This is the first in a series of posts in which we will be reviewing recipes from the health and wellness books by Karen Graham: the Complete Diabetes Guide, Diabetes Cookbook and her latest addition, Diabetes Essentials.

We were first introduced to Karen and her books through Instagram and after a little research, we asked her to be a guest on our podcast. Karen is well known throughout Canada and the United States as an author, but she also has extensive experience working with a variety of clients, including the indigenous peoples of Canada, as a dietitian. Her goal is to help educate her clients with positive life style changes and diabetes management strategies that are inclusive of food traditions and family heritage. For more about Karen’s tips and advice, check out her blog here.

Karen’s books are easy, no nonsense manuals and guides that read more like a reference magazine than a book.

Karen’s books are easy, no nonsense manuals and guides that read more like a reference magazine than a book. With big pictures and photos, and a layout that makes it easy for anyone to read, one can obtain the information they’re looking for quickly and easily. Whether its advice on lowering blood sugars, what to expect from lab tests or a full blown meal plan, these are great books for anyone that is managing diabetes from a reference and education perspective.

One of the best components of Karens books are her recipes. Inspired by her own family, each recipe has been tested to be nutritiously sound, support proper blood sugar ranges, and no less important, familiar and taste great. Because diabetes is a condition that is closely tied to our food choices and diet, its important to consider with any cookbook that recommends diet changes, that they accomplish three core tenets: 1. Be easy to read, 2. Use readily available and affordable ingredients and 3. the recipes should be easy to understand and recreate regardless of ones skill level in the kitchen.

… to my surprise; Karen wanted to participate in the demonstration of her recipes with us.

We thought that there was no better way to evaluate these requirements than to try them. During our podcast interview with Karen, we promised to review the books and test some of the recipes. To our surprise, Karen wanted to join us in the demonstration of her recipes with us. We were delighted.

So we started with Chicken Souvlaki and Tzatiki from her book, Diabetes Essentials.

Chicken Souvlaki is an amazing greek dish that bursts with flavor, is easy to make and is an essential go to meal year around. Whether on the grill or seared in a pan, Chicken Souvlaki will impress virtually anyone who tries it.

What is Souvlaki

The word souvlaki is derived from the Medieval Greek word “souvla” meaning skewer. So, in its simplest terms, souvlaki is more the method of cooking the meat rather than an individual dish. In Greece, Souvlaki is traditionally made with pork although any type of meat that fits on a skewer will work, like chicken, beef or lamb.

Considered street food, Souvlaki is often served with vegetables such as tomato, onion and lettuce and depending on the region in Greece, served with Tzatziki, a chilled yogurt sauce on a pita for eating by hand.

What makes Souvlaki a great dish

Simply put, its simple. With just a few bold flavored ingredients and cooked in a way that creates contrasting textures and preserves a moist cut of meat, the greatness of Souvlaki is capped off by one our favorite ways to eat… its on a stick!

The marinade is made with lemon, garlic, a few herbs and a small amount of olive oil and salt. Each ingredient plays a big part in flavor but also, function. The lemon juice and salt tenderize the meat, and this process allows the essence of the herbs and garlic to penetrate the meat so flavor and moisture are created throughout each piece.

Why Karen’s Souvlaki recipe is diabetes friendly

Grilled or seared lean meats on a skewer shouldn’t strike many people as not diabetic friendly. As with so many meals, when you consider the whole meal, with its sides and condiments, that is where the nutritional health benefits can go sideways.

For example, Souvlaki is often served with pita bread that has been griddled in butter. It may also be accompanied with white rice, a little tomato and onion for garnish and a Tzatziki sauce. Not bad, but the carbohydrates can sneak up on you with the bread, rice and the portion sizes in comparison to the meat and vegetables alone.

Portion control that you control

Karens recipes take virtually all the guess work out of the cooking. By providing both a large and small meal option, each plate is balanced, carb deliberate and filling, You can prepare a meal with the confidence that you are not only eating healthy, but are empowered by the choice of meal size depending on what you want. That is the power of her books, the complicated, sometimes overwhelming thought of having to cook a meal is made easier because those factors that can stress many out are moved out of the way for you.

Small changes with a big payoff

Karen makes, what could seem like small changes to her recipes using healthier ingredients, subtle increases in fiber, lower salt, but don’t let that mislead you. These changes support a manageable, long term focused approach to eating healthier with diabetes.

Listen to our Podcast and more recipes from Karens books coming soon

We will be making more recipe videos from Karens books soon. With options from breakfast and soups, to baked good and desserts, we have plenty more to share. In the meantime, please listen and subscribe to our podcast, DiabeticSAVVY, the podcast edition. You can also check out her book here.

Enjoy and be carb deliberate.

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce

Greek Style Chicken Skewers with a Yogurt Sauce
Servings 8 Skewers
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 20 mins


  • Wooden or metal Skewers


For the Chicken Skewers

  • 4 each Garlic Cloves chopped fine
  • 1 tbsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 tsp Dried Rosemary
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Juice of 1 large Lemon
  • 1 ½ Pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Cut into 1" pieces

For the Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 medium Seedless Cucumber half peeled and grated
  • 1 each Garlic Clove minced
  • 1 tsp Granulated Sugar
  • ½ tsp Dry Dillweed
  • tsp Salt
  • 2 cups Fat Free or 2% Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice


To make the Chicken Souvlaki

    Equipment Prep

    • Soak skewers in water for a minimum 30 minutes or as much as overnight to prevent them from burning.

    Making the Marinade & Preparing the Chicken

    • In a large bowl, combine marinade ingredients: garlic, oregano, rosemary, salt, pepper, oil and lemon juice. Add chicken pieces and toss and marinate until well coated. Marinate overnight or several hours before cooking, but no less than 30 minutes.
    • Preheat the Grill to medium heat.
    • Remove chicken from marinade and discard the marinade. Thread five pieces of chicken on the each skewer. Grill for 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink inside. Turn skewers occasionally to cook meat on all sides.

    To make the Tzatziki Sauce

    • Using your hands, in small batches, squeeze the liquid from the shredded cucumber. Place in a medium bowl and gently stir in garlic, sugar, dill, salt, yogurt and lemon juice.
    • Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to three days.



    Karen’s Tip: if you don’t have a barbecue grill, you can place the skewers on a rimmed baking sheet and grill in your oven to desired doneness.
    Additionally, as seen in our video: you can see are the chicken on high heat in a pan on the stove top and finish your chicken in a 350°F oven for 80, Or until no longer pink inside.
    Recipe developed by Karen Graham, RD, CDE and credit sourced with permission: Diabetes Essentials. Tips & Recipes to Manage Type 2 Diabetes published by Robert Rose, 2020
    Author: Karen Graham
    Calories: 105kcal
    Course: Main Course
    Cuisine: Greek, Mediterranean
    Keyword: Chicken, Skewers, Grilled, Souvlaki

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