5-Or-More-Like-1 Spice Turkey Lettuce Wraps

This past week, I had follow up lab work for my pitifully low Vitamin D levels and high cholesterol levels. A few months back, during routine lab work I found out that I had slightly elevated total and LDL cholesterol, as well as triglycerides, which can often come as a result of either excess carbohydrate in the diet or excess calories in general. I decided that I would make a few small changes to my diet, and see if it had any effect when I went in for my follow up. So, for 6 months I focused on eating at least 4 low- or no-carb meals per week,* and either not eating dessert or choosing a healthful option (ie fruit, cinnamon whole grain toast, yogurt, etc.) at least 3 times a week. I kept up my regular exercise routine and otherwise, my lifestyle stayed the same. I guess it was enough, because my cholesterol levels are officially well within the normal ranges!

Moving forward, I plan to continue with sporadic low-carb meals and smart dessert choices, though I’m going to be much less strict about tallying every single meal each week that I eat under these categories.  After 6 months, it’s safe to say that these behaviors have been pretty well incorporated into my lifestyle, and I feel as though I can confidently continue with these goals without paying such close attention. I’ll also continue to stick to no more than 1 alcoholic drink per week (not exactly a hardship for me) and 2 full eggs. These aren’t steadfast rules for anyone with elevated triglycerides or cholesterol levels – you have to find what works for you, and until I pass my RD exam 2 years down the road, I can’t offer official dietary advice – but the changes I made were all evidence-based, reputable dietary factors that have been shown to lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels in the past. So, if you find yourself in a similar situation, definitely speak to your doctor, but feel free to try incorporating some of these tactics into your everyday life.

Although the 5 Spice Turkey Lettuce Wrap recipe I’m sharing with you today isn’t officially low-carb because it incorporates rice, making lettuce wraps in general is a fantastic way to by-pass carbohydrates in a meal now and then. I haven’t mastered the art of eating them yet, though, and wind up making a huge mess, but I have a feeling that mishap is on my end and to no fault of the recipe. Plus, these are so good that I don’t mind making a mess eating them! I did change the recipe, using cinnamon instead of 5 spice because I couldn’t find it and a green pepper instead of a red one, which made it less vibrant but no less delicious. It was also a perfect amount of food, which is always a good thing.

Lettuce Wraps au passé: Buffalo Turkey Lettuce Wraps

5-Or-More-Like-1 Spice Turkey Lettuce Wraps, adapted from Eating Well
Yield: 4 servings

The Ingredients
½ cup water
½ cup instant brown rice
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 pound lean ground turkey breast
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 large bell pepper, finely diced
8 ounces water chestnuts, rinsed & chopped
½ cup reduced- or no-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or 5 spice powder)
1-2 heads romaine (or boston) lettuce, leaves separated
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1 large carrot, shredded

The Method
Boil the water in a small sauce pan and add the rice, reducing the heat to low. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and add the turkey and ginger. Cook, crumbling the turkey, until it has cooked through, roughly 6 minutes. Stir in the rice, bell pepper, water chestnuts, broth, hoisin, and cinnamon or 5 spice, cooking until heated through, approximately 1 more minute. Serve spooned over prepared lettuce leaves and topped with cilantro and carrot.

*Please know that this post, as well as any other in which I talk about low-carb meals, is not in any way meant to condone a “low carb diet.” Carbohydrates are essential to human life and wellness, and eliminating too many can be equally or even more hazardous. However, high carbohydrate diets can also have adverse health effects, which is why carefully cutting back on carbohydrates a few times each week can be beneficial to those suffering from high triglyceride or cholesterol levels. Also note that refined, simple sugars such as those found in candies and desserts are more of a threat than the carbohydrates found in whole grains and fruits, so be judicious with which carbs you choose to limit. 


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