Ironclad Resolution: Lightened lean beef, mushroom, and spinach lasagna

My friend Amanda is a true Jack (or Jaqueline) of all Trades, being a seriously competitive athlete, wonder-working massage therapist, coach, teacher, and freelance writer. We've been collaborating on a fun project, matching training ideals and workouts to recipes. Heading into the new year, we can all get revved up once again to resolve to be better, fitter, faster, kinder, and healthier. One way I love to work at achieving all of these and more is, of course, running. Whether you train alone or in a group, time spent pounding the pavement or even better, trails, contributes not just to your cardio fitness, but your personal reflection and perspective too. But anyone who runs, except for perhaps the odd abnormality and enigma the rest of us can't help but be jealous of, eventually discovers that running can really deliver a beating, too. One of the casualties can be your iron stores, particularly for women; this is even more significant when training at altitude. Read what Amanda has to say about iron, and enjoy an easy, lightened up lasagna, brimming with iron-rich foods like lean beef, spinach and whole grains, and great for both pre and refueling those tempo, interval, and long run workouts.

"Having just battled a bout of anemia myself, I recognize the importance of staying ahead of the game.  Just like any potential injury, if you don’t do preventative care and monitor the situation, you are more susceptible to problems. Anemia is no different.  By definition, anemia is when one’s hemoglobin levels fall below what is normal for that individual’s age and sex, thus resulting in a lack of oxygen carried by the blood.  Perhaps the most commonly known culprit for anemia is an iron deficiency in the body.  In this case, there is not enough iron to make adequate hemoglobin, the carrier of oxygen.  Another cause for anemia is a B12/folate deficiency which prevents red blood cells from replicating quickly enough. One type of pseudoanemia, commonly found among runners is appropriately called footstrike anemia (hemolysis). According to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association(JAMA), footstrike anemia is “caused by the pounding of the feet on pavement…Symptoms include an increase in plasma with disintegration of red blood cells, and in long-distance runners, gastrointestinal blood loss.” When the female patient in JAMA’s study stopped running for four weeks, per doctors’ orders, her red cell volume significantly increased.

It is advised that people not self-diagnose their condition and start taking supplements, but rather get a blood test and a doctor’s recommendation. Following a good diet (eating plenty of meat and poultry, ingesting plenty of vitamin-C sources, and avoiding coffee and tea which inhibit iron uptake) is an excellent way to stay on top of the issue. However, if you are already feeling the effects of iron-deficiency anemia (extreme fatigue, nausea after aerobic activity, ice craving, decline in athletic performance), you’d better seek out the advice of a doctor.  Once your iron stores have dropped too low, eating a huge spinach salad isn’t going to boost your performance back to where it was."

Lean Beef, spinach, and mushroom lasagna


  • Cooking spray
  • 1  pound  ground lean beef
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 2  (26-ounce) jars low-fat marinara sauce
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 1/2  cups lowfat cottage cheese
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1  egg
  • 1/4  cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 1  (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 8  cooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 1/2  cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


Preheat oven to 350°.

Coat a large skillet with cooking spray, and place over medium-high heat until hot. Add turkey, onion, and garlic; cook until meat is browned, stirring to crumble. Add mushrooms and marinara sauce, reserving ½ cup sauce; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Combine cottage and ricotta cheese, egg, Parmesan, basil and oregano, pepper, and spinach; stir well.

Spread reserved marinara sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 4 noodles over marinara; top with cottage cheese mixture and half of the mozzarella. Spoon half of the meat and mushroom mixture over the mozzarella. Arrange the remaining noodles over turkey mixture. Top with remaining meat mixture and mozzarella.

Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until cheese melts and sauce is bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Photo credit: Flikr user darque9