Need ideas for healthy and kid-friendly meals that won't bust the budget? This nutritious and protein-packed baked potato bar is a tasty, affordable meal!
This month's theme for The Recipe Redux is budget-friendly meals. This is something that we can all appreciate because who doesn't want to save money while enjoying tasty, healthy food?!!
The Recipe Redux is made up of dietitians and healthy living bloggers that come together each month to share healthy inspiration with all of you. The recipe ideas that you'll get here this month are not only going to save you some bucks, but they're healthy meals that you will feel good about feeding your family. This protein-packed baked potato bar is a fun and nutritious meal that's economical and super easy to make.
My kids love building their own loaded baked potatoes. Really, is there anyone who doesn't love a cheesy stuffed baked potato?!!! To make sure that I included a nutritious green vegetable and a good source of lean protein in our topping options, I whipped up a pan of browned lean ground beef (90% lean or less), fresh garlic, and wilted spinach to top our potatoes before we piled on the extra toppings.
You can use the bacon, sparingly, or leave it if you are trying to watch your fat intake. I find that a few crumbled pieces on top give a great flavor punch without a lot of added fat. I used a low-fat aged cheddar grated from the block, it not only is cheaper to buy a block of cheese (and I like to buy it on sale), but it tastes much better, too.
Why Block Cheese Is Best For Your Baked Potato Bar
Pre-shredded cheese is convenient, but you lose some flavor when you buy it that way. Shredded cheese is coated in cellulose to keep it from sticking together. Not harmful, but I prefer my cheese plain. It also melts so much better when freshly grated from the block.
Here's an article from The Kitchn that explains about the wood pulp in your shredded cheese for those of you that are interested. I also served the potatoes with a container of good salsa and chopped green onions.
You might think that there's a nutritional advantage to eating a sweet potato over a plain old white potato, but they both are full of great nutrients and I happen to love them both. Precision Nutrition tackles the sweet potato vs. regular potato debate in this great article, Which Potatoes Are Really Healthier? You can include both white and sweet potatoes in a healthy diet and still achieve your weight and body composition goals.
Protein-Packed Baked Potato Bar
- 6 russet potatoes rinsed and patted dry
- 1 lb lean ground beef 90% or less, I use 93%
- 2 cloves garlic pressed
- 5 oz fresh baby spinach
- 4 oz block sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 cup salsa
- 4 green onions chopped
- 6 slices center cut bacon
- 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
- *optional- low-fat sour cream and fresh chives
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
- Rub potatoes with oil and poke several holes on the top with a fork.
- Bake potatoes for 40-60 minutes, depending on the size of your spuds.
- About 10 minutes before potatoes are done, pop the bacon in the oven along with the taters.
- Arrange bacon on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until desired crispiness.
- Allow bacon to cool before crumbling.
- Wrap potatoes in foil and put in the oven on the warm setting while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat and cook the ground beef until no longer pink
- Drain any grease and add the garlic and cook until soft
- Add the spinach cooking until just wilted.
- Season beef mixture with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Arrange beef and spinach mixture, chopped green onions, shredded cheese, salsa and crumbled bacon in bowls and serve ingredients with potatoes, buffet-style.