Tips for Food Preparation and Recipe Modification for Those with Type 2 Diabetes
If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, one of the many things on your mind might be, “What will I eat now? Does having diabetes mean giving up all your favorite foods and having to resort to bland, unappetizing dishes?” Fortunately, it does not. These tips can allow you to enjoy eating while also taking care of your health.
Replace solid fats like butter or lard with a healthier liquid fat
Saturated fats and trans fats are generally considered “bad” because they increase the production of LDL cholesterol. They also cause plaque to form in the coronary arteries, narrowing them and forcing the heart to work harder than it should to pump blood, which raises the risk of stroke and heart attack. Some of the foods to avoid that contain them include things like lard, butter, and palm kernel oil.
People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing heart disease. In fact, three out of four diabetics die of some type of heart disease. It has been estimated that the risk for stroke is two to four times greater for diabetics than those that don’t have the disease. That means it’s important to limit less healthy fats, replacing them with “good” fats.
Omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the “good” fats, which help to rid the bloodstream of LDL cholesterol and lower your risk of developing a blockage.
Some liquid fats, such as coconut oil and olive oil, are actually considered healthy. While coconut oil is high in saturated fat, it’s considered a beneficial saturated fat due to its lauric acid content, which actually supports heart health.
Keep in mind that as some oils may impart a strong flavor, you may need to experiment a bit to find the right oil for a particular recipe.
Modify your cooking technique
Trying new cooking techniques can make it a lot easier to adhere to a diabetic-friendly diet.
- Instead of frying protein, try non-frying methods such as baking, broiling, grilling or roasting.
- Steam your vegetables in a minimal amount of water or an organic, low-sodium broth.
- Sauté vegetables in a little bit of olive oil for extra health benefits and flavor.
Use spices and herbs liberally
Instead of reaching for the salt, try experimenting with various spices and herbs, many of which offer a wealth of health benefits in addition to adding flavor. Cinnamon, for example, has been found to help lower blood sugar levels. By using spices and herbs, you can often cut out salt, or at least reduce the amount used. If you really want a more salty taste, just sprinkle on a little after it’s already been cooked.
Limit the use of sugar and avoid artificial sweeteners
As you probably already know, sugar raises your blood sugar. To keep your blood sugar in check, you can reduce the amount of sugar used in a recipe without significantly affecting its taste or texture. One exception is recipes that call for yeast because it requires sugar in order for the end result to come out properly. In bread, for example, the sugar helps to feed the yeast that provides leavening.
Avoid using artificial sweeteners like aspartame because they may actually be even worse than actual sugar for diabetics, according to a number of studies. A study published in PLos One in 2012 showed that chronic lifetime exposure to aspartame produced changes in blood glucose parameters that adversely impacted spatial learning and memory in mice. It also decreased insulin sensitivity, as compared to controls.
Coconut sugar is a great sugar alternative and has a pleasant caramel taste. Considered a natural sweetener, it has a glycemic index of 35, and while making foods with it would not render them sugar-free, coconut sugar, which is made up of sucrose along with small amounts of fructose and sucrose, is considered acceptable due to the way it breaks down in the body. It can typically be used on a 1:1 basis in recipes. Because coconut sugar is coarser than white or brown sugar, the result will have a more speckled look.
You don’t need to avoid all sugar, all the time. You can enjoy some of your favorite treats, provided you plan properly. The key is to limit hidden sugars that are often found in processed and fast foods, including staples like cereals and bread, pasta sauce, frozen dinners, etc.
Sugar is disguised as many different forms: molasses, honey, agave nectar, corn sweetener, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, lactose, high fructose corn syrup, and many others. Play detective and learn to spot sugar on ingredient labels in all of its forms.
Desserts don’t need to be completely off limits as long as they’re a part of an overall healthy meal plan.
Invest in a few good kitchen tools
Cooking healthy meals is much easier when you have the right tools, such as sharp knives. Invest in a good chef’s knife as well as a small paring knife to make it easier to cut those fresh vegetables. A julienne peeler is cheap and great for slicing up vegetables like squash into pasta-like noodles. Having a large cutting board and quality cookware like a cast iron pan, can also making cooking at home a lot easier.
Plan out your meals for the week
Having a plan is a great way to stay on track with your diet and also helps you to avoid shopping when you’re hungry. If you don’t have a plan and hunger kicks in, you’ll be more tempted to reach for anything, and often, that choice won’t be the best one.
Get in the habit of sitting down once a week, planning out your meals, making a list for the grocery store and then sticking to it. Before you go to the market, have a least something small to eat to make resisting temptations easier.
Keep your kitchen well-stocked
As we all know, life can get in the way of best-laid plans. If you can’t get to the grocery store for some reason, having some “emergency” foods in your freezer and pantry can be a lifesaver. Stock up on low-sodium canned foods (preferably BPA-free cans) because they have a long shelf-life and are typically budget-friendly.
Canned vegetables and beans are already cooked, so all you’ll have to do is open up the can and use them. If you buy canned fruit, avoid varieties with added sugar.
While most fresh vegetables won’t keep for long, it’s important to eat as many as often as you can. You can never have enough when you’re following a healthy diet.
One trick is to buy veggies that can last a few days in the refrigerator before spoiling. Some examples are broccoli, kale, bell peppers, mushrooms and celery. They all tend to hold up well, add lots of flavor and nutrition to meals, and are low in carbs, too. Of course, you’ll want to diversify by including plenty of others vegetables, too, like sweet potatoes, beets and spinach. The more naturally colorful your diet (and we’re not talking Skittles), the better.
Better shopping at the grocery store
Before you go to the store, there are a number of things you can do in addition to light eating that can help you stick to your list. Use the smallest shopping cart or a basket, as you won’t have space for many extra items. Aim to shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where there are more fresh, whole foods like produce, eggs, and poultry. Avoid packaged items as they tend to be unhealthy and highly processed. Most of these are located in the aisles at the center of the store, with the exception of frozen fruits and vegetables.
Prep foods ahead of time
After you get home from the grocery store, start prepping any food you can prepare ahead of time. This makes it easier and less time consuming to prepare healthy meals and snacks during the week. For example, you might slice up some celery or carrots into bite-size pieces so that you’ll have something to munch on instead of chips.
On days when you don’t have to work, consider cooking stews, casseroles and soups in large batches to make multiple meal servings. You could double a recipe so you have leftovers. Most will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, or you can freeze them to be eaten later.
Try some of these fabulous recipes and stock your freezer with goodness.
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