Now that fall is here and the temperatures are starting to cool down, you may find yourself craving warm and nourishing comfort foods more often.
But if you’re being mindful of your carbohydrate intake and balancing your blood sugar levels, you’re likely looking for healthier seasonal options. That’s why I’ve created a one-day meal plan that provides easy, homemade meals your entire family can enjoy!
These simple recipes and snack options are expertly paired to ensure that you feel totally satisfied while working to improve your health and maintain your diabetes control.
Sample fall meal plan
- Breakfast: 1 serving shakshuka topped with 1/4 avocado and served with 1/2 cup of your favorite berries
- Snack: 1 oz. pistachios and 1 small pear
- Lunch: 1 serving southwestern chicken salad bowl
- Snack: 1/4 cup hummus with 2 cups of your favorite vegetables
- Dinner: 1 serving turkey shepherd’s pie with cauliflower topping, served with 1/2 cup of roasted acorn or butternut squash, plus a side salad topped with 1 tbsp. simple vinaigrette dressing
Here are some of the nutritional highlights of this meal plan:
- Shakshuka. Replace your same-old scrambled eggs with a heartier egg dish for autumn. This tomato-based delight is rich in blood sugar-stabilizing protein and heart-healthy potassium.
- Pistachios and pears. Pears are in season late summer through winter and have a lower Glycemic Index than many other fruits, making them a smart choice for those with diabetes. Paired with an ounce of pistachios, where 90 percent of the fats are the better-for-you type, this snack will provide a good source of protein and fiber, a trio that can help keep you fuller longer.
- Southwestern chicken salad. This salad can be served warm or meal-prepped on the weekend for an easy weekday lunch option. The healthy complex carbs in this salad come from high-fiber beans and quinoa, making it a filling option that’ll prevent blood sugar spikes and promote more sustained energy throughout the afternoon.
- Hummus and veggies. If you’re hungry in the afternoon, snacking on some crunchy vegetables with hummus will provide fiber and plant-based protein. The chickpeas in the hummus also provide a good source of magnesium. People with diabetes are more likely to be deficient in magnesium, making this a strategic pairing as well.
- Turkey and veggie shepherd’s pie. This veggie-rich dinner will provide all the comforting tastes of a traditional shepherd’s pie with only a fraction of the carbs.
Start to finish: 20 minutes
- 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 (14.5-oz.) can low-sodium diced tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp. chili powder
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
- 4 large eggs
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.
- Sauce the onion for 3–5 minutes, until it just begins to soften. Add the garlic and bell pepper. Continue to cook for 5 minutes, until the pepper softens.
- Add the tomatoes and mix until blended. Add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, and salt and mix well. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced.
- Crack the eggs into the tomato mixture, allowing for plenty of space between them to cook. Cover the pan and simmer for 3–7 minutes until the eggs are your desired doneness.
- Sprinkle with parsley to garnish and serve.
Nutrition info (2 eggs and 1/2 cup sauce)Calories: 216; Total fat: 12 g; Saturated fat: 4 g; Cholesterol: 372 mg; Sodium: 517 mg; Carbs: 13 g; Fiber: 3 g; Sugar: 6 g; Protein: 15 g
Southwestern chicken salad bowl
Start to finish: 40 minutes
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 3 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup drained and rinsed low-sodium black beans
- 1/4 cup chopped red onion
- 1 cup chopped zucchini
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/2 avocado, diced
- In a small pot, add the quinoa and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, then reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tsp. of oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken breasts with 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper.
- Cook the chicken breast for 10 minutes. Flip to other side and continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes, until the juices run clear. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the remaining 2 tsp. oil to the pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add the beans and cook for 2–3 minutes, until heated through. Add the onion and zucchini and cook for 3 more minutes, until beginning to soften.
- Add the tomato, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, and remaining 1/4 tsp. salt. Cook until heated through, stirring to combine.
- Stir in the quinoa. Serve, topped with cilantro and avocado.
Nutrition infoCalories: 284; Total fat: 10 g; Saturated fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 45 mg; Sodium: 483 mg; Carbs: 29 g; Fiber: 8 g; Sugar: 1 g; Protein: 21 g
Turkey shepherd’s pie with cauliflower topping
Start to finish: 50 minutes
Serving size: 6
- 1 cauliflower head, broken into florets
- 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound lean ground turkey
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp. whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Grease a 2-quart baking dish.
- Fill a large pot halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the cauliflower and cook for about 5 minutes, until tender. Drain. Mash with a potato masher or immersion blender, and add 1 tbsp. of olive oil.
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add the ground turkey and cook, breaking apart with a spatula, until browned. Season with salt and pepper. Add the flour and stir to combine. Add the broth and cook until it just starts to simmer. Turn off the heat.
- Spread the turkey mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with the mashed cauliflower, smoothing with a spoon to press evenly over the turkey. Top with shredded cheese.
- Bake for 30 minutes, until the top is brown and bubbly.
Nutrition info (1 piece)Calories: 260; Total fat: 17 g; Saturated fat: 5 g; Cholesterol: 69 mg; Sodium: 341 mg; Carbs: 9 g; Fiber: 3 g; Sugar: 3 g; Protein: 18 g
Lori Zanini, RD, CDE, is a nationally recognized, award-winning food and nutrition expert. As a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, she helps others learn how to use food to manage their blood sugar and improve their lives! She’s the author of “Eat What You Love Diabetes Cookbook” and “The Diabetes Cookbook and Meal Plan for the Newly Diagnosed.” Find more great diabetes nutrition resources and recipes at www.LoriZanini.com and www.ForTheLoveOfDiabetes.com.