Not all comfort foods are off the menu when you're on a low-carb plan. You may have to pass on macaroni and cheese and lasagna, but a slab of homemade meatloaf fits into your diet when you make the right tweaks to the recipe. Use flavorful, low-carb ingredients along with a variety of ground meats to make a low-carb loaf that's moist and tasty.
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Maximize the Low-Carb Ingredients
Ground meat is obviously the base of a meatloaf, and just about any type will do. For traditional flavors, opt for mostly 85-percent lean ground beef with a small amount of ground pork mixed in. The pork is a little fattier and can help keep the meatloaf moist as it cooks. If you choose ground pork sausage, though, make sure there are no carb-containing additives on the ingredients list. You could also add minced bacon to the meat mixture to increase the fat and moisture content. Eggs help bind the meat mixture together so it readily bakes into a loaf.
Add Low-Carb Seasonings
Sauté minced vegetables, such as onion and bell pepper, in butter to add to the loaf mixture. They add lots of familiar flavor but don’t greatly increase the carb content. One-quarter cup of cooked onions adds about 4 grams of net carbs to the total loaf, while 1/4 cup of cooked bell pepper adds around 2 grams. Many low-carb dieters only count "net" carbs -- the total carb grams minus the grams of fiber -- because the fiber doesn't really affect your blood sugar.
Dried spices, which give the meatloaf its distinct flavor, are almost carb-free. Use a pinch or two of dried thyme, granulated garlic, paprika and black pepper. Fresh herbs, such as chopped rosemary or basil leaves, also add dimension to a meatloaf’s flavor without raising the carb content. A generous handful of grated Parmesan cheese adds a nutty, robust flavor with just trace amounts of carbs per tablespoon. Also add salt to taste and a dash of hot sauce for pizzazz.
Replace the High-Carb Ingredients
Bread crumbs, crushed crackers or oatmeal and flavorings such as tomato sauce, barbecue sauce and ketchup raise the carb count of classic meatloaf. Use grated, raw cauliflower to replace the bread crumbs – it only adds 3 grams of net carbs per cup and helps keep the loaf moist.
Instead of ketchup, stir in tomato puree, which has 5 grams of net carbs per 1/4 cup. This is fewer carbs than you'll get in ketchup -- which has 20 grams of net carbs in that same 1/4 cup -- and still has the tomato flavor.
Finishing and Baking the Meatloaf
Shape the meatloaf into a long rectangle for baking. To add a smoky flavor and ensure a moist dish, top the meatloaf with one layer of thinly cut bacon slices. As the bacon cooks in the oven, its drippings permeate the meat mixture.
Serve the finished meatloaf with a leafy green salad and mashed cauliflower, instead of high-carb mashed potatoes. For a low-carb gravy to finish your plate, mix the drippings from the meat loaf with sour cream and other herbs, such as chopped rosemary and thyme.