Best Ever Healthy Meatloaf Recipe
How to Make a Beef or Turkey Meatloaf with Vegetables & Ketchup Glaze
This easy healthy meatloaf recipe is equal parts comforting AND nutritious! A simple, hearty meal like the old fashioned meatloaf you crave, but lower in sugar and packed with veggies. I’ll show you how to make a ground beef or turkey meatloaf with vegetables, slathered in a quick ketchup glaze.
It’s hard to go wrong with a traditional meatloaf recipe, but honestly, I like this version even more. Not because it’s low fat or low calorie or low sugar. I call this the best ever healthy meatloaf recipe, but really it’s just my favorite meatloaf—period! Flavorful, satisfying, deliciously tender and moist.
The peas and carrots add a subtle sweetness and comfort in each slice. And I love the texture of the veggies once they’re baked in—especially the crispness of the chopped onion and celery. Plus, even without any brown sugar in the meat itself, it’s perfectly sweet topped with that simple ketchup glaze!
Best of all, this healthy meatloaf recipe is totally customizable and a great kid friendly dinner option. Use whichever veggies you and your family prefer. Add some brown sugar to the meat mixture, or nix the sugar in the glaze altogether. You can even use ground turkey or pork if you want to switch things up from the classic ground beef meatloaf!
For some recipe inspiration, check out my air fryer meatloaf made with zucchini, mushrooms, and bell pepper! You can follow the same procedure outlined below and just bake it in the oven, instead of the air fryer.
Why Is Meatloaf “Bad” for You?
So, if I’m calling this a healthy meatloaf recipe specifically, that must mean most other meatloaves are unhealthy—right? Well, not quite. The word ‘healthy’ is subjective, and it can vary from context to context. And, calling certain foods ‘bad’ for us while others are ‘good’ can contribute to some pretty disordered thinking and chronic stress related food.
Since meatloaf contains fats, sugars, and can be high in calories, it’s often demonized it as “bad” or unhealthy. Some folks are concerned about ground beef’s saturated fat content. Others don’t like the glutinous breadcrumbs, or the brown sugar and ketchup glaze. But the truth is, meatloaf isn’t an inherently “bad” dish. (And, I’d argue that no foods are inherently “bad” or “good.”)
Sure, we don’t want to eat a meatloaf-only diet. Just like we wouldn’t want to eat a potatoes-only or blueberries-only or kale-only diet. We need a diverse variety of nutrients in our diets—including fats and sugars—and all of our bodies need calories from food for energy. But, when we stress so much about food and diets, this can actually wear our bodies down and get in the way of our health goals.
Instead, a more helpful question to ask might be: “can meatloaf be nourishing and nutritious?” And most importantly: “do I enjoy eating it?”
Can meatloaf be healthy and nutritious?
Of course! Meatloaf is rich in proteins and wholesome fats, making it a filling and fuel-filled meal. Use grass-fed or pasture-raised meats for the most nutrient-rich options! And, if you’re looking for a leaner option specifically, you can always make a turkey meatloaf instead of ground beef. The beauty of home cooking is that you get to choose what works for your lifestyle and preferences.
By making this healthy meatloaf recipe with vegetables baked in, we’re also getting some dietary fiber, plant-based micronutrients, and antioxidants! Plus, veggies also add some comforting flavor and moisture to this meatloaf. Or, if you don’t want vegetables in your meatloaf, try serving roasted veggies or a salad on the side. We’re more likely to keep eating nourishing meals when we enjoy eating them.
Healthy Meatloaf Recipe & Substitution Notes
How do you keep this healthy meatloaf recipe moist?
There are several steps you can take to make a moist meatloaf that’s juicy and tender.
- Use ground beef or pork instead of turkey. The rich fat content in a pork or ground beef meatloaf will retain moisture and turn out juicier than a leaner meat, like turkey.
- Add veggies into the meat mixture. Part of why this healthy meatloaf recipe turns out so tasty and moist is because of all the vegetables in it! Vegetables have a high water content, so they add back some of the moisture that’s lost during baking.
- Add milk to the recipe. Some folks swear by adding a splash of milk into their meatloaf mixture for moisture! Or, try soaking your breadcrumbs (or stale bread) in milk for 15 minutes before combining them into the meat mixture.
What can I put in meatloaf instead of breadcrumbs?
Breadcrumbs are an essential binding agent in any classic meatloaf recipe, but there are plenty of substitutions that you can try! If you’re worried about the gluten, you’re welcome to use gluten free breadcrumbs instead. And yes, you also have the option to make this healthy meatloaf recipe with oats if you’d like.
Instead of ¼ cup regular or panko breadcrumbs, try substituting:
- ¼ cup chopped stale bread
- ⅔ cup quick or rolled oats
- ¼ cup cracker or pretzel crumbs
- ¼ cup crushed cornflakes or other unsweetened cereals
What can I use instead of brown sugar for meatloaf?
Traditional recipes call for brown sugar in the meat mixture, but we’re making this healthy meatloaf without it. Instead, we’re relying solely on the glaze to add that crave-able sweetness, with a combination of ketchup, Dijon mustard, and brown or coconut sugar. You only need 2 tsp for the entire loaf, which is just 1g added sugar per slice! Of course, you don’t need the added sugar in the glaze either, so you’re welcome to omit it.
How to Cook Meatloaf in the Oven
Making this easy healthy meatloaf recipe is as simple as mixing together the meat and veggie mixture, adding it into a prepared loaf pan, and then baking! About 10-15 minutes before it’s done, you’ll remove it from the oven to spread on the glaze. Then, once it’s cooked through, allow it to rest and cool a bit before slicing.
What temperature should I cook my meatloaf and for how long?
This healthy meatloaf recipe goes in the oven at 350°F (180°C) for 50 minutes total: 40 minutes to start, then spread on the glaze and continue baking another 10 minutes. Although it may be tempting to speed the process along by cooking at a higher temp, I don’t recommend going above 350°F! Be patient while it cooks at the lower temperature, and you’ll be rewarded with a juicy, moist meatloaf.
Do you cook meatloaf covered or uncovered?
It depends on your preference, but it’s not necessary. I recommend lining your loaf pan with foil (or parchment) for easy removal, but I cook my meatloaf uncovered the whole time. Some folks prefer to cover their meatloaf with a foil tent for the first portion of baking—before adding the glaze—because it can help to keep the meat moist. You’re welcome to do so, but when I’m cooking a 1-lb meatloaf like this, I find it’s not necessary!
How do you know if meatloaf is fully cooked through?
The best way to know your meatloaf is fully cooked through is to check the center with a meat thermometer. Once its internal temperature reaches 160°F (71°C), it’s done. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, no worries! A 1-lb meatloaf will reliably cook in 50 minutes in the oven at 350°F, but feel free to add an extra 5 minutes if you’re worried or if you prefer your meat well-done.
How long should meatloaf rest before slicing?
After cooking, allow your healthy meatloaf to rest for 10-15 minutes before removing it from the pan and slicing. This will help the meatloaf hold together better and prevent it from crumbling when you slice it.
Can I freeze meatloaf after cooking?
Sure! Simply allow your meatloaf to cool completely, slice it into portions, and then package into freezer-safe bags or containers. If you plan to thaw and reheat all of it at the same time, you can package all of the slices together as one batch. But, if you prefer to thaw and reheat individual portions when you want a slice, you may want to package each slice individually to freeze.