The magic of meatloaf


If had to tell my weight loss secret (there isn’t one, hello!), I’d call meatloaf.

There’s nothing sexy about it. It’s more C.W.A. than O.C.

But it’s one of the things I eat most.

It also makes being on a diet feel a little less like being on a diet

Nutritionally, it’s a really balanced recipe, with a good mix of protein, vegetables and carbohydrates. I make meatloaf at least once a fortnight and as many of those I’ve worked with can attest to, it makes lunch box appearances on a regular basis.

My meatloaf recipe is not quite the traditional version.

I once had meatloaf in a New York City diner, a giant slab of American style goodness covered in gravy with mashed potato piled high, served by a sullen New York waitress.

This is not that. Though I remember it fondly.

But I think you’ll enjoy this version all the same.

Basic chicken meatloaf 

  • 1kg chicken mince
  • 1 onion (chopped finely or through the food processor)
  • 1 zucchini (grated or through the food processor)
  • 1 carrot (grated or through the food processor)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ a cup of rolled oats
  • 1 packet of French onion soup mix (reduced salt version)
  • 2 sachets of tomato paste (4 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce (I like this one from Celebrate Health, which doesn’t contain the sugar and preservatives that the mainstream brands do)
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • Fresh thyme
  • 1 tblspn dry mixed herbs
  • Pepper
  • Extra BBQ sauce (approximately 4 tblspns) for covering the top of the meatloaf part way through cooking 


Mix everything together in a bowl with your hands. It’s disgusting, but also feels really good.



Use a well lined loaf tin (tin foil and baking paper are useful here), or for easier portion control, a muffin pan (with muffin papers so the meatloaf don’t stick).



Cook your meatloaf for approximately 50 minutes at 190 degrees Celsius.

After 30 minutes of cooking, remove from the oven and spread the extra BBQ sauce over the top. It will caramelise nicely in the remaining 20 minutes of cooking.

If you use the muffin pans, cooking time is closer to 30-40 minutes, depending on the size you make the muffins.


I have very loose parameters on the meatloaf cooking times. Remembering to set a timer sometimes eludes me. You can tell that it’s cooked when, like a cake, it comes away from the sides of the pan.


Cool on the bench and then in the fridge. If freezing, slice and store in ziplock bags. If you made your meatloaf in muffin tins, these can also be frozen in ziplock bags.

I do rather love ziplock bags.


Ideally, take your meatloaf from the freezer to fridge the night before to defrost, where it will be ready for lunch the next day, either cold or heated in the microwave.

From frozen, defrost slowly on a medium heat in the microwave.

If you’re at home and have the inclination, give your meatloaf a bit of of sizzle by finishing it off in a hot oven for a few minutes after you’ve heated it through in the microwave. #cafestyle


  • Breakfast – meatloaf is the perfect breakfast, hot or cold
  • Lunch – with any side salad, avocado or boiled egg
  • Dinner – mash some cauliflower (it’s vaguely almost like mashed potato) and steam green beans


Convertible meatloaf

Meatier meatloaf: Use 2/3 chicken mince and 1/3 lean beef mince

Natural meatloaf: Skip the Worcestershire sauce and the French onion soup mix. Use one of the natural BBQ sauce options (check out Celebrate Health). For more flavour, cook the onion from the recipe slowly on low heat in a fry pan and let it caramelise (then cool), before adding it to the meatloaf mix.

Bacon: Love bacon. So much. Remove all the fat. Chop or blitz it in the food processor. As per the natural meatloaf option (above), you can caramelise the bacon with the onion in your frypan (then cool), before adding to the meatloaf mixture.

Garlic: You can absolutely add garlic to the basic recipe, however I tend to leave it out. I’m certain everyone in my life is grateful #garlicbreath

Low carb: If you’re having some time out from complex carbohydrates you can make this recipe without rolled oats. It makes it a little soggy so it might need longer in the oven and can be a bit fiddly when you cut it up (don’t cut it up until it has spent a couple of hours in the fridge). Reheating it in the oven from the fridge or defrosted from the freezer yields the best serving results.

Pumpkin, feta and sage: Roast cubes of pumpkin in the oven until caramelised, sprinkled with a little cumin powder and a spray of olive oil. Add some crumbled feta and chopped sage. Leave out the thyme and the dry mixed herbs from the basic recipe.

Spaghetti sauce: Dice a small onion, some garlic and cook until soft in a frypan. Add a can of chopped tomatoes and crumble in a portion of meatloaf for a really quick, tasty spaghetti sauce. Serve over slim pasta or zucchini noodles.

Spicy: Cook the onion slowly in a frypan until soft, along with one capsicum and one minced or finely diced jalapeño (seeds removed). Let cool before adding to the meatloaf mix. Swap the BBQ sauce for a spicy BBQ sauce. Leave out the thyme and the dry mixed herbs from the basic recipe. This version is courtesy of my friend Mary (thank you!) who is a brilliant cook and expert in spiced foods.

Chilli con carne: If you’ve made the spicy meatloaf (above), you can easily convert this into chilli con carne by dicing an onion and cooking it slowly in your fry pan, add a can of chopped tomatoes and a can of red kidney beans along with a couple of portions of spicy meatloaf.

Measure & count

You manage what you measure. This is something I’ve learned in my healthy living project. Whatever type of meatloaf you make, make a note of what you include as you go and add up the total calories. I use to work this out.

This recipe generally works out to between 250 and 300 calories per portion. I add up the calories once the meatloaf is in the oven and when it’s cooked, slice the portions (if cooked in a loaf tin) so that they work out to between 250 to 300 calories each.  Add a side salad or vegetables for a tasty and nutritious 350 to 400 calorie meal.

I also write the calories  per portion on the ziplock bags when I freeze them, so it’s easy to keep track of the calorie count long after I’ve cooked it and lost the scrappy bit of paper I did the maths on.

Try it

If you like meatloaf, or even don’t mind it, this is a really practical inclusion on the food rota if you’re working to lose weight and don’t fancy being tied to the kitchen preparing a stack of healthy meals from scratch every day.

I don’t profess to be an expert cook,  but I have become an expert in finding and converting recipes to suit my healthy living project.


If you’ve enjoyed my 1000+ word ode to meatloaf (The Meatloaf Diet – next big thing?) and think it’s useful, please share the link with your friends.

  • Bellybreathsofhappyness

    This sounds delish. Getting a bit bored of poached chicken and this will be a nice change. Bought all the ingredients tonight and including it in my food prep this weekend. Will let you know how I go. Thanks so much for sharing lovely. Fx

    • Thanks Fiona! Poached chicken is handy but it definitely gets a little dull… I hope the meatloaf recipe turns out well for you and more importantly that it tastes good (whilst being wholesome and healthy of course!). It’s not glam, but hopefully it’s practical and yummy.

  • Wow! These really look yummy! I’m a big meatloaf fan, but have just realised that I haven’t made any in yonks! I think yours will definitely be on the dinner menu sometime soon. Freezing muffin sized meatloaf is an awesome idea, so will make double (perhaps triple?) the recipe! I think it looks like my family will like this as well, plus meatloaf is easy to hide extra veggies in for the kids too!

    • It is SUCH an easy dish and one I definitely like to cook in bulk – and super easy to hide veggies – for adults AND children 🙂 And it tastes good!