A Few Tricks to Make the Kitchen Less Scary

The kitchen is a scary place for people who don’t like to cook.  Sort of like looking under the hood of a car is for me!  But the more you know, right?  So just like I was scared to check the oil, but learned how to and now it’s not scary, you can learn a few tricks in the kitchen to make cooking for diabetes less scary and more fun.

Here are a few tips for beginner cooks:

  1. How to chop veggies and basic knife skills: start with this quick 6-minute video from Tasty.com to learn the basics. This is an important step in order to add more fresh vegetables to your cooking. The important part is the safety and proper holding and motion of the knife. For most home cooks, the size of the dice or type of cut really doesn’t matter. It takes practice to get comfortable. As for the onion part, I prefer this method from Rachael Ray. Try chopping fresh garlic; it’s kitchen therapy!
  2. Foil is your friend. If the thought of cleaning up the kitchen is what stops you from cooking, try simple sheet pan meals with foil lined baking sheets. These are so versatile, easy to prepare and easier to clean. Be sure to cover all of the bottom and up the sides of your sheet pan to keep the pan totally clean during cooking. Here are sheet pan meal ideas from Eating Well. Foil packets are a great option for first-timers cooking fish, too. Try this Lemon Butter Baked Cod in foil packets.
  3. Use seasoning blends to shorten ingredient lists. For instance, if a recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon each dried oregano, dried thyme and dried rosemary, just use 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning instead. It might have a few more herbs in there, but your end product will be good, maybe even better. If the recipe calls for spices like garlic powder, onion powder and black pepper, a blend like Code 3 Spices Grunt Rub combines these and more. It’s excellent on vegetables, chicken, fish, pasta and potatoes. Side note: their Top Gun rub is the best, single item I’ve found for baking, grilling or smoking chicken breast you’ll actually crave.

Still scared in the kitchen? Try these simple diabetes friendly dinners.

Ready to learn more? Work with a registered dietitian from the comfort of your home.

5 Healthy Lunches that are Not Reheated Chicken Breast

Chicken breast is on 99% of grocery lists of people making diet changes for better health. And by week 3, 99% of those people are burned out on baked chicken breast. Here are 5 ideas for healthy meals that are chicken breast free.

  1. Burger Bowl: think of everything you like on a cheeseburger and put it into a healthy burger bowl. You can use brown rice, Banza chickpea rice or cauliflower rice as the base. Use lean beef, ground turkey or ground chicken for the “burger” meat. Try this Classic Cheeseburger Bowl.
  2. Cottage Cheese and fruit salad: use your favorite salad greens, top with cucumber and a fruit or two (examples: diced apples or pears, sliced strawberries, pineapple tidbits, halved grapes). Top it with 1/2 to 1 cup cottage cheese for 13 to 26 grams of protein.
  3. Chili Mac: this dish is great for prepping ahead a few meals for the week. Try it over bean pasta or whole wheat pasta.
  4. Bean pasta con broccoli: cook and combine a bean pasta like Banza penne pasta, cooked frozen broccoli and a light Alfredo sauce like Bertolli Alfredo with Cauliflower and Milk or Simply Organic Alfredo Sauce Mix.
  5. Overnight Oats: breakfast for lunch is perfectly acceptable! Mix up your flavors with various fruit and add nuts or peanut butter for heart-healthy fats. Blueberry Walnut ONOs are a classic combo.
Mixing up overnight oats for the next 4 days.

Classic Cheeseburger Bowls

These bowls are a perfect prep ahead meal for weekday lunches.


  • 1 lb Cooked ground beef
  • 1 bag Birdseye Steamfresh rice with mixed veggies or brown rice, cooked according to package directions
  • Sliced or shredded cheese
  • Ketchup (no high fructose corn syrup- look for organic, natural or naturally sweetened like Simply Heinz)
  • Mustard
  • Chopped pickles or dill relish

Make it

  1. One pound cooked ground beef will make about 4 meals. For meal prep, start with 4 medium-sized containers with lids. Add 1/4 of the cooked rice and 1/4 of the cooked beef to each container.
  2. Top each with 1/4 cup shredded cheese or 1 slice cheese.
  3. Next, top each bowl with ketchup, mustard and chopped pickles. Refrigerate and when ready to eat, loosen lid and microwave for 45 to 60 seconds.

Get creative: top with bbq sauce, onions and chopped jalapenos; or mushrooms and Swiss cheese for a tasty twist.

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Protein Shake

Makes 1 serving as a meal replacement or 2 servings as a snack.


  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 of a medium banana (best if you peel and freeze bananas first to use for shakes/smoothies)
  • 1/2 cup ice
  • 1 scoop Level-1 Milk Chocolate protein powder
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • dash of salt

Make it

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until ice and fruit are completely blended up. Serve immediately.

Approximate Nutrition Information (entire shake):

  • 316 calories
  • 13 g fat
  • 3 g saturated fat
  • 387 mg sodium
  • 23 g carbohydrate
  • 4 g fiber
  • 10 g sugar
  • 29 g protein
  • 476 mg potassium
  • 74% DV calcium

Quickie Chili Mac-Healthy


  • 1 box Banza chickpea pasta, any shape, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained, rinsed
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1 packet Chili Man seasoning or other favorite brand
  • 1 small can tomato paste

Make it

  1. In a large pan over medium heat, add ground beef. Cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon or masher, for 5 minutes or until it is no longer pink. Drain fat from pan if wanted- try this is a handy tool.
  2. Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato paste and seasoning mix to the cooked beef. Stir to mix.
  3. Lower the heat and simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Add water, tomato juice or low sodium beef broth if you prefer thinner chili.
  4. Serve over cooked Banza chickpea pasta.

Approximate nutrition information:

  • Makes 6 servings
  • Per serving:
  • 364 calories
  • 11 g fat
  • 3 g saturated fat
  • 531 mg sodum
  • 42 g carbohydrate
  • 9 g fiber
  • 6 g sugar
  • 28 g protein
  • 1126 mg potassium
  • 34% DV iron
  • 33% DV vitamin A
  • 20% DV vitamin C

Blueberry Walnut Overnight Oats


  • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1/3 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
  • Cinnamon, optional

Make it:

  1. In a small container with a lid, like a mason jar or Ziploc twist on container, mix the oats, water and protein powder.
  2. Tops the mixture with the blueberries and walnuts. Add a dash of cinnamon if wanted.
  3. Cover with the lid and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours
  4. When ready to eat, enjoy cold or loosen lid and microwave for 30 to 45 seconds to enjoy warm.

Approximate nutrition information:

  • 250 calories
  • 6 g fat
  • 2 g saturated fat
  • 98 mg sodium
  • 30 g carbohydrate
  • 4 g fiber
  • 6 g sugar
  • 20 g protein
  • 226 mg potassium
  • 19% DV calcium

High Protein Pasta Salad

Makes 8 servings


  • 1 box Banza pasta elbows, penne or wheels, cooked according to package directions and cooled to room temp.
  • 1 cup chopped raw broccoli
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped, any color
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 small bag frozen shelled edamame beans, thawed OR 1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup cheese cubes, any flavor
  • 1 cup light Italian dressing

Make it

  1. In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta, vegetables, cheese and beans. Stir to mix evenly.
  2. Drizzle dressing over mixture; stir to combine.
  3. Serve or refrigerate for later.

Tip: for extra flavor, stir 1 to 2 tablespoons pesto sauce into the Italian dressing.

Approximate Nutrition Information Per Serving:

  • 276 calories
  • 13 g fat
  • 4 g saturated fat
  • 347 mg sodium
  • 28 g carbohydrate
  • 6 g fiber
  • 6 g sugar
  • 16 g protein
  • 416 mg potassium
  • 46% DV vitamin A
  • 66% DV vitamin C

Buttered Spaghetti

Add grilled chicken or shrimp to increase protein in this dish or try it with bean pasta, like Banza chickpea pasta. If you have any veggies that need to be used up, add those too!


  • 1 box whole wheat or chickpea pasta spaghetti, cooked according to directions
  • 2 cups packed fresh spinach
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • salt to taste

Make it

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet.
  2. Add the garlic and pepper, blending well.
  3. Add the cooked pasta, spinach and parmesan cheese.
  4. Blend well and toss to coat the spaghetti. Add salt to taste

Approximate nutrition per serving; makes 4 servings:

  • 324 calories
  • 16 g fat
  • 7 g saturated fat
  • 600 mg sodium
  • 34 g carb
  • 5 g fiber
  • 2 g sugar
  • 17 g protein
  • 53% daily value calcium