I was a pretty picky eater as a kid. For the most part, I only ate foods that fell into three categories: bread, cereal, and cheese. I refused to eat spaghetti (unless it was plain, buttered noodles). I would complain about any meal that wasn’t smothered in some kind of cheesy topping. Somehow, though, meatloaf slipped through the crack. My mother must have been so excited the first time I actually ate a slice of tomato-sauce covered meatloaf! Making slow cooker healthy meatloaf became the perfect opportunity to sneak vegetables into my diet.
I’ve made a few tweaks to my mother’s recipe over the years, but one thing remains steadfast: using heart-healthy oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs. Most people use breadcrumbs as a binder for their meatloaf, and some people use saltine crackers, cornmeal, or even cornflakes. It seems that there are some regional differences between our childhood meatloaves! In addition to flavor, I have an extra reason to use oats in this Slow Cooker Healthy Meatloaf with Tomato Glaze (which, I’ll tell you about in just a minute).
What’s Up With Oatmeal?
Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people fight me on using oatmeal in my meatloaf. It’s funny, because I’ll usually use breadcrumbs for meatballs but I always go for oatmeal when it comes to meatloaf. Maybe it was the recipe on the back of the Quaker Oats where my mom grew up, but she always made it that way and so do I.
The purpose of the oatmeal (or, breadcrumbs) is to soak up extra liquid, absorb the fat, and bind the loaf together. Without it, the meat would simply crumble underneath your fork when you tried to take a bite. Does it really matter which you use? Perhaps not from a flavor perspective, but I’d like to think the oatmeal gives it an extra boost of texture.
Another benefit of using oatmeal is that your meatloaf just became gluten-free. Even if you don’t have any gluten-free people in your household, it’s nice to have a versatile recipe that you can feed to company without having to worry about dietary restrictions. If you’re feeding anyone who has celiac disease, you’ll want to specifically choose gluten-free oats (like Bob’s Red Mill brand).
How Do I Form My Meatloaf into a Loaf?
There are a lot of hacks out there for forming meatloaf in a slow cooker. Some people fashion strips of aluminum foil on the bottom to create “handles” to remove the loaf later, and others cook their loaf wrapped in foil. Others yet don’t bother and plop it right into the slow cooker, making sure it doesn’t touch the sides.
You have a choice to make, but I’ve found the easiest way to make Slow Cooker Healthy Meatloaf is to plop it right into a loaf pan. It might seem odd to put a loaf pan inside of a Crock Pot, but it’ll fit inside most 6-quart oval slow cookers. If you’re doubling this recipe, you’ll have to use one of the methods we just talked about, but I find the loaf pan method is the easiest for cooking and clean-up.
Give it a try and let us know in the comments which method worked best for you! And, if you have any questions about how to form the loaf and cook it in the slow cooker, don’t hesitate to ask. We love answering your questions!
Yield: 4 servings | Serving Size: about 2 slices | Calories: 367 | Total Fat: 13 g | Saturated Fat: 3 g | Carbohydrates: 32 g | Fiber: 6 g | Sugar: 4 g | Protein: 32 g | Cholesterol: 125 mg | Sodium: 618 mg | SmartPoints (Freestyle): 4
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1 cup quick cooking oats
- 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, minced
- 1/2 cup grated zucchini, excess liquid squeezed out
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, oats, half of the tomato sauce, onion, zucchini, garlic, egg, salt, black pepper, and Italian seasoning. Use your hands to mix well.
- Shape the mixture and place it in a greased 8x4 bread loaf pan. Place the pan inside your slow cooker (if a loaf pan doesn’t fit inside your slow cooker, shape the meatloaf into a large football and place it in the middle of the slow cooker, trying not to touch the sides).
- Spoon the remaining tomato sauce over the top of the meat loaf.
- Cover and cook on low for 6 hours (or, high for 4 hours) until the meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.
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