With all of the convenience of meals made in a slow cooker or Crock-Pot, we often forget that sometimes the recipes we're making have too much fat and always seem to be loaded with cheese and starch, which pack in extra calories.
But if you're looking to lighten up your dinner routine, fear not: Slow-cooker dishes under 500 calories per serving do exist! We even found a dessert that could double as breakfast, too.
It would be understandable that you’d scroll right by a dish called "butter chicken" if you were watching your waistline. But stop scrolling because this recipe, from Christal Sczebel, a registered holistic nutritionist and wellness coach, clocks in at a mere 250 calories per serving. 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.
Paella is one of those dishes that can allow you have the best of both worlds. Yes, the rice has carbs, but you can load up the dish with various lean proteins. To make sure the meat is thoroughly cooked but still fork tender, Sczebel browns chicken sausage on the stove top before throwing the whole paella into the slow cooker. She then adds the seafood and peas 30 minutes before the dish is finished, to keep the seafood from being overcooked. For extra nutrition, use a long-grain brown rice or a quinoa/rice blend instead of short-grain Bomba rice.
Middle-Eastern street-food favorite chicken shawarma is usually cooked over a rotisserie, but this version, from Slender Seven founder and healthy baking guru Nikki Azzara, stays just as flavorful in the slow cooker. 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.
With chickpeas, tomatoes and 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 version from Kristen McCaffrey at the Slender Kitchen. Customize it, she says, by adding more or fewer jalapenos, or toss in some kale to get in your greens.
When we first saw the low calorie count on these sticky pecan buns, we did a double take, too! California-based scientist-turned-baker Amy Atherton created these lower calorie treats that are half the calories of traditional store-bought buns, which usually clock in at well over 300 calories a serving. And if sticky buns can make a mall smell good, just imagine what they can do for your kitchen.
If you love these delicious dishes, check out some of our favorite slow-cooker chicken recipes.