein, immune-boosting vitamin A, and roughly 350 calories.

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Low-calorie salsa chicken

This two-ingredient chicken dish is perfect added to a lunchtime salad or served with fresh veggies for dinner.

Place boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the bottom of your slow cooker and top with fresh salsa. Use a quarter cup of salsa for every 3-ounce serving of chicken. Most grocery stores offer a selection of fresh salsa, but you can also whip up your own. Chop and combine tomatoes, onions, garlic, jalapeno peppers—if you like a little kick—fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. You can also add sweetness with in-season fruits, like mango and pineapple.

"This is a dish that would be good with whole grain rice or quinoa, plus beans, avocado, and plain, nonfat Greek yogurt," Watson recommends.

A 3-ounce serving of the chicken contains 180 calories.

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Balsamic chicken and veggies

To create this satisfying dinner, load your slow cooker with a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a cup each of halved Brussels sprouts, diced potatoes, and cubed carrots, and half a cup of low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth. Season your dish with a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon (or two) of Dijon mustard, and your favorite herbs and spices, such as oregano, black paper, rosemary, or thyme.

Simmer on low for six to eight hours until the contents are fork-tender. Plate a 4-ounce chicken breast with a quarter of the veggies and an extra drizzle of the savory sauce for a meal with roughly 260 calories.

Think you might still be hungry? Serve this dish over a cup of riced cauliflower for an extra 20 calories, plus fiber and protein. 

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Mouth-watering apple crisp

Apples are the perfect autumn fruit. They’re great sliced atop your morning yogurt, they make an easy grab-and-go snack to munch midafternoon, and can also be a sweet dessert. Plus, this in-season fruit is packed with fiber and nutrients.

To get your daily apple allowance, try slow cooker apple crisp. Peel and chop four of your favorite apples and toss with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the apples to the bottom of your slow cooker while you work on the crispy topping. Combine 1 cup of dry oats, 1/4 cup of your favorite chopped nuts, a drizzle of pure maple syrup, and another dash of cinnamon, and sprinkle over the apples. Close the lid and cook for two hours or until tender and aromatic. One-fourth of the batch contains 255 calories.

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