So, you have diabetes and have been told you need to make some changes to the way you eat and cook. Don't throw out those old cookbooks or tattered-edged recipe cards just yet! You can still prepare many of the recipes you've always loved – you'll just have to tweak them to make them healthier.
Diabetes diets and meal plans will vary from person to person, but in most cases someone with diabetes will need to alter their intake of a few key things: carbohydrates (including fibre), fat, sodium, and proteins.
And "alter" doesn't always mean you have to "reduce" or "eliminate" delicious flavours. It could also mean that you'll need to "add" or "substitute" certain ingredients. Take a look at your favourite recipes and get creative! Find ways to adjust to your body's changing needs without sacrificing flavour. Here are a few ideas:
- Use artificial sweetener or natural sugar alternatives to either completely replace sugar or to substitute for a portion of a recipe's sugar content. Experiment with different types of sugar substitutes to test results. Some will work better for baking than others, and some blend well into liquids.
- Most people with diabetes need to boost their fibre intake. Add more fibre to your recipes by switching out refined white flour for whole wheat flour. As with sugar, you can completely replace refined flour with whole wheat flour or use half of one and half of the other. Adding more vegetables to your recipes is also an easy way to increase the fibre content.
- Oats are a versatile and helpful cooking staple for people with diabetes. Sprinkle oats atop muffins and cupcakes for a crunchy texture, or add oats to cookie dough. Stir oats into stews and soups and into the mixes for meatloaf, fish cakes, and veggie or turkey burgers. Oats help to both bulk up a recipe's fibre content and lower your cholesterol.
- Use cooking oils containing fats that have a positive or neutral effect on your health, including monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fats. These fats can improve cholesterol levels without sacrificing flavour. Minimize use of butter, shortening, or lard.
- Cook in healthier ways, such as baking, steaming, poaching, grilling, roasting, or stir-frying. Avoid deep-frying, breading or battering.
- Cut out animal fat. Skim the fat off of soups, stews, and chilli, and trim the fat off of cuts of meat. Place meat on a rack while broiling, roasting, or baking so fat will drain.
- Set aside the salt shaker to make room for other herbs and spices. Make your own sauces, dressings, rubs, and marinades, so you can control the amount of salt you add. If you choose a store-bought product, check the labels and shrink your portions to a reasonable amount of sodium. Canned beans and vegetables should be drained and rinsed to remove some of the added salt used as preservatives.
- Select lean meats. For recipes that call for beef, choose the round, chuck, sirloin, or loin. Ground beef should be lean or extra lean. In pork recipes, go for the tenderloin or loin chop. Whenever possible, swap out red-meats for lean protein such as poultry.
As much as possible, limit sugary-drinks, candies and desserts. These are low in nutritional value, high in calories, and make it harder for you to control your blood sugar. Instead, if you're craving something sweet, opt for healthier options such as fruits or baked sweet potato.