Nutritionist Robyn Webb, MS, food editor of Diabetes Forecast, says, “Most people would actually benefit from following the basic tenets of a diabetic eating plan; that means filling plates with a rich array of fruits and vegetables of all colors, choosing lean proteins, increasing intake of fiber while controlling carbohydrates, especially refined carbs, and enjoying small amounts of heart-healthy fats, like olive or canola oil.”
With a few smart cooking tips, you can create flavorful diabetic-friendly meals that follow these principles and that others will love, too – a benefit to both family health and easier mealtime planning. “The person who has diabetes doesn’t end up feeling deprived and you don’t need to turn your kitchen into a restaurant preparing different meals for different family members,” says Webb.
Here are four of Webb’s top tips for diabetic-friendly cooking.
- Reduce pasta portions. Instead of a big bowl of starch dressed with a few tablespoons of sauce, reduce the portion size of your pasta down to about ½ or ¾ cup. Then, pile on a liberal amount of a vegetable-based sauce with ingredients like mushrooms, diced carrots, plum tomatoes and fresh thyme. “If you have a really great tasting sauce, you won’t miss the pasta,” says Webb.
- Use your noodle when it comes to noodles. Swap noodles for vegetables – strips of zucchini squash can stand in for lasagna pasta, and a tool called a spiralizer can quickly turn vegetables into long noodle shapes. Grated cauliflower can also be a replacement for rice.
- Master the magic of searing. A well-seared chicken breast produces an intensely flavored crust, and the tasty bits left behind in the pan can be the foundation for sauces that don’t require the addition of lots of fat or salt. “Once you’ve learned the searing technique,” Webb says, “you can apply it to tofu and fish, too.” Here’s how to do it: heat a cast iron pan or skillet to the smoking point, add canola oil and then add the chicken. (You’ll hear a loud sizzle if the pan is hot enough.) Don’t move the chicken for at least three minutes, then flip and sear the other side.
- Bring a method to your main-dish salads. “Small side salads are nice, but with the addition of a protein you can turn a side-show salad into a substantial, healthy main course,” says Webb. She advises that a good salad “needs cohesion to be satisfying,” so don’t just dump whatever’s in your produce bin into a bowl. Instead, choose a theme or a flavor profile, such as Italian, Asian, Thai or spicy. Select ingredients that fit this profile and chop all your ingredients down to bite-size, so you get a variety of flavors with each forkful. Mix crunchy and creamy textures. “The single most important factor in warding off salad boredom,” Webb says, “is to combine hard, raw vegetables with soft greens, and rough toppings, such as nuts, with a smooth dressing.”
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