Testing out diabetic-friendly recipes

September 4, 2012 in diabetes, Member Stories, nutrition

One day, I hope to educate people about how to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes. To get an understanding of what it’s like to live with this condition, I thought I’d try cooking a meal a diabetic might prepare at home. I scoured the internet for diabetic-friendly recipes that were simple, included reasonably-priced, natural ingredients that would be easy to find and weren’t too far of a stretch from the food I would regularly eat. The end result: Finding the recipe and ingredients was pretty easy, but getting the taste right was not. It may take a little more creativity to put together flavorful carb-conscious meals, but there’s information out there to make it possible.

For recipes, I stuck with Diabetic Living magazine’s website, which had loads of options whether you were looking for breakfast, dinner, a quick snack or a family-sized meal. Each recipe comes with nutritional information and diabetic exchange values- important details for diabetics when planning out their meals. When choosing a recipe for this experiment, I realized that cooking with fresh fish can be expensive and most people are turned off by the idea of a tuna casserole. So, for the sake of appealing to a wider audience, I choose the chicken taco casserole.

Diabetic-friendly dinner (Cristina Cruz)

Diabetic-friendly dinner

When I made the casserole, I subbed low-fat cheddar for the monterey jack cheese, but mostly stuck to the recipe otherwise. I felt like I ate more vegetables from this dish than I normally would prepare, which made me realize this recipe is a good way for diabetics to add fresh vegetables to their diet without feeling like they have to eat salad at each meal. Although, leftovers re-heated in the microwave were not as good. I’d recommend re-heating this dish the next day in a toaster oven, if possible, to relive the “fresh out of the oven” experience.

Though I enjoyed the fresh ingredients in this recipe, I felt that it was slightly lacking in flavor. If I were to make this recipe again, my initial reaction would be to increase the shredded cheese, but that would probably throw off the careful balance of ingredients. To see what someone could do to add more flavor without compromising the diabetic-friendliness of the dish, I checked out WebMD’s tips about low-sodium cooking. Looking over the list of seasonings you could use instead of salt, my gut tells me a little bit of cumin and lime could totally change up the flavor profile of this casserole.


A Fall-themed breakfast (Cristina Cruz)

Low-sugar breakfast

I could have stopped at just one recipe, but I thought I’d test out this pumpkin-apple quick oatmeal for breakfast once I saw that there were “Fall recipes” on the Diabetic Living site. This was also a chance to see what the sweeter alternatives are like for diabetics. I prepared this the same night I made the casserole and re-heated it the next morning served with a dollop of non-fat vanilla greek yogurt. The oatmeal did have a little of that “Iow-sugar” taste. However, the non-fat vanilla yogurt and extra dash of cinnamon turned that around to make for a pleasant start to the day that I would make again once the leaves start to change color.

When I started this experiment, I was hoping I could say making these recipes confirmed that changing over to a diabetic-friendly diet is simple. But it’s not. For those newly-diagnosed with diabetes, I can imagine it’s frustrating to re-invent the wheel on what to cook at home or, even moreso, when going out to eat. The good thing is that there are resources out there to help with the switch. Here are a few pointers I found from the MayoClinic on what to keep in mind when eating out. For dining in, Diabetes Forecast, a magazine run by the American Diabetes Association, has a cool feature on their site that helps you “diabetize” your recipe. You can submit your favorite family recipe that you want to make diabetic-friendly and, if chosen, they’ll build a recipe around the main ingredients to create a healthier alternative.

Know of any recipes or cooking sites out there that could be helpful to someone living with diabetes? Please feel free to share by leaving a comment below.



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