How many calories are in Spaghetti with ground beef and sauce?

Quick Answer

The number of calories in a serving of spaghetti with ground beef and tomato sauce can vary depending on the exact ingredients used and portion sizes. On average, one cup of spaghetti with meat sauce contains around 500-600 calories. The spaghetti itself is around 200 calories per cup, while a 1/2 cup of meat sauce adds roughly 300 calories.

Calories in Spaghetti

Plain spaghetti is relatively low in calories. One cup of cooked spaghetti contains:

Spaghetti (1 cup) Calories
Plain 200
Whole wheat 174

The number of calories can increase depending on what you top your spaghetti with. Here are the calories for 1 cup of spaghetti with different sauces:

Sauce Calories
Marinara sauce 80
Alfredo sauce 440
Pesto sauce 420
Meat sauce 300

So plain spaghetti with marinara sauce would have about 280 calories per cup, while spaghetti with Alfredo sauce would come out to around 640 calories per cup.

Calories in Meat Sauce

When making a meat sauce for spaghetti, ground beef is a common choice. Here are the calories for 1/2 cup of meat sauce using different types of ground beef:

Ground Beef Calories
90% lean 200
85% lean 270
80% lean 290

The leaner the ground beef, the fewer calories it will have. 90% lean ground beef contains around 200 calories per 1/2 cup in the meat sauce, while 80% lean beef has about 290 calories.

In addition to the type of ground beef used, other factors like oil, tomato sauce, onions, and seasonings can affect the calorie count. A meat sauce made with 90% lean beef, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and herbs would contain about 300 calories per 1/2 cup.

Calories for a Serving of Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Putting it all together, here are the approximate calories for a typical serving of spaghetti with meat sauce:

Item Serving Size Calories
Cooked spaghetti 1 cup 200
Meat sauce with 90% lean beef 1/2 cup 300
Grated parmesan cheese 1 Tbsp 22
Total Calories 522

So one plate of spaghetti with meat sauce and parmesan cheese has around 522 calories. This can vary based on the exact ingredients and portion sizes.

Here are some other serving scenarios:

– Spaghetti (1 cup) + Lean beef meat sauce (1/2 cup) = 500 calories
– Spaghetti (1.5 cups) + Meat sauce (1 cup) + Parmesan (2 Tbsp) = 766 calories
– Whole wheat spaghetti (1 cup) + Turkey meat sauce (1/2 cup) + Parmesan (1 Tbsp) = 476 calories

In summary, a typical one cup serving of spaghetti with meat sauce will range from 500-600 calories depending on the ingredients. Choosing leaner meats, controlling portion sizes, and adding less oil during cooking can help lower the calories.

Nutrition Facts for Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

While calories give the overall energy content of a food, looking at the full nutrition facts label provides a more complete picture of the nutritional value.

Here are the nutrition facts for a 1 cup serving of spaghetti with meat sauce, made with 90% lean ground beef:

Nutrient Amount % Daily Value
Calories 522 26%
Fat 12g 15%
Saturated fat 4g 20%
Trans fat 0g
Cholesterol 55mg 18%
Sodium 523mg 21%
Carbohydrates 63g 21%
Fiber 3g 11%
Sugar 5g
Protein 32g

Key nutritional highlights:

– Moderate in calories – 522 calories composes 26% of a 2000 calorie diet.
– Low in sugar – only 5 grams.
– Provides protein – 32 grams of protein makes it a good source.
– Contains vitamins and minerals from the tomato sauce.
– Has a mix of carbs, fat and protein.

The exact nutrition will depend on the ingredients used. Choosing leaner meats, low sodium tomato sauce, and whole grain pasta can result in an even healthier nutritional profile.

Ways to Make Spaghetti with Meat Sauce Healthier

While spaghetti with meat sauce is already relatively well-balanced nutritionally, there are some easy ways to lighten it up and boost the nutrition if desired:

– Use whole wheat or veggie pasta instead of refined white pasta. This increases the fiber.
– Choose 90% or 93% lean ground turkey or beef instead of higher fat options.
– Use low sodium tomato sauce and limit added salt.
– Load up on vegetables like onions, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, spinach or bell peppers.
– Use olive oil instead of butter or heavy cream-based sauces.
– Add beans like kidney or cannellini for extra protein and fiber.
– Include fresh herbs like basil, oregano or parsley.
– Sprinkle with parmesan cheese instead of higher fat cheeses.
– Serve with a side salad instead of garlic bread.

Making your own sauce at home allows you to control the ingredients and skip added sugar that is often found in jarred pasta sauce.

Tips for Portion Control

As with any food, portion control is an important part of managing calories when eating spaghetti with meat sauce. Here are some tips:

– Use smaller pasta bowls and plates which help visually control portions.
– Measure out 1 cup of cooked pasta per person before adding sauce.
– Ladle sauce over pasta instead of pouring it directly from the pan.
– Avoid going back for seconds. Leftovers can be refrigerated.
– Split an entrée portion at a restaurant or take half home.
– Fill half your plate with a salad or vegetables.
– Enjoy a smaller appetizer portion as a meal.
– Freeze leftovers into individual portions for convenience later on.

Practicing mindful eating by paying attention to hunger cues and stopping when full can prevent overeating high calorie options. Moderating carbohydrate heavy pastas by pairing them with lighter proteins, veggies and healthy fats can also help balance intake.

Low Calorie Spaghetti Alternatives

For an even lighter take on spaghetti, consider substituting spiralized vegetables in place of pasta. Here are some lower calorie spaghetti alternatives:

Zucchini Noodles

Using a spiralizer to turn zucchini into noodles or long strands is an easy way to create a pasta alternative with fewer carbs and calories. 1 cup of raw spiralized zucchini has around 20 calories compared to 200 calories in regular pasta. Top zucchini noodles with meat sauce or pesto for an easy lower calorie “zoodles” dish.

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is a type of winter squash that separates into long noodle-like strands when cooked. 1 cup of cooked spaghetti squash has only about 40 calories compared to 200 for pasta. Simply roast or boil spaghetti squash and top with sauce for a satisfying low calorie meal.

Bean Pasta

Pasta varieties made from beans, lentils and other legumes have gained popularity. Options like Banza chickpea pasta and Explore Asian black bean spaghetti are higher in protein and fiber than traditional pasta. For example, 1 cup of cooked Banza pasta has around 200 calories and 13 grams of protein.

Veggie Noodles

For an extra nutrition boost, noodles can be made from spiralizing carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and other vegetables. Mixing up the veggies adds new flavors. Shirataki noodles made from konjac root are another almost zero calorie pasta swap.

Low Calorie Sauce Alternatives

In addition to swapping out regular spaghetti, you can also reduce the calories in the sauce by:

– Using crushed tomatoes instead of heavy cream sauces
– Adding puréed cauliflower or butternut squash to make a lower calorie creamy sauce
– Making pesto from basil, olive oil, garlic and walnuts instead of cheese
– Going easy on oils, cheese, and fatty meats in sauces

Avoiding high calorie jarred sauces and adding more vegetables to homemade sauces can help cut down on calories while still delivering lots of flavor.

Healthy Spaghetti Recipes

Here are some ideas for healthy and low calorie spaghetti meals:

Shrimp Scampi Zucchini Noodles

– Spiralized zucchini noodles
– Shrimp, cooked with garlic and olive oil
– Cherry tomatoes
– Fresh parsley and lemon

Chicken Avocado Spaghetti Squash

– Roasted spaghetti squash
– Shredded chicken breast
– Avocado chunks
– Grape tomatoes, corn, black beans
– Cilantro lime dressing

Meatballs and Marinara

– Banza chickpea pasta
– Turkey or lean beef meatballs
– Low sodium marinara sauce
– Sautéed spinach
– Grated parmesan

Vegetable Lo Mein

– Shirataki noodles
– Broccoli, carrots, bell peppers
– Sautéed in sesame oil and reduced sodium soy sauce
– Top with toasted cashews

Get creative mixing and matching lower calorie noodles, veggie based sauces, lean proteins and plenty of herbs and spices to create nutritious and delicious spaghetti meals.


Spaghetti topped with a meat sauce can make for a well-balanced meal that provides carbs from the pasta, protein from the meat, and tomatoes and veggies in the sauce. Paying attention to portion sizes and using healthier ingredients can keep the calorie count reasonable at around 500-600 calories for a typical one cup serving. Substituting veggie noodles or other pasta swaps in place of regular spaghetti along with lighter sauces allows you to cut the calories without sacrificing taste. This makes it possible to enjoy this classic Italian dish while still maintaining your daily calorie goals.

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