Amazing Asian Lettuce Wraps - Light at Night (PF Chang Knock-Off)

Posted by Kelli Jennings on

I’m not going to say I told you so.  But, really, I did.  Long before Paleo eating and Paleo for athletes came along, I’d been strongly suggesting that we need to get most all of the carbs out of dinner, and especially omit the grains.  That’s right, I’m a regular innovator:).  Actually, I think it’s been said (by some) for decades.  Sure, we need some whole-food carbs at breakfast, lunch, and small amounts in snacks throughout the day.  And, yes, many of them, like whole fruits and starchy vegetables like yams have much to offer us in terms of nutrients.  But, at night, most of (except for those working out after dinner) don’t need them.  If your household’s anything like mine, we sit down eat dinner, beg/plead/bribe our kids to just sit there and eat dinner (little angels), clean up, sort of relax, get the kids to bed, and then really relax.  We’re not running marathons or biking centuries after dinner, and our bodies would have little to do with a load of carbs besides store them.  So, what on earth can you eat for dinner without grains?

Recipe of the Week:  Asian Lettuce Wraps (P.F. Chang Knock-Off)


  • 16 large lettuce leaves

  • 1 Tbsp organic coconut oil or canola oil

  • 1 lb. ground chicken breast (or extra-firm non-gmo tofu for a vegetarian version)

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic

  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce or liquid aminos

  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce

  • 2 tsp minced fresh ginger (remember, the skin comes off easily by scraping with a spoon

  • 1 Tbsp rice wine or red wine vinegar

  • 2 tsp Asian chili sauce (like Sriracha)

  • 8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped

  • 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

  • 2 tsp sesame oil


  1. Rinse lettuce leaves, keeping them whole, and set aside to drain.

  2. Heat coconut oil in large skillet on medium heat and stir-fry chicken for 5-7 minutes.

  3. Add onion, garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar and chili sauce. Cook until the meat is crumbled and brown.

  4. Add water chestnuts and green onions. Cook until onions begin to wilt, about 2 minutes.

  5. Stir in sesame oil.

  6. Arrange lettuce leaves on the outer edge of a platter. Spoon meat mixture in center. Allow diners to spoon meat mixture into lettuce leaves and eat like a taco.


So now you know, I am a big fan of finishing the day with a “light” dinner.  I believe for both health and healthy weights, it’s best to consume the majority of daily calories during the day, while your most active and to end the day with a lighter intake.  And specifically, I recommend nixing most carbohydrates, and especially refined carbs unless it’s the evening directly before a “big” race or ride.  There’s simply not much need for quick-energy carbs at night, and most grains offer little benefit.  What’s more, overloading carbohydrates tends to promote fat storage unless they are readily used in activity.  So, I keep it light at night and recipes like this week’s allow me to do just that.

Pair with a nice, colorful spinach salad.  Now we’re talking.  Night after night, this is what I recommend my endurance athlete clients (and, really, most everybody) eat for dinner:

Protein: Even after consuming a recovery snack after any intense training during the day, protein at dinner can further decrease any muscle wasting, encourage muscle repair and rebuilding, and reduc spikes in blood sugar/insulin through the night.  During the night, your body is not made to deal with sugar.  Part of its natural rhythms tell it it shouldn’t have to.  You’ll sleep better and feel better without the sugar (carbs) at dinner.

Vegetables: The vegetables are a great source of antioxidants that supports cellular repair and decrease the oxidative stress that’s often high from training.  What’s more any garlic, onions, ginger, and spices you use to add flavor will add to the this antioxidant, anti-inflammation goodness.

Healthy Fats (organic coconut oils, avocados, unheated olive oil, etc): A healthy fat source promotes health with good hormone balance and moderated blood sugars.  They are also anti-inflammatory and provide satisfaction and flavor within a “carb-light” meal.

And what about tomorrow ride, run, climb?  If it’s a big one, and especially early in the day, go ahead and add some whole-food carbs to your meal.  A medium baked yam, 1/2-2/3 cup cooked rice or quinoa, spaghetti squash pasta, 1 cup plain yogurt or milk, 1 cup plain yogurt/milk, or 1 cup whole fruit.  For most of my clients, even those with demanding training schedules, a carb-light dinner is still possible 50% of the time, and is a big factor in achieving lean weight goals.

With this meal, you’ll never miss them.  And, you can thank me later for just saving you some cash and making this at home.  Have other restaurant foods you’d like knocked off?  Let me know and I’ll do my best to work up a healthy recipe.  After all, we all need to eat.  And, I for one, like tasty dishes.

Fuel Your Adventure. Nourish Your Body.

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment