Green Veggie Pasta Sauce in a pan on a hot surface

From red marinara full of tomatoes to fresh basil pesto, pasta dishes are common in most households, but have you ever had green pasta sauce that’s loaded with healthy vegetables?

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day and National Nutrition Month, NCHPAD Registered Dietitian Emily McAllister has a fresh new green veggie pasta sauce recipe to add to your weekly routine!

Making your own pasta sauce at home is a good way to try something new, and you can make it to your preferred taste. When you make your own sauce, you can control what ingredients go in it instead of getting pre-made sauce that may be high in saturated fat. Store bought pasta sauces can also be loaded with sodium or sugar, depending on the brand.

With the right recipe, cooking at home is a fun and creative hobby that can add lasting health benefits! Try this sauce below and see if it becomes your new go-to recipe!

The Recipe:

Ingredients: (5 servings)

  • 12 oz pasta (we used penne noodles)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 diced yellow onion
  • ½ tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup spinach (or kale)
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • 1 cup original almond milk (or soy milk/1% regular milk)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • ½ block of soft feta (or any cheese you like)


  1. In a pan on medium heat, saute garlic, onion, broccoli, peas, spinach and olive oil for about 10 minutes until veggies are tender.
  2. Add sauteed veggies into your blender or food processor with basil, parsley, milk, broth, lemon, salt, pepper and blend!
  3. Begin melting feta on the same pan.
  4. Pour the sauce back into the pan and continue melting cheese until the sauce becomes creamy.
  5. Pour sauce over pasta and enjoy!

*feel free to season with onion powder and garlic powder!

Nutritional Benefits

  • Spinach is rich in iron, calcium, magnesium and necessary vitamins A, C and K.
  • Peas are a good source of zinc, vitamins C and E, and other immune-boosting antioxidants.
  • Vegetable broth is often high in fiber and lower in fat compared to other broths.
  • Broccoli is rich in vitamins and minerals, good for heart health and has nutrients that reduce inflammation.
  • Depending on the type of almond milk, it can be lower in calories and carbs than milk from a cow and be a good source of magnesium and vitamin E.
  • Extra virgin olive oil is full of antioxidants and contains healthy fats.

Move out of your comfort zone and try some new recipes with us this month and experience the joy of cooking!

Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie

March is National Nutrition Month, and we’re celebrating by embracing the joys of home cooking! This Strawberry Shortcake smoothie recipe combines fruit, protein and vegetables for a healthy, satisfying treat.

A study by the National Center on Disability and Journalism found that only 57% of adults with disabilities reported eating fruits and vegetables daily. Almost 90% of Americans are not getting enough vegetables – and 80% are not getting enough fruits to meet nutrient requirements.

Smoothies are often assumed to be healthy because they are full of fruit, but some recipes may contain large amounts of added sugars. This recipe uses alternatives to give the smoothie a sweet taste and even more healthy benefits!

Ingredients needed for this recipe:

-1 cup spinach

-1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries

-1 tbsp nut butter

-3 dates

-1 cup nut milk

-1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

-1 scoop vanilla protein powder

-4 oz vanilla yogurt

-A cupful of ice cubes

Start with the nut milk for liquid and add spinach and berries for our serving of fruits and veggies. Yogurt and protein powder add lean protein to help you stay fuller longer and maintain muscle and skin health. Nut butter is a healthy fat and spices add flavor. Dates, great for the gut and rich in antioxidants, are a great way to add sweetness to a smoothie without adding extra sugar. Once you have all the ingredients, add the ice and blend it well to create your balanced, healthy smoothie!

This month, we want you to cook with confidence! Our goal is to empower people with disabilities to become confident chefs in their own kitchens. Check out our YouTube channel to boost your confidence and increase your knowledge of fundamental nutrition concepts, info on adapted tools that support cooking and recipes tailored to specific health goals. Try this recipe and many more from our channel to add to your new healthy diet!

A paper grocery bag with fresh produce spilling out of the bag

Confidence in the kitchen is not just about mastering recipes. Becoming a confident home cook is also about understanding a few basic elements. 

In this guide, you’ll learn the core principles of healthy eating so that you can become a confident home cook. And don’t worry. You’ll also learn to make food that is both nutritious and delicious!

By exploring the videos on understanding MyPlate, decoding nutrition labels, and navigating the grocery store, we’re laying the foundation for a useful – and tasty – culinary journey. 

Understanding MyPlate

Before we can create culinary masterpieces, we need to understand the canvas on which we’ll be painting. MyPlate serves as our guide, helping us visualize the balance of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy in every meal. By grasping the concept of MyPlate, we gain insight into the essential components of a well-rounded diet, setting the stage for culinary creativity and confidence.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Think of MyPlate as your blueprint for balanced eating. Use it as a tool to plan meals to incorporate a variety of nutrients and flavors.
  • Be flexible. Don’t be afraid to adjust the size of each section on your plate. MyPlate can be flexible to fit your dietary needs.
  • Use MyPlate to plan snacks and desserts, too! Every bite you take can contribute to your overall health and satisfaction.
  • Minimize prep time. For individuals with mobility challenges, consider pre-cut or pre-washed fruits and vegetables to minimize prep time and effort in the kitchen.
  • Adapt it for your needs. Those with visual impairments can benefit from tactile markers or color-contrasted plates to mark different food groups on a plate.
  • Experiment. Try different cooking methods such as slow cookers or instant pots. These require less hands-on attention and can accommodate dietary preferences and restrictions.

Decoding Nutrition Labels

Nutrition labels are like roadmaps. Like a map, they guide us through the nutritional landscape of foods. This can empower us to make an informed choice about what we put on our plates. 

Become a better cook and gain confidence in your food selections by learning how to read a nutrition label!

Tips and Tricks:

  • Read the serving size. See how many servings per container to ensure you can make enough portions and get enough of the nutrients your body needs.
  • Use technology! Technology like smartphone apps or voice-activated devices can scan and interpret nutrition labels. This makes labels more accessible for individuals with visual impairments or other disabilities.
  • Pay attention to the ingredients list! The shorter the ingredient list, the better! Choose foods with minimal additives and preservatives. Whole, unprocessed ingredients are always best!
  • Look beyond the numbers. While the % Daily Value helps understand nutrient content, it’s just as important to consider the quality of those nutrients. 

Navigating the Grocery Store with ease

Overwhelmed by choices and options at the store? Gain confidence in picking wholesome, flavorful ingredients by learning how to navigate the grocery store. You’ll become a better cook and eat healthy, delicious meals in no time! Nourish your body and soul with these simple tips.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Plan ahead. Take a moment to map out your shopping list based on MyPlate principles. This makes sure you’ll have a balanced mix of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.
  • Explore the perimeter of the store first. This is where the fresh produce, lean proteins and dairy staples are usually found.
  • Don’t be afraid to shop in the aisles – but be aware! Choose products that align with your dietary preferences and nutritional goals. Read the labels carefully and compare your options! 
  • Take advantage of grocery store services! They should have accessible carts, motorized scooters or even someone to help you shop. 
  • Plan your shopping trip when the store isn’t as busy. This will help you avoid crowds and reduce sensory overload for individuals with sensory processing sensitivities or anxiety.
  • Advocate for accessible features! This includes wide aisles, low shelves and clear signage. Accessible features promote inclusivity and make the store easier to navigate for everyone!

Understanding MyPlate, nutrition labels and navigating the grocery store should give your confidence a boost! Use these tools to plan ahead, but remember: take it one meal at a time!  

But why stop here? Want to learn even more to support your health goals?

Consider joining our MENTOR program – available only through NCHPAD Connect! NCHPAD Connect is free to join and costs only your time. All our programs and resources are available to you at no cost, as well!

MENTOR is an 8-week program that includes 1-hour nutrition classes filled with cooking demonstrations and even more nutrition expertise. Plus, you’ll have direct access to a registered dietitian, who can provide personalized guidance tailored to your health goals.

Take the next step towards preparing delicious food and improving your health – at the same time. Enroll in our MENTOR program today! Happy cooking!

A graphic divided into three photos. A photo of a bowl of zucchini noodles on the left, a bowl of greek yogurt and fruit in the middle, and a bowl of popcorn on the right

Sticking to a healthy diet can seem overwhelming. You might crave a certain food or need to change a pattern in your diet that leads to unhealthy behavior. Luckily, there are some easy, satisfying swaps that make any diet not just healthy but delicious, too.

Here are a few of our favorite food swaps.


Plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Use yogurt instead of anywhere you’d use sour cream for an extra dose of protein. Protein keeps you feeling full and helps build and repair muscle. Think tacos, chili, dips and more. The possibilities are endless.

Use plain Greek yogurt and sweeten it with fruit. Full of probiotics, yogurt is a great breakfast or snack. But some flavored yogurt is full of added sugar. Try adding fruit to plain Greek yogurt for extra protein as well as nutrients and fiber from the fruit. Think blueberries, shredded apples, chopped mangoes, strawberries and more.


Try popcorn or nuts instead of potato chips. Popcorn is high in fiber and lower in fat and calories than potato chips and other salty snacks. Nuts are nutrient dense, providing heart-healthy unsaturated fats and other vitamins and minerals.


Try sparkling water instead of sugary sodas. Sparkling water comes in a variety of flavors and usually contains no calories or sugar.

Add flavor to water to make water taste – and look – more interesting. Check out our flavored water video series for some fun ideas.

Love fruit juice? Try eating whole fruits instead of just fruit juice. Whole fruits have more nutrients than juice – like fiber – to make you feel full.


Try zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash! Zucchini noodles, or zoodles, can work as a substitute in a variety of pasta dishes, and so can spaghetti squash. Check out this zucchini noodle recipe!


Cauliflower rice has substantially fewer calories than rice. Try cauliflower rice instead of rice. Or try a mix of half cauliflower rice and half brown rice.


Lower your saturated fat intake by swapping a mixture of lentils and mushrooms for ground beef. Lentils contain high amounts of protein and fiber, and mushrooms have a meaty flavor and texture.


A bowl of cereal is a staple breakfast for many people, but most cereals are high in sugar and lack nutrients like protein and fiber. Try oatmeal for a healthier alternative that you can sweeten with fruit.


White bread offers little nutritional value. Swap it for whole grain bread that can offer you fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.


Love chocolate? Try eating dark chocolate, which is full of disease-fighting antioxidants. And the darker the better. You can tell how dark your chocolate is by the percentage of cacao listed on the wrapper. Health experts recommend eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate with 72% cacao or higher.

A graphic with photos of the three meals and the words "5 Ingredients or Less" above it

Looking for an easy meal to make with just a few ingredients? Want to try something new but not go over budget? With only five ingredients or less, these delicious meals are easy to make – and they don’t require a long cooking time! Watch the video above and keep reading for the recipes.

Note that in the video, we use an adaptive tool called a rocker knife. This adaptive tool is beneficial for anyone not comfortable using a large knife or with limited grip strength, mobility or use of their hands. Check out the video at the bottom of the page for even more adaptive tools to help you with future meals!

Thai Salmon with Broccoli & Quinoa

Makes two servings with five minutes of prep and 15 minutes of cooking.


1) 2, 4oz salmon filets (fresh or frozen)

2) 4 tablespoons premade curry sauce (we used a mild mango curry sauce, but use a curry sauce of your spice and liking).

3) ½ cup of quinoa 

4) ½ cup broccoli 

5) 2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Pantry ingredients:

Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

2) Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

3) Prepare quinoa according to instructions with chicken broth instead of water.

4) While quinoa cooks, season both sides of the salmon with salt and pepper to taste. Coat salmon with 2 tablespoons each jarred curry sauce or until generously covered. 

5) Add chopped broccoli to a baking sheet and coat with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

6) Bake in the oven for 12 minutes or until salmon is cooked all the way through. The salmon should reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees and the broccoli should be lightly caramelized and fork tender. 

7) Portion ½ cup of quinoa, ½ a cup of broccoli and one salmon filet onto a plate. Enjoy!

Baked Chicken Tikka Masala with Zucchini Noodles

Makes two servings with five minutes of prep and 10 minutes of cooking.


1) Two chicken breasts

2) ¼ cup prepared Tikka masala sauce 

3) ½ red bell pepper, chopped

4) 2 cups broccoli, chopped

5) 1 package of prepared zucchini noodles

Pantry ingredients:

Olive oil salt and pepper to taste


1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

2) Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and two chicken breasts. Coat chicken with prepared Tikka Masala sauce.

3) Chop bell pepper and broccoli into bite-sized pieces. Add to a baking sheet and coat with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

4) Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked all the way through. The chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees, the broccoli should be lightly caramelized and the bell pepper fork tender. 

5) Use a microwave-safe tray and cook zucchini noodles according to package directions. 

6) Portion ¼ cup veggies, ½ cup of zucchini noodles and one chicken breast onto a plate. Enjoy! 

Italian Sausage with Sautéed Vegetables

Makes two servings with five minutes of prep and 10 minutes of cooking.


1) 1 lb Italian sausage links

2) Red onion

3) Red bell pepper

4) Garlic, minced

5) 90-second wild rice (8.8 ounces)

Pantry ingredients:

Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste


1) Heat sauté pan to medium heat.

2) Add sausage to the pan and cook for 4 minutes on both sides.

3) While the sausage cooks, slice bell pepper into strips and onion onto 1-inch chunks.

4) Add veggies to pan. Cook until they are tender, about 10 minutes.

5) Microwave rice according to package directions. 

6) Add ½ cup rice, 1 sausage and vegetable mixture to a plate. Enjoy!

Check out even more kitchen tools that make cooking easier and more accessible.

15 minutes or less Mediterranean meals with three photos of the meals

The new year means new meals! Try these three healthy meals from the Mediterranean diet. With short prep times and nutritional benefits, each recipe could be a delicious addition to your cooking routine in 2024. The Mediterranean diet is a highly recommended, healthy diet because it includes whole grains, beans, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, herbs and spices.

Recipe 1 – Baked Salmon over Summer Succotash

Serving size: 2 | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes

For the ingredients, you will need:
2 salmon fillets
½ cup black-eye peas
½ cup shelled edamame
½ cup kale, chopped
1 cup squash & zucchini
¼ red bell pepper
1 small tomato
1 garlic clove
1 cup vegetable stock
4 basil leaves
Tabasco (optional)
1 teaspoon lemon juice

  1. First, we will prepare the baking sheet and the salmon fillets. Season your fillets with salt and pepper. Then they are ready for the oven, which you will have preheated to 350 degrees. Bake for 15 min or until the internal temperature of the salmon reaches 145 degrees.
  2. While the fillets are cooking, dice all vegetables into ½ inch cubes. The device used in the video demonstration is a food chopper, which is beneficial for individuals with limited hand dexterity or those looking to save time prepping ingredients.
  3. Once the bell pepper and onion are chopped into ½ inch cubes, place to the side and prepare the pan.
  4. Add some oil to your skillet, followed by a spoonful of garlic.
  5. Then add the chopped vegetables and let cook.
  6. Next, dice the tomato. Once chopped, place to the side.
  7. Add the black-eyed peas, salt, and pepper.
  8. Now, chop the zucchini and squash. Add to the pan with some chicken broth and let it simmer for a minute or two.
  9. Toss in the kale, edamame, and Worcester sauce. For a little kick, add some hot sauce.
  10. Cut the end off the lemon and squeeze into the succotash.
  11. Now, we can add the tomatoes and a little more salt and pepper!
  12. Turn off the stove. The salmon should be ready to pull out of the oven. Grab a dish and add the succotash to the base of the bowl. Place salmon on top and garnish with ribbons of basil.

Recipe 2 – Shrimp and Artichoke Linguine with Sundried Tomatoes

Serving size: 4 | Prep time: 5 minutes | Cooking time: 15 minutes

For this recipe, you will need:
1 Lb. frozen shrimp
1 ½ cups artichoke hearts
1 Tablespoon oil
1-2 garlic clove
8-10 oz. linguini
½ cup sun-dried tomato
½ cup shredded parmesan
2 cups spinach
1 Lemon
Salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and cook the noodles according to the package directions. Reserve ½ cup pasta water and save for later.
  2. Once the pasta is ready, switch out for a clean pan and heat one tablespoon of olive oil to medium-high heat.
  3. Add shrimp, giving a quick sear, tossing until just pink and season with salt and pepper.
  4. When finished cooking, remove from pan and wipe clean.
  5. Add oil and the pine nuts. Toast pine nuts until lightly golden.
  6. Add artichoke heart and sundried tomatoes.
  7. Pour the leftover pasta water and the edamame.
  8. Now add the parmesan cheese.
  9. Next, add the garlic and sauté until garlic is fragrant, about two minutes.
  10. Turn off the heat, add the shrimp, and top it off with some lemon juice.
  11. Begin plating by adding the drained pasta to the bowl, followed by the shrimp and vegetables.
  12. Lastly, grab some fresh basil and chop finely to use as garnish. Your Shrimp and Artichoke Linguine with Sundried Tomatoes dish is done!

Recipe 3 – Lemon Chicken Soup with Ginger

Serving size: 2 | Cooking time: 10 minutes | Prep time: 15 minutes

For ingredients, you will need:
2 chicken breasts
4 cups chicken broth
4 tbsp ginger paste
2 cloves garlic
2 Lemons
4 oz cooked pasta
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
2 bay leaf
fresh parsley

  1. Start by preparing the chicken breast. Cube the chicken into ½ inch cubes.
  2. Prep the pan with oil and heat the oil on medium-high heat in a medium pan.
  3. Sear chicken in the pan for 3-4 minutes and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add ginger paste and garlic to the pan.
  5. Mix the ingredients and add the broth to the pan, followed by lemon juice.
  6. Add the noodles and cook for 6-8 minutes until pasta is tender and stir throughout. To help with stirring, we use an assistive device called an automatic stirrer in the video. Place the device in a pan or pot, push the button to turn it on, and the stirrer will automatically rotate.
  7. Add some bay leaves and a little more lemon and ginger paste.
  8. The dish is ready! Ladle soup into a bowl and finely chop parsley to use as garnish.
A photo of watercress on a cutting board

By Christine Ferguson, PhD, RD, CSG, NCHPAD Nutrition Research Coordinator

Research has shown that eating foods with specific nutrients may reduce the risk of depression and can even lessen the effects of existing depression.

Recent research published in the World Journal of Psychiatry even reported a way to measure certain nutrients to create an antidepressant food score, or AFS. The AFS ranks foods based on their ability to promote recovery from depression symptoms.

Many of these foods that score high on the AFS are already recommended under the US dietary guidelines. You may notice that most of the top foods include green leafy vegetables, other fruits/vegetables, organ meats and seafood.

Check out the top-ranking antidepressant foods below along with a couple recipes that include several antidepressant foods:

Antidepressant animal foods

• Liver and organ meats (spleen, kidneys or heart)
• Poultry giblets
• Oyster
• Clam
• Mussels
• Octopus
• Crab
• Tuna
• Smelt

Antidepressant plant foods

Green leafy
• Watercress
• Spinach
• Mustard, turnip or beet greens
• Swiss chard
• Fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, parsley)
• Chicory greens
• Kale or collards
• Dandelion greens

• Peppers (bell, serrano, jalapeno)
• Pumpkin
• Cauliflower
• Kohlrabi
• Red cabbage
• Broccoli
• Brussels sprouts
• Butternut squash

• Pummelo
• Acerola (acerola cherry)
• Papaya
• Lemon
• Strawberry

Article Citation: LaChance LR, Ramsey D. Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression. World J Psychiatry. 2018;8(3):97-104. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v8.i3.97.

Watercress Salad

Serves 4

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 0 minutes


  • 2 cups watercress
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • Segments from ½ pummelo
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 2 ounces torn fresh mozzarella
  • 2 tablespoons pre-sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Lemon wedge, for serving

Salad Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, pressed or minced (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice (or red wine vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper


  1. Assemble the salad on a platter with the watercress, baby spinach, pummelo segments, avocado and mozzarella.
  2. For dressing, combine all ingredients and whisk in small bowl, or combine in sealed jar and shake.
  3. Drizzle with some of the dressing and top with the almonds and basil. Season to taste with a squeeze of lemon and enjoy.

Adapted from Love & Lemons and Gimme Some Oven

Tender Liver, Peppers & Onions

Serves 4

Prep time:15 minutes (+ additional time for marinating)

Cook time: 15 minutes


  • 12 ounces beef liver, sliced
  • 1 cup buttermilk (can use other milk options)
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • ½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Optional: Cooked brown rice, whole-wheat rolls, or whole-wheat pasta to serve


  1. First, add sliced beef liver to a bowl. Pour buttermilk on top. Soak in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour up to overnight.
  2. Once beef has soaked, remove from buttermilk. Pat dry with paper towels. Season on both sides with garlic powder, pepper and sea salt. Discard buttermilk.
  3. In a large skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add in sliced onions. Cook for 3 minutes and then add sliced peppers.
  4. Cook onions and peppers until tender. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Remove from skillet.
  5. Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet. Add seasoned beef liver to the pan.
  6. Sear on both sides for about 2 to 3 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Add onions back to pan for 1 minute to heat up.
  7. Finally, serve beef liver, pepper and onions and top with fresh parsley.

Adapted from Organically Addison

A Pumpkin Cheesecake Smoothie in a glass jar with a straw. The words "Pumpkin Cheesecake Smoothie, a sweet and healthy treat!" on it.

Want to enjoy something sweet AND healthy this Thanksgiving? Our pumpkin cheesecake smoothie recipe gives you lean protein and healthy fat – and is full of great fall flavor!

Pumpkin isn’t just a delicious holiday pie flavor. While pumpkin does add delicious flavor to many recipes, it also provides some key nutrients. Pumpkin is full of beta-carotene that helps promote healthy vision and immune function, and pumpkin is also a great source of fiber.

To top it off, adding heart-healthy oats will keep you fuller for longer and add even more heart-healthy fiber, and the low-fat yogurt and protein powder add plenty of lean protein.

“Pumpkin is an excellent source of Vitamin A, which is important to preserve vision, fight infections and maintain healthy skin,” said NCHPAD Registered Dietitian Emily McCallister. “Pumpkin is also a great source of fiber – a nutrient that helps stabilize blood sugar, along with potassium, which helps with muscle contraction, blood pressure and mineral balance within our cells. Be sure to purchase 100% pumpkin puree to receive all its health benefits without the added sugar.”

Watch the video below and check out the ingredients below the video.


1 cup canned pumpkin

½ frozen banana

1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

1 cup fat-free milk

½ cup old-fashioned oats

1 teaspoon ground flax seed

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

Sprinkle of nutmeg

Sheet pan with roasted veggies

For individuals with diabetes, reducing your carbohydrate intake and managing your blood sugar levels are vitally important. But what healthy meals are out there that are also delicious? For National Diabetes Month, we’ve got three sheet pan meals that are easy to make, packed with flavor and contain well-balanced portions – a key component to keeping a healthy blood sugar level.

“Lifestyle modifications like eating consistent meals throughout the day and having a balanced plate can help manage blood sugar,” says Lacey Gammon, NCHPAD Nutrition Coordinator. “A balanced plate contains half non-starchy vegetables, a quarter lean protein and a quarter whole grains or starchy vegetables.”

Each of the following recipes contains a balanced plate, including healthy carbohydrates, fats and protein. “When managing blood sugar, it’s important to choose carbohydrates that are fiber-rich, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, peas and beans,” says Gammon. “Pair carbohydrates with a protein and healthy fat to slow digestion and prevent high spikes in blood sugar.”

All three recipes are also perfect for meal prepping, so try them out – and save the leftovers for later in the week!

Watch the video and check out the ingredients & instructions for each recipe below.

1) Chipotle Chicken, Veggies, & Brown Rice | Ingredients & Instructions

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 medium lime, halved, divided
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds total), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 can of chipotles in adobo
  • Cooked brown rice, for serving
  • 1.5 cup broccoli
  • 1.5 cup sugar snap peas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Place the juice from the chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, garlic, oil, honey, cumin, juice of half a lime, and salt in a bowl and stir until smooth.
  2. Place the chicken, sweet potato, and red onion in a large zip-top bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and shake to evenly coat everything in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
  3. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F.
  4. Place the chicken and the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until the chicken registers 165°F in the thickest part of the meat not touching bone and the vegetables are tender and lightly caramelized, 30 to 35 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven, squeeze the remaining lime half over the chicken and vegetables, and let cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve over rice.

2) Lemony Salmon, Asparagus, and Carrots | Ingredients & Instructions

  • 4 (6-oz.) skin-on salmon fillets
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice, for serving
  • ¼ cup low-fat, non-flavored yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 lemon), divided
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • ¼ cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. small carrots with tops, cut lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Lemon wedges
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place salmon, skin side down, on half of prepared baking sheet. Stir together yogurt, mustard, dill, 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper in a medium bowl. Spread over salmon fillets in an even layer; top with panko, and press lightly to adhere. Spray with cooking spray.
  2. Toss together asparagus, carrots, olive oil, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon each of lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Place vegetables on empty side of baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until salmon is cooked through and vegetables are tender, about 18 minutes. Serve with brown rice and lemon wedges.

3) Southwestern Sweet Potato & Black Bean Bowl | Ingredients & Instructions

  • 1 cup microwavable brown rice
  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 2 cups broccoli
  • 3 cups sweet potatoes, chopped into 1” pieces
  • ½ red onion, chopped into 1” pieces
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained, rinsed and towel-dried
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional toppings:

  • Sauce: honey-chipotle or honey-dijon from previous recipes
  • Avocado
  • Salsa
  • Hot sauce
  • Cilantro
  • Lime juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook the rice according to package directions
  3. Combine the broccoli, sweet potato, red onion, chickpeas, black beans, olive oil and spices in a large mixing bowl. Gently toss together until evenly coated.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
  5. To serve: place the roasted sweet potatoes and beans over a bed of brown rice. Top with any of the optional toppings. Enjoy!
Woman eating watermelon

You probably hear the terms inflammation and anti-inflammatory thrown around a lot, but what does inflammation mean – and how can it be managed or even prevented?

Inflammation is the immune system’s response to injury or irritation. There are two different types of inflammation:

  1. Acute inflammation. Examples include joint pain, headache, wounds, sore throat, ingrown nails and skin irritation.
  2. Chronic inflammation. Examples include disability, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and bowel disease.

Our bodies have a natural inflammatory response, which is our body’s way of protecting itself from illness and infection by producing more white blood cells. SOME inflammation is a good thing.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is at the root of several illnesses such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

On the bright side, inflammation can be controlled through healthy lifestyle behaviors including the following:

  • Healthy eating
  • Moving more
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Resting
  • Taking medications as prescribed

Having a high intake of anti-inflammatory foods will also help you in increasing these healthy habits.

“Inflammatory foods create byproducts during digestion that raise inflammatory compounds in the body,” says Emily McAllister, Registered Dietitian here at NCHPAD. “Anti-inflammatory foods contain higher levels of antioxidants and other protective compounds which help fight against inflammation.” Here are some examples of both.

Anti-inflammatory foods:

  • Salmon/tuna
  • Fruit
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Blueberries
  • Walnuts
  • Olive oil
  • Whole grains

Inflammatory foods:

  • Fried food
  • Soda
  • Red meat
  • Sugar
  • Highly processed food/meat
  • White flour products

There really isn’t one “diet” out there you must follow to prevent or manage inflammation. The goal is to maintain a healthy lifestyle for overall wellness.

Click the links below to learn more about several different healthy, flexible diets and see how they are similar by emphasizing foods full of antioxidants while limiting highly processed foods.