Stuffed peppers are an all-in-one dish filled with meat, rice and veggies, but thanks to the high carb content of rice, this family favorite might not work on your low-carb diet. With a few modifications, however, you may be able to make a lower-carb version to satisfy your cravings for this comfort food.
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The Original Recipe
While there are many different versions of stuffed peppers, most include any color pepper, ground beef, rice, onions, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. This version of the recipe has 29 grams of total carbs or 25 grams of net carbs, give or take, depending on the exact ingredients. Many low-carb diets count "net" carbs, not total carbs. Net carbs include only those carbs that affect blood sugar, which doesn't include fiber or sugar alcohols. For the stuffed peppers, it's total carbs minus grams of fiber, or 29 grams of total carbs minus 4 grams of fiber.
About Those Peppers and Tomato Sauce
When it comes to lowering the carb count in your stuffed peppers, you want to start with the pepper. In addition to having subtle differences in taste, they also have different nutritional profiles. And you're going to want to go for green peppers to save the most carbs. One large green pepper has 5 grams of net carbs, vs. 7 grams of net carbs in a large red pepper and 10 grams in a yellow pepper.
Tomato and pasta sauces may also be a hidden source of carbs. Some jarred spaghetti sauces have added sugar, which ups the carb content. A 1/2-cup serving has anywhere from 6 to 11 grams of net carbs. Add flavor and save carbs using canned tomatoes instead, which have 2 grams of net carbs per 1/2 cup. Or, make your own low-carb sauce to use in the recipe.
Low-Carb Alternatives to Rice
Rice might be called for in the traditional stuffed pepper recipe, but there are a number of low-carb alternatives you can use instead. If you're looking for something similar to rice, consider shirataki rice, which is made from a low-carb root vegetable called glucomannan. This ricelike product is virtually carb-free and can be used in place of rice in the recipe. Other low-carb veggies work, too. Diced zucchini or yellow squash, chopped spinach or turnip greens or sliced mushrooms all make a great filling. Ricotta cheese also makes a tasty low-carb substitute for rice in stuffed peppers. One recipe uses it in place of both rice and onions to create a stuffed pepper recipe with 9 grams of net carbs per serving.
What About the Meat
Beef is most often used to stuff peppers. While fat isn't as much of an issue on a low-carb diet, consider using a leaner ground beef such as 93 percent lean to limit saturated fat intake. Ground turkey and ground chicken also work as healthier meats to stuff in your peppers.
You don't have to avoid stuffed pepper if you're not a meat eater, though. Soy crumbles, which have 1 gram of net carbohydrate per 1/2 cup, make a good meatless alternative to ground meat or poultry without adding a lot of carbs.