You can eat healthy with diabeteswhile still enjoying the types of foods you know and love, says Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, of Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services in New York and creator of MomDishesItOut.com. Follow these four key steps to planning healthy diabetes-friendly meals:
- Balance your diabetes meals with a mix of high-fiber carbs, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
- Spread your intake of carbohydrates throughout the day rather than saving for a big splurge at dinner or over the weekend.
- If you want dessert immediately after your meal, eat non-starchy veggies with your protein choice and save the rest of your carbs for the sweet dessert. Think salmon with steamed asparagus and roasted Brussels sprouts, followed by a slice of flourless chocolate cake (a small piece, of course, of 45 grams of carbs or less).
- To keep meals flavorful and interesting, make friends with healthy fats like olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados. Used in small amounts, these can add taste, texture, and color.
By experimenting in the kitchen, you can give all of your favorite dishes a healthy-meal makeover. Here are five ideas to get you started.
Meal Makeover: Put Your Favorite Salty Dish on a Low-Sodium Diet
According to the American Diabetes Association, for better diabetes nutrition, your daily sodium intake should be 2,300 mg or less. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which can contribute to a host of other health concerns. Make over high-salt recipes for betterdiabetes meals by relying on spices and herbs rather than salt, using low- or no-sodium broths or sauces in place of traditional choices, and adding mushrooms — they’re high in glutamic acid, known for salty flavor, but is sodium-free.
Here’s Cipullo’s low-salt, low-fat beef broccoli stir-fry recipe:
1/2 cup reduced-sodium teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boneless beef sirloin, trimmed if needed and sliced
3 cups broccoli florets
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 shallot, chopped
2 cups cooked brown rice
- In a small bowl, mix teriyaki sauce and flour. Set aside.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a wok or large non-stick skillet and add garlic and shallots; sauté until golden. Add beef strips and stir-fry, tossing until brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and rinse the skillet.
- In the skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil on medium heat. Add broccoli and peppers, cover and cook, tossing occasionally until crisp tender, about 5 minutes. Add teriyaki mixture and return beef to skillet. Cook until sauce thickens, about 2 more minutes. Serve warm over brown rice. Makes 4 servings.
Meal Makeover: Lose the Fat, Not the Flavor
Saturated fat raises blood cholesterol levels, a risk factor for heart disease. On its own, diabetes increases yourheart disease risk too, so limiting saturated fat in your meals is a must. The easiest way to cut fat from a dish is to start with lean cuts of red meat rather than fatty marbled cuts, skinless chicken, or fish, and bake or grill foods instead of frying. Cipullo also suggests cooking with broth instead of adding butter or other fats. Here’s her version of crispy chicken strips, which are diabetes-friendly because they’re baked not fried:
1 pound skinless chicken cutlets, cut into 1-inch strips
¾ cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 egg white
1 cup skim milk, more as needed
Canola oil spray
- Heat oven to 375°F. Line a large sheet pan with foil and spray with canola oil.
- Place the breadcrumbs in a medium bowl.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg white and milk.
- With a fork, dip each strip of chicken in the mixture of milk and egg white. Immediately transfer to the bowl with breadcrumbs and coat each side of the strips thoroughly. Place the breaded chicken strips on the sheet pan.
- Spray a light mist of oil on the top of each chicken strip for a crispier coating.
- Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once.
- Serve with tomato sauce or applesauce instead of ketchup. Makes 4 servings.
Meal Makeover: Go Vegetarian One Night a Week
A study published in the journalDiabetic Medicine found that people with type 2 diabetes who ate a vegetarian diet experienced a greater improvement in quality of life and mood than participants with diabetes who ate a conventional diet. For at least one meal each week, take a favorite dish and replace the meat with tofu, tempeh, or beans — hearty and thick alternatives in soups, chili, casseroles, and stir-fry, Cipullo says. Try her delicious recipe for heart-healthy vegetarian burritos to boost your diabetes nutrition:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
8 whole wheat tortillas
1 15-ounce can low salt black beans
1 15-ounce can low salt kidney beans
1 cup corn, frozen or fresh, steamed
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon cilantro
4 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups reduced fat and grated cheese
1 avocado, sliced
- In a large bowl, combine the beans, corn, tomatoes, lime juice, and cilantro.
- Drizzle oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the red onion and garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.
- When garlic becomes fragrant, add the bean mixture and reduce to low heat.
- Warm tortillas in the microwave for 20 seconds. Remove from heat and spread each tortilla with ½ cup rice down the center, followed by the bean mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup shredded cheese and few slices of avocado, if desired.
- Wrap your burrito and enjoy. Makes 4 servings.
Meal Makeover: Go With Whole Grains
Meal Makeover: Boost Diabetes Nutrition in Dessert
You can still enjoy dessert after a diabetes-friendly meal. Cipullo suggests a few quick fixes to make favorite recipes deliver better diabetes nutrition. For starters, opt for nutrient-rich, whole-wheat flour and whole oats rather than overly processed white flour, she advises. Use lighter whole-wheat pastry flour for delicate recipes. Cut the amount of sugar in half or try a sweetener like agave nectar, which you can use in smaller amounts to get the same flavor.
Try Cipullo’s delicious oatmeal-raisin cookies to satisfy your sweet tooth:
¾ cup canola oil
1 cup honey or agave nectar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ cup raisins
½ cup toasted chopped walnuts
1½ cups wheat germ
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
¾ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
½ cup powdered fat-free milk
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Line two large baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, stir together the canola oil, honey, eggs, vanilla extract, raisins, chopped walnuts, wheat germ, and rolled oats.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and powdered milk.
- Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well-combined.
- Scoop spoonfuls of the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets. The cookies won’t spread much, so you don’t need to leave a lot of room between them.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until dry around the edges.
- Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.