Helping families eat healthier for less

Helping families eat healthier for less

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Serve Meal in Bell Pepper for Nutrition Bonus

STOUFFER'S Macaroni & Cheese inside a red bell pepper.

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Nestle and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Balance Your Plate is a recipe contest by Nestle where you start with a Nestle frozen food item and add other foods to it to make it a nutritious, balanced meal that meets the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Last month, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee issued their preliminary version of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The report concludes that generally we do not eat enough vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy and many of us eat too many refined grains, added sugars, saturated fats, and salt. We should strive to make half our plate fruits and veggies, at least half our grains whole grains, switch to fat free or lowfat dairy products, watch portions, and get regular physical activity.

Planning a healthy meal day after day can be challenging, even for a dietitian. Some days after coming home from work you’re tired and have no energy and the last thing you want to do is spend an hour or better in the kitchen putting together a healthy meal.

Frozen meals can easily fit into a balanced plate. You make them more balanced by adding a serving or more of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, or lowfat dairy. Frozen meals are one way to keep on handle portion size as well as cost, especially when you find them on sale or have a coupon.

Here are some creative ways to make a more balanced meal that start with a Nestle frozen food:
  • Top your baked frozen pizza with salad. Purchase a salad kit from the produce department of your supermarket. (My favorite is sweet kale vegetable salad kit that includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chicory, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds.) Prepare the salad as directed on the package, and then place it on top of your baked pizza. Cut into wedges and enjoy.

  • Serve your favorite LEAN CUISINE entree with a lower sodium vegetable-based soup, such a carrot ginger.

  • Serve your favorite LEAN CUISINE® entree over a baked sweet potato or baked winter squash.

  • Top your favorite LEAN POCKETS® or HOT POCKETS® with a zesty bean dip (Rinse and drain a can of white or black beans and put in food processor, along with herbs and spices, hot sauce, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil).

  • Prepare a salsa of mango, green onion, red bell pepper, lime juice and jalapeno pepper. Pour over your favorite LEAN POCKETS® or HOT POCKETS®.

  • Prepare your favorite LEAN POCKETS® or HOT POCKETS® as directed on the package. Then cut it up into crouton-size pieces and serve over a tossed green salad.

  • Prepare your favorite LEAN CUISINE® Simple Favorites (such as Santa Fe-Style Rice & Beans)  or Morning Collection  (such as Veggie Scramble) entrees according to package directions. Microwave a whole grain tortilla and serve your Simple Favorite entrée inside the tortilla along with a 4-ounce glass of 100% fruit or vegetable juice.

My favorite suggestion to serve a more balanced meal is very simple one. Serve your Nestle product inside a cooked bell pepper. You may be surprised at the nutrition that just one red bell pepper adds to a meal. One medium red bell pepper adds only 37 calories and no fat, 5 mg of sodium, 2.5 grams of fiber and helps you meet 75% of your daily value for vitamin A and over 250% of your vitamin C needed for the day. And if you use a large red bell pepper, you get over 100% of your vitamin A and 349% of your vitamin C for the day and add only 51 calories and 7 mg of sodium. What a tasty way to get your vitamins. Green bell peppers are good, too, although you don’t get near as much of vitamins A and C as you do with the red ones.

You can fill you bell pepper with a number of different Nestle products.  Here are a few examples.

Start with peppers that have flat bottoms so that they will sit upright in a custard cup or container. Slice off the top of the bell pepper and remove the seeds and inner membranes. 

Slice top off pepper and remove seeds and membranes.

I found that it is best to partially cook the bell pepper before filling in. So, cover it loosely with plastic wrap and microwave on high power for 2 and a half minutes.

Microwave bell pepper for 2-1/2 minutes.

Fill the partially cooked bell pepper with your favorite frozen entrée that has been allowed to thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Fill partially cooked pepper with thawed macaroni & cheese.

Here is a red bell pepper with STOUFFER’S macaroni & cheese.

Finished Macaroni & Cheese in red bell pepper.

Here is a green bell pepper stuffed with STOUFFER’S Chili Cheese Mac Cup

Chili Cheese Mac in a Green Bell Pepper.

Here is a pepper stuffed with LEAN CUISINE Turkey Sausage Scramble

Turkey Sausage Scramble in a green bell pepper.

Here’s the complete recipe for the Macaroni & Cheese Stuffed Bell Pepper:

Macaroni & Cheese Stuffed Bell Pepper


1 12-ounce package LEAN CUISINE® Macaroni & Cheese
1 red or green bell pepper
Parsley or cilantro for garnish, if desired


Thaw frozen Macaroni & Cheese in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
Wash and dry the green or red bell pepper. Slice off the stem top and remove the inner seeds and membranes. Place pepper in a custard cup or microwaveable container to hold it upright. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Microwave on High power for 2 and a half minutes.
Uncover and fill partially cooked bell pepper with softened macaroni & cheese.
Microwave, covered, on High Power for 2 to 3 minutes, or until peppers are tender. Let set for 1 minute. Garnish with parsley or cilantro, if desired.

Makes 1 Serving.

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