Try Bean Pastas for a Diabetes-Friendly Meal

One of my favorite grocery items growing in popularity and now much easier to find at the store, is the variety of bean-based pastas. My favorite is chickpea pasta and my cabinet is typically stuffed with a variety of Banza pasta and “rice”.

The base of this pasta is chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans, which are higher in protein and fiber and slightly lower in carbohydrates per serving than regular and even whole wheat pasta. Here are 3 ideas for using chickpea pasta.

  1. Make a high protein pasta salad. This is the perfect take-to-work lunch. Make a large batch to eat over several meals. Cook and cool the pasta. Add chopped cucumber, carrots, broccoli and/or bell pepper. For additional protein, add chopped chicken, deli turkey or any type of white bean like great northern or more chickpeas. Use a zesty Italian dressing and a little extra red wine vinegar for a punch of flavor. I like to add extra flavor with a seasoning blend like Code 3 Spices Grunt Rub (it’s like my version of Frank’s Red Hot; I put Grunt Rub on everything).
  2. Chili MacHealthy. What’s more comforting than a bowl of chili mac? Click here for the quickie version. Try it with chickpea pasta instead of regular pasta to make a satisfying meal that will lead to less of a blood sugar spike. Also, a great option for making leftovers, or as I call them, planned-overs.
  3. Pasta con Broccoli you can feel good about. This dish is notoriously loaded with saturated fat, carbs and calories and a tiny amount of broccoli- not exactly a picture of health. Make it healthy and diabetes friendly by using a lighter sauce, double the amount of broccoli and use chickpea pasta. I’ve always liked an alfredo sauce like this one that uses cottage cheese as the base. Add grilled chicken or shrimp to increase the protein and make a meal that looks and tastes indulgent.

Banza chickpea pasta and Barilla chickpea pasta are two of the more common brands you’ll find at the grocery store or online.

Try chickpea pasta in this Buttered Spaghetti recipe.

3 Ways to Learn to Love Vegetables

Going plant-based or just eating more veggies is daunting if you don’t like vegetables, but there are ways to learn to love them. Start by putting aside bad vegetable experiences of your past, like having to clean your plate of overcooked broccoli. Vegetables do not have to be bland or boring. Try these 3 ways to enjoy veggies:

A variety of chopped vegetables like carrots, roasted broccolli and zucchini make up this healthy diabetes friendly grain bowl.
  • Add diced carrots, bell peppers or butternut squash to chili. The vegetables will take on the flavor of the chili spices and add more texture and nutrition to your dish. Add towards the beginning of cooking if you prefer them soft; add towards the end of cooking if you prefer them more crunchy.
  • Try one vegetable in a variety of ways to find your favorite preparation. Broccoli, for instance, tastes different raw than it does cooked, and cooking methods will change the flavor too. Try an experiment of tasting raw broccoli with dip, steamed broccoli with soy sauce and roasted broccoli with parmesan cheese and pick your favorite. 
  • Go to a vegetarian restaurant or one that offers a variety of plant-based options and taste how the pros prepare them. When you find something you like, ask questions about how it was prepared and with what seasonings. You can try mimicking the flavors at home. 

In St. Louis, Revel Kitchen and Rootbound have a variety of plant-based and vegan options.

If eating enough vegetables seems challenging, try 1 or 2 meatless meals per week. To learn more about vegetarian cooking, try meal delivery services like Green Chef (plant powered), Sunbasket, or Daily Harvest.

Learn more about diabetes prevention and vegan diets. Talk to a registered dietitian to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Microwave Friendly Simple Chicken Teriyaki Stir-fry

Makes 4 servings

This is a very quick dinner idea or lunch meal prep option for people managing their blood sugars. The no sugar marinade and smaller portion of rice per serving help reduce total carbohydrates.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb frozen, fully cooked, diced chicken breast- reheated in the microwave according to package directions
  • 1 lb bag frozen stir fry vegetables, cooked in the microwave according to package directions
  • 1 bag Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice, whole grain brown, cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup G. Hughes sugar free Teriyaki marinade

Make it

  1. After heating the chicken and vegetables, combine in a large dish. You can also choose to combine these in a saute pan if you prefer to cook the sauce into the meat and veggies. Otherwise, add the Teriyaki marinade to the chicken and veggie mix and stir to combine.
  2. Serve the chicken and vegetable mix over warm brown rice.

Approximate Nutrition Information:

  • Makes 4 servings; per serving:
  • 262 calories
  • 4 g fat
  • 1 g saturated fat
  • 996 mg sodium
  • 27 g carbohydrate
  • 1 g fiber
  • 3 g sugar
  • 30 g protein
  • 159 mg potassium

What Foods are High in Protein and Low in Carbs?

The food we eat is made up of 3 macronutrients: carbohydrates, fat and protein. Some foods are a mix of these and some are primarily one macronutrient. People with diabetes are often told to eat more “lean” protein and eat fewer carbohydrates. Here is a list of lean protein, lower (or no) carbohydrate foods:

  • Chicken breast
  • Turkey breast
  • Beef loin or round
  • Pork loin
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Lean bison
  • Venison
  • Whey protein powder
  • Vegan protein powder (check brands for nutrition)
  • Low fat cottage cheese
  • Fat free or low fat Greek yogurt
  • Egg whites
  • Soybeans or edamame
  • Tofu
Siggi’s plant based yogurt with 10 grams protein

For a quick, high protein low carb snack, stir 1/4 cup whey protein powder into 5 ounces Greek yogurt. Top it with 1/4 cup berries and 2 tablespoons granola. Some of my favorite Greek yogurt options are Siggi’s Nonfat Icelandic yogurt, Siggi’s plant based yogurt, Oikos Triple Zero and Chobani Less Sugar Greek yogurt.

Plant-based Meal Ideas for People with Diabetes

The buzz is all about plant-based. So what is a plant-based eating style? Plant-based diet or eating style is a broad term for eating patterns that focus on foods primarily from plants, but generally not completely meat and dairy free. A vegan diet is strictly plant only with no animal products.

Vegetarian taco salad with sauteed zucchini, black beans and avocado makes a healthy lunch for people with diabetes.

When we look at all of the studies on diets over the years, one thing rings true. The more vegetables in a diet, the better. For people with diabetes, eating more non-starchy vegetables is good for reducing processed carbohydrate intake, increasing micronutrients and fiber in the diet and a heart-healthy option. Here are 5 meal ideas that are plant-focused.

  1. Pasta primavera with whole wheat or bean pasta: cook you favorite whole wheat or bean pasta, like chickpea pasta, and combine it with steamed or sautéed (or just you favorite frozen veggie mix straight out of the microwave) vegetables. Some good options are chopped zucchini, bell peppers, broccoli and tomatoes, but any of your favorites will work. Mix the pasta and veggies with 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, chopped garlic or granulated garlic, grated parmesan cheese and a dash of salt and pepper. Add crushed red pepper flakes if you like spicy. Chopped olives and jarred sun-dried tomatoes add extra flavor to this meal.
  2. Simple Vegetable Soup: this is a basic vegetable soup which can be eaten as is, or you can add other vegetables, more spices, or even leftover baked chicken for additional protein- the soup would still be largely plant based. Click here for the recipe.
  3. A little beef and broccoli stir-fry: instead of using a pound of meat to make a typical beef stir-fry, use half a pound. Or if you are cooking for several people, use a pound of beef, but double the broccoli or other vegetables. Using less meat in a recipe is an easy money-saver too. Pair with Birdseye Steamfresh frozen brown rice (so quick and easy!) or riced cauliflower.
  4. Mediterranean tuna salad: use a small can of tuna and mix it with rinsed, drained white beans, chopped cucumber and cherry tomatoes, Italian dressing and chopped olives. Serve over salad greens or with a higher fiber cracker like Triscuits, Ak-Mak or Wasa crackers.
  5. Zucchini turkey tacos: in place of half of the ground turkey you would normally use, substitute chopped or shredded zucchini as you cook your ground turkey. The zucchini will take on the flavor of the taco seasoning. Top with shredded spinach, tomatoes, salsa, jalapeños and black olives to really up the veggies in this dish.

Zesty Buffalo Chicken Burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground chicken breast
  • 1/3 cup Frank’s Red Hot sauce
  • 1/3 cup ground parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat or gluten free breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tablespoon Code 3 Spices Grunt Rub
  • Sliced pepperjack cheese
  • Whole wheat hamburger buns or eat without bread

Make it

  1. In a large mixing bowl, add ground chicken, hot sauce, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and Grunt Rub spice. Mix to combine. Form into 4 patties. Spray or brush each side with olive oil.
  2. Place on the grill over medium heat for 8-10 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature of the burger reaches 165°F. When the burgers are close to temp, add a slice of cheese on each to melt.
  3. Serve on whole wheat buns on their own. Top with desired toppings like hot sauce, light ranch, pickles, etc.

Approximate Nutrition Information:

  • Makes 4 servings; for 1 burger on bun:
  • 380 calories
  • 14 g fat
  • 6 g saturated fat
  • 1511 mg sodium
  • 28 g carbohydrate
  • 4 g fiber
  • 2 g sugar
  • 40 g protein
  • 159 mg potassium

Simple Diabetes Friendly Dinner Ideas

It’s 6:00 PM and you don’t know what you are having for dinner. A common yet fixable problem. When it comes to making meals that are healthy for people with diabetes, keep it simple to start, include a source of protein and squeeze in as many vegetables as you can. Here are 5 ideas for simple dinners:

  1. Mac and cheese with broccoli and chicken: use a whole wheat mix or Banza mac and cheese. Cook a bag of microwave friendly frozen broccoli, like Birdseye Stemfresh. Add to the cooked mac and cheese. Open and drain a large can of canned chunk chicken breast. Add it to the mix. Add pepper or your favorite garlicky seasoning to taste. This will make about 3 to 4 servings.
  2. Quickie Chili Mac-Healthy: healthy, hearty and uses pantry staples.
  3. Everything cheesy scramble with whole grain toast: scramble 2 eggs and add 1/4 cup shredded or one slice cheese. Season with “everything bagel” seasoning and add any chopped veggies that need to get used up. Serve with a slice of whole wheat or high fiber toast with butter or peanut butter and a drizzle of honey.
  4. Shake and cookies: use this option on nights you really don’t feel like cooking and really do feel like eating dessert. Make a high protein shake like this one. Serve with two Simple Mills soft baked cookies. (Note: if you worry you’ll be temped to eat many of these cookies once they are in the house, keep them in the freezer). To increase the fiber in this meal, add a powdered fiber supplement when blending the shake. I recommend 1st Phorm Multi-Fiber in vanilla or unflavored to mix well with any flavor shake or smoothie you make.
  5. Toasted turkey and cheese with semi-homemade vegetable soup: Make a grilled cheese but layer deli turkey in with the cheese. For the soup, start with a can of reduced sodium vegetable soup. In a medium saucepan, mix the soup, 2 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth and half a bag of frozen mixed vegetables (or any chopped fresh veggies you need to use up like carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, spinach or cauliflower). Add pepper or other spices to taste. If you prefer spicy, add crushed red pepper flakes or sriracha, but remember a little goes a long way. Heat the soup mix on low to medium heat until warmed through.

Ready to tackle breakfast ideas next? Click here for six healthy breakfast ideas.

When you are ready create your healthy lifestyle, work with our registered dietitians at Well My Way Virtual Nutrition. Book online or contact us with questions.

6 Breakfast Recipe Ideas for People with Diabetes

Goodbye drive-thrus!  Once you try these 6 breakfast recipes for people with diabetes, you won’t miss food from the drive-thru.  Each of these includes a good source of protein and complex carbohydrates to give you energy and keep you full through the morning. Eating protein at each meal also helps prevent snacking throughout the day.

  1. Overnight protein oats:  mix together in a small dish with a lid ½ cup old fashioned oats, ¼ cup vanilla whey protein powder and ½ cup water.  Stir to combine.  Top with 1/3 cup frozen cherries or strawberries, 2 tbsp chopped pecans, ¼ tsp cinnamon and a drizzle of honey. 
  2. Better peanut buster parfait:  the Dairy Queen version has 710 calories and 95 grams carbohydrate!  This version has 46 grams carbohydrate plus 24 grams of protein.  Stir 1 tbsp peanut butter or powdered peanut butter like PB2 into 6 ounces vanilla Greek yogurt.  Layer yogurt with 1/3 cup peanut butter Chex cereal, 2 tbsp chopped nuts and banana slices.
  3. Avocado breakfast taco:  scramble 2 eggs; in a low carb tortilla, like Mission Carb Balance, add the eggs, 2 tbsp guacamole or mashed avocado and chopped tomatoes or bell peppers.  Wrap and go!
  4. Peanut butter banana chocolate shake: click here for this on-the-go breakfast protein shake.
  5. Waffle sandwich:  toast 2 whole wheat or gluten free waffles.  Spread 2 tbsp mixed powdered peanut butter and banana or apple slices. Increase the protein with higher protein waffles like Kodiak Power Waffles, or mix 3 tbsp vanilla protein powder with one tbsp water to create a protein-rich spread.
  6. Breakfast charcuterie:   plate up 2 slices deli turkey or 2 hard boiled eggs, 2 slices cheese, 10 grapes, 6 Triscuit or 10 Nut Thin crackers and 6 chocolate covered almonds.

A registered dietitian is a food and nutrition professional. Work with a registered dietitian from the comfort of your home.

Diabetes Meals on the Go- Traveling by Car

When you are on the road, convenience is key for meals and snacks. Here are ideas for what to eat for diabetes when you are traveling by car.

Pack a small cooler

Keep it simple: turkey on whole wheat bread, greek yogurt and carrot sticks

Gas station options

Single serving packs of nuts, string cheese, lower sugar protein bars (12 grams sugar or less, 10 grams protein or more), Skinny Pop single serving bags, Fairlife Core Power protein shakes, P3 protein snack packs, Oscar Mayer Natural meat and cheese plate.

Fast Food

I suggest stearing clear of fast food if possible. It’s expensive for what you get and packed with preservatives and sodium. If it is the only option, here are some suggestions:

Subway turkey or chicken 6-inch sub on multigrain flatbread, hearty multigrain or sourdough bread. A 6-inch sub here will be around 40 grams carbohydrate. Or try one of their “No Bready” bowls, which is essentially a salad. Choose one with chicken, turkey or roast beef and load up the veggies.

Burger joints- they are pretty similar so at any of these places opt for a larger sandwich and no fries. A medium fry has about 60 grams of carbohydrates. A large burger will be close to that from the bun. A smaller hamburger is about 30 grams carbohydrate. Look for a small salad as a side option or get fruit and save it for a snack. Choose a burger or grilled chicken sandwich over fried fish or fried chicken sandwiches.

Get a list of higher protein, lower carbohydrate foods here. Great for travel or home.

If you travel often and would like help with your nutrition, work with a registered dietitian through virtual visits.

Best Breakfast Cereals for People with Diabetes or Prediabetes

Let’s face it. Cereal, for the most part, is not the healthiest choice for anyone, but there are some that can be worked into a healthy eating plan for people with diabetes or prediabetes. There are a couple of things you want to look for in a cereal:

  1. Fiber: Look for cereals with dietary fiber, 5 or more grams is best. Fiber helps minimize blood sugar spikes and is important for your gut microbiome.
  2. Protein: This is harder to find but not impossible. Adding dairy milk also adds protein to your cereal bowl at 8 grams protein per cup.
  3. Less sugar: 10 grams sugar or less per serving. The lower, the better.
  4. Less “stuff”: Cereal is a highly processed food so the fewer ingredients, likely the better. This does not include the added vitamins and minerals cereals are fortified with, but ingredients like added colors and BHT.

Here are 6 cereals to try if you have diabetes or prediabetes. Cereal is better as a sweet and crunchy snack than a breakfast.

Kashi Go: there are several flavors and all pass the fiber and protein test. They are CRUNCHY–beware! Try as a cereal or sprinkle some into Greek yogurt for added crunch.

Kashi Go Cinnamon cereal and nutrition facts label
Kashi Go Cinnamon Crisp cereal and nutrition facts label

RX Cereal: while it’s higher calorie than others, it’s also higher in protein. Try measuring out the portion size and put it in your favorite mug or bowl to know what a serving looks like. RX makes protein bars and mini protein bars with simple ingredients as well.

Bran Flakes: simple and high in fiber, bran flakes can be mixed with other cereals if you don’t like them on their own.

Bran flake cereal and nutrition facts label.
Bran flake cereal and nutrition facts label

Kashi Honey Toasted: this on is a slightly better version of Cheerios with 6 grams fiber and 4 grams protein per 1 cup serving. Mix up a vanilla protein shake to use as your cereal milk with this one for a more complete meal.

Kashi Honey Toasted cereal and nutrition facts label
Kashi Honey Toasted cereal and nutrition facts label

Kodiak Protein Packed Oatmeal: Kodiak makes many things from protein waffles to teddy-like snack cookies, with a focus on whole grains and protein. These oatmeal packs have 3 grams fiber and 12 grams protein per serving. Stir in raspberries or ground flaxseed to up the fiber even more.

Kodiak Protein-Packed Chocolate Chip Oatmeal and nutrition facts label
Kodiak Protein-Packed Chocolate Chip Oatmeal and nutrition facts label

Fiber One Honey Clusters: this one has more sugar and preservatives than some others, but people seem to love the taste and crunch. Also great as a Greek yogurt topper, this one has 4 grams protein and a whopping 10 grams fiber per cup.

Fiber One Honey Clusters cereal and nutrition facts label
Fiber One Honey Clusters cereal and nutrition facts label

If you are looking for cereals with no added sugar, try Uncle Sams Wheat Berry Flakes or Alpen Muesli No Sugar Added.

Click here for 6 more breakfast ideas for people with diabetes.