The Diabetes Chef Table
Is it possible that diabetes can actually help your family? Diabetes is certainly a lot to manage, but it also provides a unique opportunity for families to better understand their wellness and develop healthy habits together, including the choices they make when it comes to mealtime.
Food plays such a huge role in the life of a family. The dinner table is where we sit down to catch up at the end of a long day and holidays would not be the same without the usual spread of delicious eats. Recipes for those dishes might be passed down from generation to generation. But when you come home with a diabetes diagnosis, it can feel like a roadblock to participating in these important traditions. The truth is that you can still enjoy these times with your family. The only thing that changes is how you support your blood sugar management with food and activity.
Here are some basics on cooking with a thoughtful plan for preparing diabetes-friendly meals, you might find that your entire family is ready to make healthier food choices together.
Make Food Carb Friendly
When we think about cooking with the family, it is common to think of food that gives you a feeling of emotional comfort when eating it. Whether it is grandma’s meatballs or mom’s homemade pierogis, the smell and taste of these dishes can make you feel warm and at home. However, these recipes are often centered around not-so-healthy ingredients, and may contain high levels of carbs, starches, fat, or sugars. Some of the most popular foods like this are:
- Noodles (25-40g carbs per serving)
- Dumplings (10-30g carbs per serving)
- Potatoes (32g carbs per serving)
- Pizza (26-30g carbs per serving)
Thankfully, there are plenty of easy substitutions, both in terms of ingredients and preparation, that can help to reduce the blood sugar impact of these dishes
- Instead of using rice or wheat noodles, try using zucchini and other veggies to make noodles. They are better for you and add fun and color to your meal.
- Stuffed veggies are a great alternative to dumplings. And while we may be used to a soft dough, you can also use cabbage as a wrapper for dumplings.
- If you are looking for an easy source of extra vegetables in your diet, consider swapping out shredded cheese for shredded butternut squash.
- Cauliflower is a versatile ingredient. You can easily mash, roast, or fry it for a potato substitute. It also works well as a pizza crust!
- Choose snacks that are made from fresh, naturally low-carb ingredients. A fresh tomato with some feta cheese, black pepper, and olive oil can provide some quick energy and good nutrients.
Be Smarter with Your Fats
Cutting down on trans and saturated fats is an important aspect of any healthy diet. That is because these types of fats can raise your blood cholesterol levels.1 Individuals with diabetes are already at a higher risk for heart disease, heart attack, or stroke, so reducing trans and saturated fat intake is a great way to reduce these risks. Try starting by replacing trans fats, ingredients like butter or lard. These hydrogenated oils are actually worse than saturated fats. Luckily, you can easily replace these by cooking with canola oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil or olive oil.2
Fiber Is Your Friend
One reason we love carbs is because they leave us feeling full and satisfied after a meal. But there are other options to satiate your hunger without ruining your nutrition plan. Fiber is a fantastic nutrient to seek out because while it fills you up, it is not actually broken down by the body, meaning it will not raise your blood sugar a single point.3 Great sources of fiber come from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, so mealtime can still be a varied feast.4
While many factors can slow the absorption of carbs into your bloodstream,5 sugar in food or beverages can immediately raise the levels in your blood. So, when cooking anything with sweetness, it might be best to consider sugar substitutes like Stevia. Also, you may be able to simply cut the level of sugar in a recipe without affecting taste by using alternatives such as honey or maple syrup. Applesauce or bananas are other popular refined sugar substitutes, especially in baked goods.6
Eating is one of the great pleasures we share with the people we love. For both the members of your family living with diabetes and those living without it, choosing healthy foods to prepare together can add a new layer of fun and wellness to something you already enjoy.
Are you ready to begin talking to your friends and family about diabetes?
Download the Family Field Guide to Living with Diabetes for some quick tips for communicating with your loved ones.
1 “Fats.” American Diabetes Association, 15 Aug. 2015, www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-foo.... Accessed October 23, 2018
2 Brown, Jennifer J. “Choose Heart-Healthy Cooking Oils With Healthy Fats.” EverydayHealth.com, 18 Mar. 2016, www.everydayhealth.com/heart-health-pictures/fat-facts-cooking-oils-for-.... Accessed October 23, 2018
3 “Joslin Diabetes Center | Fiber & Blood Glucose.” Ow Does Fiber Affect Blood Glucose Levels?, Joslin Diabetes Center, www.joslin.org/info/how_does_fiber_affect_blood_glucose_levels.html. Accessed October 23, 2018
5 Jacob, Aglaee. “What Factors Slow the Absorption of Carbohydrates?” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 3 Oct. 2017, www.livestrong.com/article/500047-what-factors-slow-the-absorption-of-ca.... Accessed October 23, 2018
6 Stakal, Kimberley. “Using Fruits to Replace Sugar in Your Recipes.” Organic Authority, 10 Nov. 2013, www.organicauthority.com/eco-chic-table/using-fruits-to-replace-sugar-in.... Accessed October 23, 2018