Pre-Diabetes and microwave dinners?

Posted: March 20, 2011 by amygilman in Nutrition Q & Amy
Tags: , ,

I am a Nutrition Editor at, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:


I am writing on behalf of my sister. She does NOT cook.  She is living alone and has been diagnosed with pre-diabetes.  She lives mainly on microwave dinners and convenience foods.  She is not open to learning to cook.  Do you have any helpful hints for someone like this?”


I can certainly provide tips for finding healthier choices for convenience foods.  However, when someone is diagnosed with pre-diabetes, it may be a good time to evaluate the current lifestyle and think about what is important in life and if there is anything worth changing.  It is no secret that processed foods (i.e. microwave dinners, convenience foods) contain a lot of fat, sodium, calories, and fast-digesting carbohydrates (not the kind someone with pre-diabetes would want).   They also contain chemicals and ingredients that many of us cannot even pronounce.  These chemicals and unknown ingredients may have a big effect on our over-all health.  Whole, un-processed foods in their natural state are usually the key ingredients to a healthy lifestyle.

That being said, I understand that we are all living very busy lives and it would be handy to have some quick meal ideas.  Here are some tips:

  1. Reduce Salt intake:   If you know you will have a microwave meal for dinner, try to cut back on the salt intake during the rest of the day.
  2. Invest in a juicer and make smoothies with fresh vegetables: Most of these machines will come with ideas for smoothie recipes and it is a quick way to get a healthy meal in – especially when on-the-go.  Try blending spinach, kale, lemon, ginger, cucumber, peanut butter (natural, no salt-added) with soy milk (if this blend sounds disgusting to you, play around with other vegetables – there are millions of recipes out there).
  3. Incorporate beans into the diet: Canned beans are quick and easy.  All you have to do is rinse them really well (which gets the gas-forming substance off of them) and throw them in a salad or any numerous amounts of dishes.  Beans will provide protein, fiber and antioxidants.  Bean salads are so quick to make.  I usually take 4 different types of beans (or, even easier, the stores sell mixed canned beans), a pepper, garlic, some form of acid (lately I’ve been using brown rice vinegar), an oil (sometimes safflower oil) and mix it all together and you have a lovely bean salad.  If you’ve read my posts in the past, you know we like it spicy in my household so I will also add some siracha (Asian hot sauce).  The point is, bean salads are quick, yet packed with nutrients and there is no cooking involved!
  4. Consider microwaving vegetables:   Broccoli will cook very nicely in the microwave.  Place a little bit of water in a container, add the broccoli florets and microwave.  Cooking times will vary depending on the microwave, but it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes or so to get the broccoli to a texture that you like.
  5. Drink a lot of water:   Water helps rid of the body of toxins and waste products – this is helpful for those that are consuming a lot of processed foods.

Here is a sample meal plan that does not involve any cooking!  This may give you an idea of how to choose healthier, lower sodium options throughout the day before you get to the microwave dinner at night.  Remember, this is a “sample” meal plan and your caloric and carbohydrate needs may be higher or lower.

Quick picks 1-Day Sample Menu
Meal 1  7:00am 1 – 8oz cup Nonfat greek yogurt 

¼ cup granola

¼ cup sliced strawberries

Meal 2  10:00am Option 1: Carnation Instant Breakfast  (CIB) Shake (try blending in a vegetable such as spinach) 


Option 2: Try a healthy recipe from the new juicer you just purchased

Meal 3  1:00pm ½ cup Four-bean Salad 

1 apple

1 cup baby carrots

Meal 4  4:00pm 1oz raw almonds (about 20) 

1 medium-size orange

Meal 5  7:00pm Microwave meal (choose a low sodium option)


Thank you for the question.  I hope you take this time to invest in yourself and learn about all the wonderful ways to eat healthy foods without hours of prep work in the kitchen.


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