Lightened-up Tuna Noodle Casserole + Mercury FAQ

People often ask me where I get my recipe inspiration from and the answer is pretty simple. As a dietitian I talk about and think about food pretty much 90% of my day. When I’m not coming up with meal and snack ideas for my clients, it’s a pretty sure bet I’m thinking about my OWN next meal or snack, a recipe I want to try or a restaurant I want to eat at. All of these thoughts are spurred by one thing: my own cravings.

My closest family and friends can attest that I have some pretty intense and specific cravings. One time my friend and I drove all around town while I was visiting her in South Carolina (Google mapping the entire way) looking for chocolate cake. Ice cream wouldn’t do. I needed something dense and rich. Luckily, we found a little diner that sold hot fudge brownie sundaes that sufficed. A couple weekends ago, after eating and drinking a little too much the night before, I craved a kale salad with blue cheese, avocado and chicken. Random, but goes to show how well your body knows itself and what it wants. You need to listen to it, whether it be a salad or dessert.

This brings us to our recipe, inspired by most recent craving, tuna noodle casserole. This is strange for multiple reasons: 1.) This tends to be a winter “comfort dish” and its 80O outside here in Columbus and 2.) I’ve never actually HAD tuna noodle casserole….I know, weird. My mom never made this for us growing up because her mom made it all the time so she got sick of it. Regardless, it was all I could think about as I drove home from my best friend’s bachelorette this morning.

This dish is super easy, affordable and packed with protein from the tuna and vitamins and minerals thanks to packing it full of extra veggies. Enjoy with a light salad or glass of milk to complete the meal!

Before we get to the recipe, I want to address if a common misconception about the mercury levels in tuna. Yes, tuna does contain mercury, but all fish will contain at least trace amounts. However, not all tuna is created equal. Choose canned, light tuna which has lower levels of mercury. According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) it is safe to consume 2-3 servings of this variety of tuna each week, even when pregnant. See this fact sheet for more specifics if your interested. Of course, these are general recommendations so consult with your doctor or registered dietitian for your own unique needs.

Finally, here we are……ENJOY.


Lightened-up Tuna Noodle Casserole

Serves 5-6


2 cups dry pasta noodles (8oz)*

1 onion, diced

8 oz mushrooms, sliced

1 Tbs. olive oil

1-7oz can tuna

2 cups skim or low-fat milk

½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

6 Tbs. flour

½ cup Parmesan cheese

½ cup frozen peas

2 cups fresh spinach

salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 350O F. Cook noodles according to package directions.

Place a large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil, onion, mushrooms and a sprinkle of salt. Sauté until vegetables are cooked (onions should be translucent). Add chicken broth and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Slowly add the milk and bring to a simmer, continuously stirring to prevent burning. Add tuna, cheese, spinach, peas, and more pepper and salt if desired.

Pour mixture into a sprayed 8X8 baking dish. Cook for 15-20 minutes to allow the dish to thicken to desired consistency.

*I used Explore Cuisine brand chickpea pasta for an extra dose of protein.




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