Healthified Stuffed Peppers | Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free

healthified stuffed peppers made with ground turkey, veggies, rice and lentils and covered in tomato sauce

Healthifying A Classic Comfort Food – Stuffed Peppers

Today’s recipe is a healthier version of a classic comfort food staple – stuffed peppers.  

Along with details of the things we change to clean it up.  Where the food comes from and what may be lurking along plays a role.  

But first, let’s talk about the gut microbiome and lentils.  Because we are adding lentils to everything now!

We add a lentils to our Healthified fried chicken salad or use them in a batch of home cooked black beans.

As you know, I’m obsessed with the gut microbiome and how it is linked to the immune system.  

Read more and dietary fiber, prebiotics and probiotics in my post here.

I’m reading The Good Gut by the Drs. Sonnenburg and it is eye-opening to say the least.  

They are a husband and wife team at Stanford that have researched gut microbiota for years.  

It is crazy how important gut microbiota are and how intricately they are linked to our immune system.  

A pill can’t fix this yet.  So what can we do?

  • We need to feed our gut microbiota (gut bugs) lots of dietary fiber (much more than consumed in a typical Western diet).
  • As well as avoid triclosan, antibiotics, and pesticides (aka, glyphosate-ridden food). –> Especially, if you’ve taken broad-spectrum antibiotics that most likely wiped out your microbiota and now you need to rebuild your gut bacteria to a healthy state of being.  
  • And keep in mind that while probiotics (yogurt, fermented foods, supplements) help the immune system fine-tune itself, they don’t replace our own native bacteria.  
  • We need to eat prebiotics, which are foods that feed the gut bacteria (whole grains, vegetables, fruit, beans and lentils).  
  • We want to create an environment for a diverse microbiome to flourish again with lots of diverse clean food, because different types of food feed different gut bugs.  

So we personally already eat a diversity of fruits, veggies, whole grains and beans.  But I’ve never really jumped on the lentil band wagon.  Until now.  

I’m making an effort to eat much more of them because they are so high in fiber and packed with folate which is good because of my MTHFR variants, too.  And our gut bacteria will be so much happier and healthier!  

It’s really all about making the gut bugs happy.

So let’s healthify one of our comfort food favorites together.

Veggies

We try to choose organic whenever possible.  Adding veggies like organic carrots and zucchini adds more plant dietary fiber and flavor so we throw some of those into the mixture.  The bell peppers are organic, too.  

Make sure to wash everything well.  

The tomato sauce is organic and comes from a jar, not a can, to avoid BPA (not known to affect the gut but it is an endocrine disrupter).  

Even cans that are labeled as BPA-free may actually be lined with a worse sister chemical BPS.  Yikes.  

So I prefer to buy acidic (tomato sauce) and fat (coconut milk) products that may leach the BPA or BPS in glass jars, cartons, or aseptic containers instead of cans.  But I’m not as worried about something like artichokes in a can.

Spices

Most of the spices we use are also organic.  

I really love using Redmond Life Real Salt Seasoned Salt in a dish like this.  It is a combination of real salt with organic spices.  It adds a nice touch to everything and a little more depth of flavor.  

Plus the spices are really good for you (hello turmeric)!  

As far as regular salt, I like to use a blend of the pink Himalayan salt and iodized table salt.  That way you get the benefits of both.  

Meat

I use ground turkey instead of beef to keep it lean and reduce fat content.  Because I don’t metabolize fat well, I prefer to use leaner cuts of meat like turkey or bison.  

Also, depending on where the animal comes from there may be toxins built up in the animal’s fat, like dioxin.  

If using beef, it is better to go with grass-fed beef versus corn-fed beef.  And the meat should be hormone and antibiotic-free.

Lentils and Rice

Yay lentils!  

So I usually cook the rice separately and thought why not just add lentils to the rice I’m cooking.  

But that didn’t work.  

So after a little more research, it seems like we need to start cooking the lentils first and then add the rice.

To cook lentils, use a 1:3 ratio of lentils to water.  So if you want to cook 1 cup dried lentils then use 3 cups water or for 1/4 cup dried lentils use 3/4 cups water.  The rice to water ratio is 1:2.

Start cooking the lentils first for 10 minutes, and then add the rice and cook another 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed.  

I used 1/2 cup rinsed organic lentils in this recipe.  I didn’t feel like that was too much because they don’t really change the flavor of anything.  But if you want to hide them a bit more, start with 1/4 cup.  

Then when done add the cooked rice and lentils to the meat, veggie and sauce mixture before stuffing the peppers.

BTW – According to Consumer Reports, organic white Basmati rice from California, Indian or Pakistan has the least amount of arsenic while brown rice and Texas rice has the most.  

Organic brown rice does not mean it is free of arsenic.  But soaking and rinsing the rice can help remove about 30% of the arsenic.

Recipe

So back to the recipe.  Let me just say that the leftovers are awesome.  Perfect for lunches during the week!  

And I know this because my super picky husband ate the leftover stuffed peppers for two days in a row and really liked them. 🙂

Healthified Stuffed Peppers | Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free

A healthier version of a classic comfort food with added veggies and lentils for increasing dietary fiber in one of your favorite dishes.
Course Main Course
Keyword healthy turkey stuffed peppers
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings 6
Author Deana Larkin Evans

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup green lentils
  • 1/2 cup Basmati rice
  • 3 cups filtered water, divided
  • 4 large bell peppers
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 3 skinny carrots
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 0.75 lb ground lean turkey
  • 2 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 16 oz 2 cups tomato sauce, divided
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Rinse the lentils and place in a small saucepan with 1 1/2 cups filtered water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Rinse the rice, then add to the same saucepan as the lentils with 1 cup filtered water. Again raise the heat to bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Set aside when done.
  4. Meanwhile, wash all the veggies and peel the carrots. Slice the carrots and cut the zucchini into small pieces. Remove the top and seeds from the peppers then cut in half and remove the veins. Place the bell peppers into a glass baking dish.
  5. Add the EVOO, carrots, and zucchini into a 3.5 quart Dutch oven or medium saucepan. Cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring often. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  6. Add the ground turkey and cook until the meat is no longer pink and cooked through, about 7 minutes.
  7. Add the spices, 1 cup (8 oz) of tomato sauce, and Worcestershire sauce to the meat and veggie mixture. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and add the cooked lentils and rice to the meat and veggie mixture. Stir until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Fill each pepper with the mixture. Mix the remaining cup of tomato sauce with the Italian seasoning and spoon on top of the peppers. Pour 1/2 cup water into the baking dish around the peppers. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes in the oven. Remove the foil and cook for 5 more minutes. Enjoy your healthified stuffed peppers!

Recipe Notes

Most of the veggies, spices, lentils and rice are organic.

Adapted from allrecipes.com

Want More Recipes Like Healthified Stuffed Peppers?

Deana Larkin Evans

You get one life - do your best to ENJOY IT! So hi, I'm Deana. This food blog is all about cooking wholesome real food and developing gluten free recipes for some of our favorite comfort foods. I also create weekly menus to save time and money while reducing stress and food waste. I had to start eating gluten-free in 2010 and dairy/casein-free (except for the occasional Parmesan or goat cheese) in 2014. I'm kind of a science nerd, too. In the '90s, I earned an undergrad degree in biochemistry from The University of Texas at Austin. Hook 'em! Then followed up with a PhD in biochemistry and a law degree from the University of Houston. I recently earned a certificate in genomics/sequence analysis from Johns Hopkins University, where I also took a very cool food microbiology course. Currently, I'm studying the microbiome and gut health. And trying to come up with recipes to feed those gut bugs! #feedthegutbugs

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