May 30, 2012

Eating Well With Diabetes

Diabetics can eat sweet corn but not too much 
because it can raise your blood sugar.
When my wife and I moved to Moloka'i 15 years ago, we began to realize that a huge number of our friends and neighbors had diabetes. I wanted to know why, so recently I began researching diabetes and found out that native Hawaiians have the second highest rate of type 2 diabetes in the U.S. and have an increased risk for new cases of diabetes due to high rates of obesity, impared glucose tolerance, and insulin resistance syndrome. The Hawaii State Department of Health’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Program, reveals that this serious disease is a major public health problem in the Aloha State – and it is hitting people of Native Hawaiian, Filipino and Japanese ancestry particularly hard. An estimated 72,000 to 100,000 people in Hawaii currently have diabetes, of which 25,000 or more remain undiagnosed. More than 900 Hawaiians die each year from diabetes-related complications, making it the seventh leading cause of death in the state.

The fact is that whether you have been diagnosed with diabetes or not, the bottom line is that EVERYONE should adopt healthy eating habits.

• Control portion sizes and the total number of calories you consume.
• Eat a wide variety of foods.
• Include fruits, vegetables and whole grains in each meal.
• Reduce the amount of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol you eat.
• Limit sweets and salt.
• Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation, if at all.
• Include physical activity in your daily routine, if approved by your doctor.

If you do have diabetes, you have to take control of your unhealthy eating habits in order to control your blood sugar. The two biggest hurdles are calories and carbohydrates. You have to control both in order to keep your blood sugar level steady. You and your doctor and nutritionist should come up with a meal plan to help you balance nutrition and taste. Your meal plan will take into account your age, size, weight goal, exercise level, medications, and other medical issues. The meal plan will also include the foods you like to eat — so let your diabetes health care team know what these are.

A good place to look for information about diabetes and diabetic recipes that have the right kind of flavor that you're looking for is on an internet search engine. To get you started, check out the Mayo Clinic website: Another great site for general information and recipes is the American Diabetes Association at:

Recently I was contacted by They have hundreds of recipes on their site that were developed by James Beard Award-winning cookbook authors Frances Towner Giedt and Bonnie Sanders, PhD. Check out this site for recipe ideas.

Eating well with diabetes is really not that difficult, so make a few simple changes to your diet and get back to enjoying life.

What can I eat with diabetes?

Rules for eating healthily don't change much whether you have diabetes or not.

You should aim to eat a diet that is low fat (particularly saturated fat), low sugar, low in salt, high in fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day) and moderately high in starchy carbohydrate foods. 
However, different carbohydrate foods have different effects on blood glucose levels. This can make a big difference as to whether your diabetes is well controlled or not.

Research indicates that it's the sugary fast releasing and processed starchy carbohydrates (known as having a high glycaemic index) that are the worst for diabetes and the less processed whole grain carbohydrates (low glycaemic index) that are best.

Foods with a high GI are rapidly digested and absorbed, resulting in a rapid peak in blood glucose levels. 
By contrast, low GI foods produce a gradual rise in blood glucose and insulin levels, which avoids rapid peaks and lows.

Foods with a high GI are white and brown bread, rice cakes, cakes, biscuits, sugary drink (including juices), potatoes and some type of rice.

Foods with a low GI are pasta, oats, some but not all fruits, dairy products and heavy whole grain breads.

Of course you can't stick exclusively with low GI diet, but you can help improve your blood sugar control by including at least one low GI food at each meal.

These are my top tips for getting your carbohydrates right:
• Switch to breakfast cereals based on oats (such as oatmeal), or wheat and rice bran.
• Eat grainy breads made with whole seeds, barley and oats, instead of white or brown bread.

• Eat wheat-based pasta and long-grain rice in place of potatoes and short grained rice, but watch serving size.

• Use low-fat milk and low-fat yogurt.

• Eat beans, lentils and peas.

• Eat sweet corn and sweet potatoes instead of Idaho potatoes.

• Eat apples, dried apricots, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, orange, peaches, pears, plums and barely-ripe bananas instead of other fruits and raisins.

• Choose less processed foods as processing makes food easier to digest.

• Eat fibre because it helps slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates.

• Avoid drinking large amounts of fruit juice. Although fruit sugar (fructose) doesn't stimulate insulin release it can still cause problems with blood sugar control in large amounts.

Here are a few delicious diabetic recipes to try, however not all recipes presented here are necessarily appropriate for all people with diabetes, nor will all recipes fit into every meal plan. No two meal plans are alike. Work with your health care provider, diabetes educator or dietitian to design a meal plan that's right for you, and includes the foods you love.

White Bean and Sweet Red Pepper Salsa 
with Pita Wedges
3 6-inch pita breads, each cut in half
1/2 15-ounce can navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 medium garlic clove, minced

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Cut each pita half into 6 wedges. Place on a baking sheet and bake 5 minutes or until just beginning to brown lightly. Cool completely. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and toss gently, yet thoroughly. Serve with pita wedges. Makes 6 servings.

Roasted Red Pepper Avocado Dip
1 avocado, ripe
2 roasted red peppers
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 clove of garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree. Serve with sliced cucumber.

Minestrone Soup
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped celery
1 carrot, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups fat-free, unsalted chicken broth
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped spinach
1 can (16 ounces) canned chickpeas or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup uncooked small shell pasta
1 small zucchini, diced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrots and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking for another minute. Stir in broth, tomatoes, spinach, beans and pasta. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add zucchini. Cover and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in the basil. Ladle into individual bowls and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Steak and Potatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 pound flank steak, trimmed of fat
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Oven-Fried Potatoes
vegetable cooking spray
4 large baking potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes, (2 lbs.), sliced - lengthwise into; 1/2-inch wedges
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon rosemary, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Combine vinegar, oil and garlic in shallow glass dish. Sprinkle both sides of steak with salt and pepper; place steak in dish and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

Make Oven-Fried Potatoes: Heat oven to 450˚F. Line cookie sheet with foil; lightly coat with vegetable cooking spray. Toss potatoes, oil, rosemary, salt and pepper in large bowl. Spread in single layer on prepared cookie sheet. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until golden and crisp.

Meanwhile, heat grill. Grill steak 6 to 8 minutes per side for medium rare. Serve with potatoes and chopped tomato and cucumber. Makes 4 servings.

Marinated Swordfish
1 pound swordfish steaks
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
1 teaspoon basil, dried, or 1 tablespoon of fresh basil, chopped fine
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced, peeled
4 slices red onion

Place the swordfish in a non-metallic shallow bowl, baking dish, or a zip-lock bag. Combine next 6 ingredients. Mix the marinade well and pour it over the swordfish. Marinate, refrigerated for 1 hour, turning fish several times. Remove swordfish from marinade and place in a microwave-safe baking dish. Place a slice of red onion on each steak. Cover securely with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 5 to 6 minutes. Rotate the baking dish halfway through the cooking process. Let stand, covered, for 1 minute. Makes 4 servings.

Simply Snow Peas
1 pound prepared snow peas
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in 1 1/2 qt microwave-safe casserole. Cover tightly and microwave 1 to 2 minutes. Stir gently. Replace cover and microwave 2 to 4 minutes longer, or until snow peas are crisp-tender and bright green. Drain well before serving. Makes 3 servings.

Zucchini and Chili Tomatoes
1 tablespoon chili powder
4 cups canned tomatoes
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
4 cup sliced zucchini
2 ounces grated Monterey Jack cheese

Place first 5 ingredients in large saucepan. Bring mixture to boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in sliced zucchini. Continue cooking until zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes. Just before serving, place ingredients in casserole and sprinkle with grated cheese. It may be necessary to heat casserole to melt cheese. Makes 8 servings.

Sesame Kale
1 1/2 pounds kale
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup low-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon lite soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
fresh ground pepper to taste

Wash the kale, but let the water cling to it. Cut off and discard the tough stems. Slice the leaves once down the middle, then cut them crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips. In a wok, heat the oil. Add the garlic. Saute for 10 seconds. Add the kale with broth. Cover and steam for 3 minutes until the kale wilts. Add the soy sauce. Top the kale with sesame seeds and fresh ground pepper. Serve. Makes 6, 1/2 cup servings.

Brown Rice Pilaf
1 1/8 cups dark brown rice, rinsed and drained
2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup chopped pistachio nuts
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped

In a saucepan over high heat, combine the rice, water, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the saffron. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and keep warm.

In a small bowl, combine the orange zest and juice, oil, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk to blend. Pour the orange mixture over the warm rice. Add the nuts and apricots and toss gently to mix and coat. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.

Sugar-Free Apple Pie
1 6-ounce can frozen apple juice, unsweetened
2 tablespoons, rounded, all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 to 7 Granny Smith apples
1 tablespoon butter
1-9 inch, double-crust pie shell unbaked

In a small saucepan, combine the frozen apple juice, flour, cinnamon and salt. Stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture is thick and bubbly, 3 to 5 minutes. Peel and slice the apples and stir them into the apple juice mixture. Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie shell and dot with butter. Position the top crust over the filling, cutting slits for the steam to escape. Trim and seal the edges. Brush the top very lightly with water and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake at 450˚F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350˚F and bake for 30 minutes more. Makes 6-8 servings.

Banana Bread
1 cup oat flour (rolled oats powdered in food processor or blender)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup toasted pecans or walnuts chopped
3 very ripe bananas mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
6 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease the bottom only of loaf pan. Combine dry ingredients. In separate bowl, combine wet ingredients. Lightly fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients with spatula just until combined. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for about 55 minutes. Cool for five minutes and invert. Store in refrigerator for four days or on the counter two days. Makes one loaf.

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