For all the convenience of slow-cooker meals, we often pay for them with fat and calories—the recipes always seem to be loaded with cheese and starch. But slow-cooker dishes under 500 calories do exist. We even found a dessert (that could double as breakfast) to boot.
It would be understandable that you’d scroll right by a dish called Butter Chicken if you were watching your weight—until you saw the dish clocks in at a mere 250 calories per serving, as does this version from Christal Sczebel, a registered holistic nutritionist who coaches her clients both in person or online from afar. The secret ingredient in her Dairy-Free Slow-Cooker Butter Chicken: the humble cashew. When blended, cashews lend a creamy consistency to sauces, Sczebel says. Her flavorful sauce is rounded out with spices like garam masala—and you’ll have calories left over for rice or whole-grain naan on the side. Get the recipe.
Paella is one of those dishes that can allow you have the best of both worlds: You get your carbs (rice), but you can load it with lean proteins. Christal Sczebel, also known as the Nutritionist in the Kitch, browns chicken sausage on the stovetop before throwing the paella into the slow cooker, then adds the seafood and peas 30 minutes before the dish is finished, to keep the seafood from being overcooked. For extra nutrition, she uses long-grain brown rice or a quinoa/rice blend. Get the recipe.
Middle-Eastern street-food favorite Chicken Shawarma is usually cooked over a rotisserie, but this slow cooker version, from Slender Seven founder and healthy baking genius Nikki Azzara, stays just as flavorful. After the chicken cooks away in the combo of lemon juice and spices, such as cumin, garlic powder and all spice, it’s tender enough to shred with a fork. Get the recipe.
Chickpeas, tomatoes, loads of spices—Chana Masala makes you feel healthier just by looking at it. Sure, you can call your local Indian restaurant and have it delivered to your doorstep—or you can have a ginormous batch of it waiting for you when you get home with this Slow Cooker Chana Masala from Kristen McCaffrey over at the Slender Kitchen. Customize it, she says, by adding more or fewer jalapenos, or toss in some kale to get in your greens. Get the recipe.
Sticky Pecan Buns
Go ahead and do a double take when checking out that calorie count—yes, these Slow Cooker Sticky Pecan Buns from California-based scientist-turned-baker Amy Atherton come in at just 154 calories a piece. (Compare that to at least 300 calories in the ones you get in a store or bakery.) And if sticky buns can make a mall smell good, just imagine what they can do for your kitchen. Get the recipe.