Recipes for a Healthy Diabetic Life

A diabetes diagnosis means you have the opportunity to learn new recipes for a healthier diabetic life. When you first hear your diagnosis you may feel as though your world is in turmoil. Food is important to us all. It means family…it means fellowship…and for many…it may be the reason they have developed diabetes.

Learning a new way to eat may sound stressful, especially if you are older and faced with changing habits. Common questions always seem to include concerns over having to give up favorite family recipes or holiday foods.  It’s not easy to change established eating habits, but for a diabetic it is critical to adopt a nutrition plan for long term diabetic health.

Healthy Eating

As soon as you are diagnosed, it’s time to begin thinking of food in new and unique ways. From this day forward, everything you put in your mouth represents a component of a delicate balancing act: what you eat (food) affects your blood sugar.

It is a myth that a diabetic diet must be bland and you will now be deprived of all the foods you have loved.


Carbohydrates are the number one nutrient you will need to manage with your meal planning for a diabetic lifestyle.[i]  Carbs immediately turn into sugars or blood glucose when consumed. Examples of carbs that can cause your sugar levels to spike include potatoes, pastas, and breads. Your meal planning and diabetic recipes will take counting carbs into effect.

Glycemic Index

The Glycemic Index, also known as the GI, is another factor to consider when planning meals and creating diabetic friendly recipes. The Glycemic Index measures the strength of the carbs in any given food.[ii]

The Glycemic Index involves a formula in which carbohydrates are ranked based on how fast the glucose level in the blood is raised after eating particular foods. The scale ranges from 0 to 100. The upper range indicates a food that will rapidly raise blood sugar. Foods with a GI of 55 or lower have a low Glycemic index. Foods that have a GI of 70 or above are considered high.

The Glycemic Load (GL) is another way to assess carbohydrates in food. It takes into account the GI which indicates how quickly carbohydrates turn into sugar in the blood and the carbohydrate amount in a typical serving.

As you begin to create recipes for your diabetic diet you will want to use low GI or low GL foods as much as possible:

  • Rolled oats
  • Whole grains
  • Veggies
  • Legumes
  • Yams
  • Sugar-free items, non-fat milks, and light yogurts

You Can Make Delicious Meals

Whether you are planning a family meal or an afternoon tea, you can find foods that fit the need and are acceptable in a diabetic diet.  Recipes for such delicious foods such as Asparagus Frittata and Basque Chicken will enliven any evening meal. Baked Pork Chops will make a great family dinner. Chicken stew is perfect for a cold winter evening. The best news? All of these are diabetic recipes. Once you learn to count carbs and adjust other nutrients you can make any meal a diabetic meal.

Crustless Spinach Quiche[1]

Total prep time: 5 minutes

Total time 50 minutes


5 eggs, beaten

6 ounces low fat cottage cheese

4 ounces Feta cheese

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

2 tbsp margarine

1/2tsp nutmeg

10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained


1. Preheat oven: 350 degrees

2. Oil quiche pan with cooking spray, ( 10 inch pan)

3. Combine all ingredients except spinach in large glass bowl

4. Add in spinach and stir

5. Pour spinach mixture into quiche pan

6. Bake quiche 30 to 40 minutes until browned on top

Crustless Spinach Quiche Nutrition Facts

Servings: 8

Per Serving:

Calories 146

Calories from Fat 59

Total Fat 10 g

Cholesterol 149mg

Sodium 382 mg

Carbs 3g

Dietary Fiber 1 g

Protein 11 g

Exchange 1 medium fat meat, 1 vegetable, 1 fat

Carb Units 0














Oven Fried Chicken[2]

Total Prep Time 20 Minutes

Total time 1 hour


2 entire chicken breasts, skinless

1 tbsp olive oil

½ c oatmeal, uncooked

¾ tsp chili powder or Cajun seasoning

¾ tsp smoked paprika


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Place non-stick foil on cookie sheet
  3. Brush olive oil on chicken
  4. In blender, place oats, spices, and blend
  5. Place spice mixture into Zip-loc bag
  6. Place chicken in zip-loc bag to coat
  7. Place chicken on non-stick foil on cookie sheet
  8. Spray each chicken breast with olive oil cooking spray
  9. Bake for 40 minutes

Oven Fried Chicken Nutrition Facts

Servings: 8

Per serving:

Calories 231

Calories from fat 32

Total fat 8 g

Cholesterol 78 mg

Sodium 73 mg

Carbohydrate 7 g

Dietary Fiber 1 g

Protein 30 g

Exchange 4 lean meats

Carb Units 0
















Side dishes are another popular item at many diabetic meals. Braised cabbage, corn salad, cranberry salad, turnip greens, and many other popular side dishes can be made diabetic friendly.

If you are worried that you will never eat pasta again because of the carb count, let’s take a look at a great pasta salad recipe. Keep in mind – it is all about the exchanges.

Dill Pasta Salad[3] 

Total Prep Time 0

Total Time 30 minutes


Rotini or bow tie pasta, one box

1 cup grape tomatoes

3 cups broccoli flowerets

¾ low fat or fat free Italian dressing

1 ½ tbsp dried dill


  1. Cook pasta according to directions
  2. Drain pasta ad place in large bowl
  3. Add veggies to pasta
  4. Add dressing to pasta
  5. Add dill to pasta
  6. Slightly toss after each additional add-in

Dill Pasta Salad Nutrition Facts

(based on fat free dressing)

Servings:13 ( one cup size)

Per Serving:

Calories 150

Calories from fat: 1

Total fat 1

Cholesterol 0 mg

Sodium 197 mg

Carbohydrate 30 g

Dietary fiber 1 g

Protein 5 g

Exchange 2 starch

Carb units 2













Of course there are those of us who cannot do without desserts, at least sometimes. You do not have to eat a lot of ice cream or brownies and regret it later. There are numerous diabetic dessert recipes that are delicious and make the perfect ending to any meal. Banana Pineapple Pie, Angel Cake with Berries, Apple Berry Crisp, Oatmeal Raison Cookies, and Scalloped Apples are only a few of the numerous desserts you will learn to make and enjoy.

You can eat a wide variety of foods and manage your diabetes. It is an exciting time to try foods you have never eaten. Changing dietary habits begins with a positive attitude, knowing that success will reduce the risk of serious diabetic complications.


[1]  Recipes for Diabetes. (n.d.). Retrieved from University of Illinois Extension: Idaho Plate Method. (n.d.). Retrieved from University of South Florida:

[2]  Ibid

[3]  ibid

This article was originally published July 12, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/10/2015.