Find out how to make a healthy filling for these “boats.”
You're probably familiar with stuffed peppers, stuffed tomatoes, and stuffed mushrooms. If you like stuffed veggies, another great option is stuffed squash. Summer squashes like zucchini, yellow squash, or the light green Mexican squash (calabacita) have a neutral flavor, so they’re an excellent base for whatever filling you want.
Summer squashes are low in calories and carbohydrates. That’s important for people with diabetes because controlling your carb intake can help you improve blood sugar levels. In comparison to a sandwich or taco, these stuffed zucchini boats help you enjoy great flavor with fewer calories.
Choosing a Healthy Filing
When you make stuffed veggies, it’s important to choose healthy ingredients for the stuffing or filling. As much as you can, you should use lean proteins, complex carbs, and non-starchy veggies.
You might be tempted to use red meat and a lot of cheese, but those ingredients add a lot of saturated fat. This type of fat can increase your blood cholesterol and hurt your heart health. For this reason, it’s important to minimize the quantity of saturated fat in your diet, especially if you have diabetes. Learn more about the link between diabetes and heart disease here.
This recipe for stuffed zucchini boats uses a combination of extra-lean ground turkey (which has only 2.5 grams of saturated fat) and black beans. The beans are a meatless protein, and they’re low in fat and high in fiber and other nutrients. By combining these two proteins, you lower the amount of saturated fat and increase the fiber, compared to just using ground turkey alone.
In place of a heaping handful of Oaxaca cheese (for example), this recipe uses Parmesan cheese. It’s not “traditional,” but Parmesan has a strong flavor, which means you can use a small amount and still have a ton of flavor. As a result, the final product will have less saturated fat, without compromising on flavor. Here are more heart-healthy tricks to get your cheese fix.
Mexican squash, or calabacitas, work great for this recipe, but if you can’t find them at your supermarket, that’s no problem: You can also use other squashes, like zucchini or yellow squash. And of course, this filling would be fantastic inside a pepper.
- 4 medium calabacitas (Mexican squash) or zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced
- 15 oz can black beans (reduced sodium), drained and rinsed
- 1 lb. extra-lean ground turkey
- 1 tsp. salt (optional)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce (no-salt-added preferred)
- 8 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1. Scoop out insides of squash and chop them coarsely. Set aside squash shells. 2. Combine onion, garlic and turkey in a bowl and mix well. Add salt if desired. 3. Warm up oil in a pot. Once medium warm add the turkey mixture. 4. Cook turkey while mixing. Break up any large chunks with a wooden spoon. 5. Once turkey is cooked, add the beans and tomato sauce and let it cook until beans soften. 6. Add calabacitas and half of the Parmesan cheese. Let cook for another 4-5 minutes or until calabacitas are slightly softer. 7. Once calabacitas are soft, remove from stove 8. Spread mixture evenly inside of the shells. Align them on an oven safe plate. 9. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese evenly on top of stuffed calabacitas shells. 10. Bring calabacitas to the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes until shells are softer but slightly crisp and cheese is golden brown. Top with cilantro before serving.
Nutrition Information Based on a Single Serving
*Percent Daily Value are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Get to know carbs. Arlington, VA: American Diabetes Association. (Accessed on March 23, 2020 at https://www.diabetes.org/nutrition/understanding-carbs/get-to-know-carbs.)
Healthy food choices made easy. Arlington, VA: American Diabetes Association. (Accessed on March 23, 2020 at https://www.diabetes.org/nutrition/healthy-food-choices-made-easy.)
Protein. Arlington, VA: American Diabetes Association. (Accessed on March 23, 2020 at https://www.diabetes.org/nutrition/healthy-food-choices-made-easy/protein.)
Turkey, ground, 93% lean, 7%, raw. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Accessed on March 23, 2020 at https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172850/nutrients.)