7 Slow Cooker Meals Under 500 Calories

A hearty, home-cooked meal was never simpler.

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When another chilly evening rolls around, it feels comforting to serve up a warm, hearty and delicious meal. You don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to whip up a dish that’s both tasty and nutritious, either. Dust off your slow cooker and effortlessly feast all season long.

"Slow cookers are convenient and typically require little cleanup,” says Lauri Watson, RD with Summerville Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina. They are great for tenderizing tough cuts of meat and slow. Steady cooking really brings the flavors of your veggies, protein and seasonings together, she adds. 

These seven tasty and simple slow cooker recipes will warm you up without adding inches to your waistline. 

Medically reviewed in October 2019.

Creamy steel-cut oats

2 / 8 Creamy steel-cut oats

This versatile appliance is 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 and 4 cups of your favorite liquid—like water, coconut milk and 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-fourth of a cup of dry oats, made with 1 cup unsweetened almond milk and a quarter of a large banana contains just 221 calories. 

Top your bowl with one or two of the following:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Healthy granola
  • All-natural pumpkin puree
  • Maple syrup or honey
  • Fresh preserves
  • Chopped nuts or nut butter
Belly-warming pumpkin chili

3 / 8 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. Let’s not forget, pumpkin isn’t only great for desserts—it can be the star in savory dishes, too.

Before you dash to work, load your slow cooker with: a 15-ounce can of pureed pumpkin, two 15-ounce cans of your favorite beans, one chopped onion, two cloves of minced garlic and your favorite herbs and spices.

Pumpkin adds vitamin A, which is important for your vision and a healthy immune system. Beans contain fiber, essential for healthy digestion and protein, necessary for the growth and repair of your body’s cells. Pro tip: 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 only 385 calories.

Nutritionist-approved lentil soup

4 / 8 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 a low-sodium vegetable broth, one chopped onion, four sliced carrots, two cloves of minced garlic 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 marinate.

Next, load your bowl with one-fourth of the batch, with fiber, protein and bone-boosting manganese. This meal contains only 200 calories.

Watson recommends pairing this dish with a dollop of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt. Including a slide of homemade zucchini bread or muffin, the combination totals about 360 calories.

"Skinny" stuffed peppers

5 / 8 "Skinny" 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, brown up 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 clove of chopped garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

After filling your peppers with the mixture, place them in your crockpot. Fill the space between the peppers with a bit of water or another can of crushed tomatoes. Set your slow cooker to low, and let the flavors marinate 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.   

One pepper contains fiber, protein, immune-boosting vitamin A, all with just 350 calories.

Savory salsa chicken

6 / 8 Savory salsa chicken

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

Place boneless, skinless chicken breast in the bottom of your slow cooker, and top with fresh salsa; use 1/4 of a cup 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, beans, avocado and plain, nonfat Greek yogurt," Watson recommends.

A 3-ounce serving of the chicken contains just 180 calories, so it’s a perfect protein source for anyone looking to slim down.

Balsamic chicken and veggies

7 / 8 Balsamic chicken and veggies

This dish is almost like traditional stew, but better. To create this filling 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 up your dish with a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon (or two) of Dijon mustard and your favorite herbs and spices, like oregano, black paper, rosemary and thyme.

Pop the lid on and let simmer on low of six to eight hours until the contents are fork-tender. Plate up a 4-ounce chicken breast with a quarter of the veggies and an extra drizzle of the savory sauce for a meal with 263 calories.

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

Mouth-watering apple crisp

8 / 8 Mouth-watering apple crisp

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

Here’s one especially delicious way to get your apple a day: Make 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 crockpot 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 it over the apples. Close the lid and enjoy! One-fourth of the batch contains just 255 calories.

It's so sweet you might be tempted to take seconds, but tracking your daily food intake might help keep you in line. Try writing down your daily meals or logging them in a phone app like Sharecare, available for iOS and Android. After you clean your plate, quickly and easily plug in the size and quality of your last meal, snack or dessert. 

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