Recipes

7 Tips for Healthy Diabetic-Friendly Recipes

I often say that cooking at home is a great way to manage your waistline. When dining out we have less control over the quality of ingredients used, the amount of sodium, fat, and sugar that goes into a meal and bottom line, it’s not always ideal for your budget. If you have a more on-the-go lifestyle, there are smart strategies to eat healthier and minimize possible weight gain when dining out- enjoy ½ of your meal proper at the restaurant and take the other half home, replace starches with grilled or steamed veggies or a side salad, share an entrée, and make tradeoffs- if you want a glass of wine, skip the bread basket.

For some, cooking at home is a natural part of their everyday lifestyle. For others, it takes a bit more effort. Things can also become challenging when you are managing a health condition like diabetes. With a greater risk of heart disease and hypertension, how you manage and make food choices can be a very helpful and preventative tool.

Making a meal should be filled with joy and pleasure. While I understand our lifestyles often prevent us from making “fancy” meals, there is beauty in simplicity. My philosophy when it comes to nourishing our bodies is that you want it to taste good and be good for you. Use the best possible ingredients you can, nothing artificial or funky, and use spice for flavor to minimize added salt or sugar.

Our diet consists of three macronutrients: Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat. This is the basis for the formula I share in my book: The One One One Diet. Each meal and snacks should consist of one serving of each of the macronutrients. This keeps your blood sugar stable, your cravings at minimum and leaves your brain and body satiated and full from the fats. The balance within your meals and food choices makes the difference between a high blood sugar reading and a crash or stable blood sugar with minimal cravings and satisfaction.

There may be foods that are suggested as “diabetes friendly” or recipes presented in this same manner. What you want to avoid is the use of artificial ingredients. Here is how I see it, a cookie is a cookie. The key when you have diabetes or for anyone for that matter is to pay attention to how hungry you are, make sure you have balance, and to not overeat. When your blood sugar gets too low (hypoglycemia) you seek out fast acting sugars like simple carbs which can stabilize your blood sugar but leave your body

So, when it comes to desserts, they usually do not contain a major source of protein but do contain fats and carbohydrates. The recommendation here is to enjoy protein with your treat like a cup of milk. You can also make the treat your “side” with your meal when you enjoy a protein and vegetable meal. Make it work so that your blood sugar doesn’t shoot through the roof.

Here are 7 Tips for Healthy Diabetic-friendly Recipes:

1. Skip the Fryer: how you prepare your food has a significant impact on how your body digest’s the meal as well as how you feel at the end of the meal. Fatty fried foods can wreak havoc on your arteries long term, increase your overall cholesterol and add calories that can lead to weight gain and belly fat. Smarter cooking techniques like making a stir-fry, baking or poaching your foods require minimal to no oil. This is great for meats and veggies.

2. Spice it Up:

When are recipe calls for sugar, especially when baking, think about using less and adding in sweet spices, such as ground cinnamon vanilla extract. When a recipe calls for fruit, fresh is best, then frozen, then canned. Note, if you are using canned fruit, make sure it is packed in water or their own juices vs. sugary syrups.

3. Nothing Artificial: I know many of you may use artificial sweeteners in your cooking/baking/meal prep especially when it comes to desserts but I think the more natural your diet is the better. Remember it is all about pairing, so you will no longer be enjoying the brownies or cookies without protein on the side.

4. Make Healthy Fats your Friend: healthy fats range from wild salmon, avocado, nuts, seeds, and nut and seed butters. Healthy fats are good for your heart as well as for your brain.

5. Slash the Sodium: This is a general recommendation for anyone looking to stay healthy. However, when you have diabetes, keeping your blood pressure in check is critical as hypertension (high blood pressure) can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke which are common complications of diabetes. In any given recipe, try to use ½ of the suggested amount of sodium and replace it with additional herbs and spices. This actually adds more flavor to your dish. Another smart strategy, don’t salt your food once it has been prepared.

6. Choose Whole Grains: stock your pantry with healthy carbohydrates like brown rice, quinoa, rolled oats, whole wheat pasta. Whole grains may contribute to maintaining healthy blood glucose levels because of the higher fiber content.

7. Beans for Better Blood Sugar: Beans, chickpeas and lentils and other legumes are known as complex carbohydrates. They are high in fiber, have a low glycemic index and also contain protein. Diets including these foods have been shown to improve blood glucose control, can help you maintain a healthy weight, improve or reduce your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels (free floating fats in your blood stream). With so many ways to incorporate these heart healthy beans, you can easily add variety to the dinner table a few nights/week. This is a simple 1:1:1 recipe for Green Beans with Tomatoes, Olives, & Eggs that is also high in fiber, vegetarian and gluten-free.

Photo: Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of green beans, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup of grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup of Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • Course salt and ground pepper
  • Lemon Wedges

Directions:

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook beans until crisp-tender, 3 minutes. Drain; rinse under cold water. Halve beans and place in a bowl; add tomatoes, olives, oil, and eggs. Season with salt and pepper; serve with lemon wedges.