Ditch Hamburger Helper. Hamburger Buddy is better and healthier

Healthy Hamburger BuddyHealthy Hamburger BuddyOne of my favorite things to do is take classic comfort foods and make healthier EatingWell versions of them. It's a passion I share with my sister Katie, who also works for EatingWell. So, she suggested, why don't we try to make a simple one-skillet spin on Hamburger Helper? Katie developed this recipe for Hamburger Buddy with picky eaters in mind.

Her goal was to make a family-friendly recipe that incorporated plenty of vegetables, and one that tasted enough like the original that even picky kids would be excited to eat it. And, with inexpensive ingredients like pasta and beef, this dish is still a good cheap dinner option.

Here's what Katie did to give Hamburger Helper a healthy makeover:

  • As with many of our healthy ground-beef recipes, she chose 90%-lean ground beef for this dish. She decided on 90%-lean, after testing the recipe with beef of different degrees of leanness, because it offered the best balance between flavor and health. The 90%-lean beef is considered "lean" by USDA standards. And it has more flavor and moistness than leaner grinds, but less saturated fat than fattier grinds such as 85%.
  • The secret to boosting the nutrients in this dish was adding carrots, plenty of onion and mushroom. Wondering where they are in the picture? Well, that's why this is a perfect kid-friendly recipe. The veggies are chopped fine in the food processor then cooked in the skillet with the rest of the dish. Because they're chopped small, the vegetables blend in and become unnoticeable for fussy kids, but still add plenty of delicious flavor.
  • Katie replaced regular noodles with whole-wheat noodles to increase the fiber.

Serve this quick Hamburger Buddy recipe with a salad to make it a meal.

3 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
2 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
10 ounces white mushrooms, large ones cut in half
1 large onion, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 pound 90%-lean ground beef
2 teaspoons dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cups water
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium beef broth, divided
8 ounces whole-wheat elbow noodles (2 cups)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or chives for garnish

1. Fit a food processor with the steel blade attachment. With the motor running, drop garlic through the feed tube and process until minced, then add carrots and mushrooms and process until finely chopped. Turn it off, add onion, and pulse until roughly chopped.
2. Cook beef in a large straight-sided skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped vegetables, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables start to soften and the mushrooms release their juices, 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Stir in water, 1 1/2 cups broth, noodles and Worcestershire sauce; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
4. Whisk flour with the remaining 1/4 cup broth in a small bowl until smooth; stir into the hamburger mixture. Stir in the sour cream. Simmer, stirring often, until the sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes. Serve sprinkled with parsley (or chives), if desired.

Makes 6 servings, about 1 1/3 cups each.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 326 calories; 10 g fat (4 g sat, 3 g mono); 54 mg cholesterol; 38 g carbohydrate; 23 g protein; 4 g fiber; 431 mg sodium; 644 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (70% daily value), Zinc (33% dv), Iron (20% dv), Potassium (18% dv).

By Jessie Price

EatingWell food editor Jessie Price's professional background in food started when she worked in restaurant kitchens in the summers during college. She started out testing recipes for EatingWell and then joined the staff here full-time in 2004 when she moved to Vermont from San Francisco.

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