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5 Slow Cooker Recipes for People with Type 2 Diabetes

Diet and Nutrition

March 09, 2023

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Photography by Melissa Milis Photography/Stocksy United

Photography by Melissa Milis Photography/Stocksy United

by Sarah Graves, PhD

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Medically Reviewed by:

Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, CNSC, LD

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•••••

by Sarah Graves, PhD

•••••

Medically Reviewed by:

Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, CNSC, LD

•••••

•••••

Prep these recipes in a slow cooker to enjoy stress-free and nutritious meals that may help you manage your blood sugar levels with type 2 diabetes.

I love cooking — it’s a creative outlet for me. But as a busy mom with a full-time job and a side hustle, I’m often short on time or too tired for intensive weeknight meal prep.

Because of this, my multicooker is the hardest-working appliance in my kitchen. While I often rely on the super-fast pressure cooker setting, nothing beats coming home on a busy weeknight to a meal that’s already prepared.

Even better, when I’ve got a meal in the slow cooker, I know there’s something healthy waiting at home to feed my family that will keep my blood sugar in check far better than fast food or takeout would.

Here are some of my favorite slow cooker recipes that are simple to make and full of tasty and nutritious ingredients for people with type 2 diabetes.

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Notes on ingredients

To keep these dishes blood-sugar-friendly, I opt for research-backed ingredients proven to aid with type 2 diabetes management.

Lean into fresh or frozen produce

Research suggests that pesticide exposure contributes to the onset and severity of type 2 diabetes because pesticides disrupt the endocrine system. One in particular, bisphenol A (BPA), is often found in canned food.

Therefore, you may want to consider choosing fresh or frozen produce over canned products.

Personally, I also try to avoid the “Dirty Dozen,” the most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables, and instead buy their organic versions. There’s also a “Clean Fifteen” list of fruits and vegetables with the least contamination that you may want to consider.

Regardless of the type of produce you choose, vital nutrients are present in various types and you shouldn’t limit your consumption based on potential pesticide levels. The most important aspect is that you incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet.

Consider limiting or avoiding specific food additives and preservatives

Similarly, many food additives and preservatives are also endocrine disruptors. Nitrates and nitrites used in processed meats and propionate, a fatty acid used to preserve baked goods, are just two examples.

So, it’s beneficial to become an avid reader of ingredient labels. I typically play it safe, and if I don’t know what an ingredient is, I assume it could be an endocrine-disrupting food additive.

Nitrates, nitrites, or propionate can also be present in seasonings. Thus, I buy ingredients like spice mixes, such as chili powder, that contain nothing but spices. The same goes for ingredients like jalapeños or olives. I always check to ensure the brand I’m buying contains no additives or preservatives.

Go for high fiber sides

Because fiber-rich foods like whole grains are digested more slowly, they help avoid blood sugar spikes. I always opt for pairing my mains with blood-sugar-friendly whole-grain sides like brown rice, quinoa, or whole wheat pasta.

For lower carb options, opt for fiber-rich veggies. For example, you can swap pasta with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles and brown rice with cauliflower rice.

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1. Baked ziti

This “baked” ziti is a staple in my house. It’s one of my husband’s favorites, so I always make enough for leftovers.

This recipe includes nutrient-dense spinach, but you can up the veggie content by adding diced carrots, bell peppers, zucchini, or mushrooms.

Start to finish: 15 minutes to prep; 4–7 hours cooking time

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. oil of choice (such as avocado oil, olive oil, or soybean oil)
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or run through a press
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 (24-oz.) jar of marinara sauce
  • 1 (28-oz.) can of petite diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth or water
  • 1 tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 5 oz. fresh baby spinach
  • 1 lb. uncooked, whole wheat ziti, penne, rotini, or other small pasta
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese or 6-cheese Italian blend

Directions

  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, sauté ground beef, onion, and fennel seed in oil until the beef is crumbled and browned. (If using a multicooker, you can use the sauté function on your cooker to cut down on extra dishes.)
  2. Stir in the garlic and salt and sauté for 1 more minute.
  3. Add the beef mixture, marinara sauce, tomatoes, broth, Italian seasoning, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and basil to the pot of your slow cooker.
  4. Cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours.
  5. Turn the slow cooker to high, if not already. Stir in the spinach until wilted into the sauce.
  6. Add the pasta and stir until it’s fully submerged in the liquid. Ensure you don’t have any pasta sticking out, or it may end up uncooked. Add more water or broth if you need more liquid.
  7. Continue cooking for 15–30 more minutes. Check pasta at the 15-minute mark to avoid overcooking.
  8. Remove the lid and sprinkle with the cheese. Recover and cook for 3–5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted.

Recipe note: For a quicker version, you can easily adapt this recipe for the pressure cooker. Simply brown the ground beef, fennel, and onions, then add everything except the pasta and cheese to the pot of your pressure cooker. Stir, then submerge the pasta without stirring, and set your pressure cooker to high for 8 minutes. Once the pasta is cooked, sprinkle with the cheese and let set until melted.

2. Chicken shawarma

This recipe is one of my personal favorites. The combination of spices in this classic is absolutely delicious.

You can serve it food truck-style by tucking it into a pita with tahini and chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and olives. But this slow cooker version is more tender than crisp and cooks in an extra tasty marinade when poured over blood-sugar-friendly brown rice to soak up the juices.

Start to finish: 10 minutes to prep; 4–6 hours cooking time

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 lbs. chicken breast tenders
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of oil of your choice (such as avocado oil, olive oil, or soybean oil)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or run through a press
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt

Directions

  1. Add the chicken and sliced onions to the pot of your slow cooker.
  2. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, oil, garlic, and spices. Pour over the chicken and onions.
  3. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours.
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3. Chicken cacciatore

Chicken cacciatore makes for a super-easy “dump” style meal — just toss everything in your slow cooker and let the vegetables, chicken, and aromatic spices mingle all day.

In my family, we like to serve it on top of brown rice. But you can also serve it with whole wheat pasta, spaghetti squash, or zucchini noodles.

Start to finish: 10 minutes to prep; 4–6 hours cooking time

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 (15-oz.) can of tomato sauce or puree
  • 1 (12-oz.) can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine (or substitute with chicken broth)
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced or run through a press
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup sliced green or kalamata olives

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to the slow cooker except for the mushrooms and olives.
  2. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours.
  3. Add the mushrooms and olives in the last 30 minutes of cooking.
  4. Season with extra salt to taste before serving.

4. Chili

This chili is perfect for a crisp fall or chilly winter evening. Full of fiber-rich and diabetes-friendly beans, you can make it without meat for a vegetarian alternative.

Start to finish: 10 minutes to prep; 4–6 hours cooking time

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. of oil of your choice (such as avocado oil, olive oil, or soybean oil)
  • 1 lb. ground beef (optional)
  • 2 (28-oz.) cans of diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (7-oz.) can fire roasted, diced green chiles
  • 2 (15-oz.) cans of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15-oz.) cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15-oz.) cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tbsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or run through a press
  • 2 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • Optional toppings: sour cream, jalapeños, and shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, sauté ground beef in oil. Use a spatula to continually break up the beef until crumbled and browned. (Note: If using a multicooker, you can cut down on extra dishes by using the sauté function.)
  2. Add the ground beef plus the remaining ingredients to the pot of your slow cooker.
  3. Stir until uniformly combined.
  4. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours.
  5. Spoon into bowls and add toppings, if desired.
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5. Greek chicken

Slow simmered in a Mediterranean marinade, this chicken is equally delicious whether it’s served hot over brown rice or enjoyed cold atop a mixed greens salad.

You can also adjust the ingredients seasonally. In the winter, I like to make it with chopped bell peppers cooked in the slow cooker with the chicken. In the summer, I make Greek chicken bowls with a diced tomato and cucumber salad piled next to my chicken and rice.

Whatever the season, I always enjoy it with plenty of homemade tzatziki.

Start to finish: 15 minutes to prep; 4–6 hours cooking time

Serves: 6

Ingredients

For the chicken

  • 2 1/2 lbs. of chicken breast tenders
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced or run through a press
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper

For the tzatziki

  • 1 cup plain, whole milk yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. fresh garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. dried dill
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 oz. Greek feta cheese

Directions

  1. Add the chicken to your slow cooker.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, garlic, and spices. Pour over the chicken.
  3. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours.
  4. Meanwhile, prep the tzatziki. Add all the tzatziki ingredients to a blender and mix until smooth.

Recipe note: The tzatziki tastes best when the ingredients have had time to mingle, so you can make the dressing ahead and store it in the fridge until the chicken is ready to serve. It keeps well for up to 2 weeks, so you can enjoy it on leftovers or as a salad dressing. Some separation is normal. Just whisk the dressing until smooth again.

The bottom line

Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated when you’re living with type 2 diabetes. There are tons of healthy and delicious recipes you can easily make in the slow cooker for stress-free meals that won’t spike your blood sugar.

For even more slow cooker ideas, you can try searching for blood-sugar-friendly recipes on a website like Pinterest or reach out to other members in the Bezzy community.

Medically reviewed on March 09, 2023

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About the author

Sarah Graves, PhD

Sarah Graves is a Columbus Ohio-based English professor, writing center director, and writer whose work has appeared all over the web. She’s written on such diverse topics as education, parenting, personal finance, and health and wellness. She’s most passionate about providing resources for creatives, especially young creators. You can find out more on her website or follow her on Instagram @SarahGravesPhD.

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