Cooking Tips for Diabetics
Whether you are following a strict diabetic diet or just trying to cut back on the amount of refined sugars and processed carbohydrates you consume, these tips can help you health-ify your foods with just a few adjustments. Below you’ll find out more about the healthiest cooking technique, get a recipe for a sweet sugar substitute (plus a spring inspired rhubarb pie), and get ideas for simple swaps that don’t sacrifice flavor.
Poaching, steaming, and other liquid based cooking techniques (simmering and stewing are two other favorites) are some of the best techniques for cooking healthfully because they use water and other liquids to cook food instead of using fats like oil and butter. I’m a huge fan of steaming because you can cook fresh, healthy ingredients without submerging the food in any liquid, which causes nutrients to leach out of the food.
Sometimes people find steamed food to be bland, so I love this tip for adding flavor: use a flavorful liquid (such as stock or white wine) to steam instead of water. Also be sure to season the food directly before and after you steam it (for example, coat shrimp in dried herbs, garlic, and spices, then steam in wine, or steam broccoli in chicken stock then drizzle it with lemon and finish with crushed red pepper flakes right before serving.
Dessert is often a course that is not associated with healthy, low-carb eating, but spring is the perfect time of year to take advantage of the natural sweetness that you can get from fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Because diabetics need to limit their consumption of sugar and carbs, they should look ford ingredients that are naturally sweet or use pure maple syrup or agave (which are both low in sugar but NATURAL sugar substitutes, rather than artificial sweeteners, which have proven to be harmful even to those without diabetes).
Try one of my favorite diabetic friendly baking techniques: make a simple syrup with fruit purees instead of sugar. To make them, simmer two cups fresh strawberries, blueberries, or even cantaloupe with about 1/4 cup water until the fruit is soft, then puree until smooth and strain to remove seeds. This syrup can be used in recipes along with unsweetened apple sauce to replace the measurement for sugar or brown sugar.
You don’t have to give up dishes you love; you can make healthy swaps that don’t sacrifice flavor. One of my favorite substitutions is silken tofu in place of mayonnaise or sour cream in potato salad or chicken salad. I also like using vegetable purees like butternut squash and peas to create a creamy consistency in sauces and soups. Try replacing the heavy cream in Alfredo sauce with equal parts skim milk and butternut squash puree. It reduces the calories by 1/3 and is a great fat free base that you can make your own with cheese, garlic, and herbs.
Soluble fiber is essential for those with diabetes because fiber rich foods have been shown to slow the insulin response and control the rise in blood sugar levels those with Type II Diabetes experience after a meal. My favorite fiber rich foods are apricots (great for digestion, slightly sweet, and equally delicious fresh or dried), citrus fruits, oatmeal (a great cooking substitute for breadcrumbs–try adding oats to meatballs or meatloaf, or combine chopped oats, herbs, and ground almonds as breaded topping for baked pork chops or chicken breasts), and lentils (which are the easiest bean to digest and contain more nutrients per serving than any other bean).