Meatloaf Makeover

Medically reviewed in July 2021

Meatloaf is right up there with apple pie as one of America's favorite comfort foods. But it has all the makings of cardiac arrest if it's packed with fat: Some recipes tally more than 900 calories a serving and an entire day's worth of saturated fat! Chances are, the family recipe could stand the chef's equivalent of liposuction. Here are seven ways to give your meatloaf a makeover without sacrificing flavor:

  1. Use extra-lean ground beef (aim for 5% fat). Then, add just enough liquid—about 1/4 cup of tomato juice, wine, or broth per pound—to keep your meatloaf rich and juicy.
  2. Mix extra-lean meat with ground turkey breast (not fatty dark meat).
  3. Use soft breadcrumbs instead of dry ones for a moister loaf.
  4. Add 1 part diced onions, diced green peppers, and/or grated potato, zucchini, or carrots to 3 parts ground meat.
  5. Use egg substitute in place of whole eggs to keep the cholesterol down.
  6. Don't overmix. Too much handling squeezes moisture out, producing a heavy, dry loaf.
  7. Bake loaf on a rack set in a roasting pan so the fat drains off. When it's done, let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving so that the juices can redistribute, which keeps the loaf tender throughout.

Mini Meatloaves with Fresh Thyme
Serves 4

For fun (and instant portion control), try baking meatloaf as mini loaves or in large muffin tins, as nutritionist Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of The Food & Mood Cookbook, does with this flavorful thyme-infused meatloaf. It is moist and tender and has about half as much fat and cholesterol as traditional meatloaf.

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound extra-lean ground beef (7% or less fat)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup liquid egg substitute
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In nonstick skillet, warm oil over medium heat. Add onions, red pepper, and garlic; saute for 4 minutes or until onion is transparent. Remove from heat.

3. In large mixing bowl, combine all remaining ingredients. Add onion mixture and mix with hands just until ingredients are well combined—don't overmix.

4. Divide mixture into quarters and form into small, oval loaves. Spray rack of roasting pan with cooking spray. Place loaves on rack in roasting pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes to allow juices to redistribute.

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