Type 2 diabetes is on the rise. The reasons are numerous; some experts say that high fructose corn syrup is to blame, others that statin drugs have caused a spike, most say that the food choices we make are to blame.
I am NOT a nutritionist, but I have learned a lot from several that I consult on occasion, and I have learned to be aware of those foods that cause trouble.
Sadly, these foods are the ones that we all love and even crave as comfort foods — chocolate chip cookies, pasta, soft white breads, warm Sunday bagels, creamy ice cream, Oreos, chips, brownies. In addition, each year, almost 20,000 new, mostly processed food items, are placed on store shelves; thousands of food choices that are the enemy when it comes to choosing a diet that will help avoid this life-altering and life-threatening illness.
If you have diabetes, you know the drill. If you do not have diabetes, you still need to watch your intake of white foods and sugary treats. And we have to do a better job of teaching our children. In America, unlike in other countries, we have trained our kids to have a “sweet palate” — preferring ice cream to kale or spinach. However, we can help our children learn to like healthier foods and make good food choices. We can raise a new generation of healthier kids who won’t face this illness as adults just by making some wiser food choices for them and for ourselves.
(Meanwhile, consult with your doctor or nutritionist about any issue you may have regarding dietary choices and watch for the warning signs such as excessive thirst or urination, blurry vision or rapid, unexplained weight loss.)
The following foods and recipes can be part of a delicious, glucose-healthy diet.
Fish with Sweet and Sour Tropical Fruit (Pareve)
Fish is good for everyone, but is especially good for diabetics. It is low in calories and fat and tastes delicious. You can use any fruits you like with this dish and make it as sweet or not, as you like.
1-1/2 to 2 pounds (1-inch thick) thick, firm fish such as halibut, cod or salmon
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 to 1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
1/2 to 1 cup rinsed, drained blackberries
1-2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro, parsley, chives or basil (optional)
1/2 to 1 cup fresh orange segments, (grapefruit is OK if you are not taking a Statin drug)
1/3 cup raspberry vinegar, more or less, to taste
1-2 Tbsp. agave syrup, honey or equivalent sweetness in a sugar substitute, to taste
OPTIONAL: Pinch cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes for a bit of heat.
Preheat broiler to medium or oven to 425. Rub fish with oil. Place on a greased, foil-lined, rimmed baking dish and season with salt and pepper. Broil or bake until desired doneness.
While the fish is cooking, place the pineapple, blackberries, cilantro and orange segments in a bowl and mash a bit with a fork to release some of the juices from all the fruit. Add the vinegar and sweetener and taste. Adjust to your liking, adding more vinegar or sweetener as desired. Mix well. Place a piece of fish on each of 6 plates and top with the fruit. Or, if you like, place it over the fish for the last 3 to 5 minutes of cooking. Serves 4 to 6.
Zucchini with Chickpeas (Pareve or Dairy)
Zucchini is a good addition to any diet because, besides being available year round at a relatively low cost, it is easily used in everything from salads to main dishes to desserts. It is very low calorie and high in folate, an essential B vitamin and Vitamin A.
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 to 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 small zucchini cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices and slices cut in half
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 can (13 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Several fresh basil leaves, rolled and cut into thin strips (chiffonade) or 1/2 tsp. dried
Several fresh thyme leaves cut as above, or 1/4 tsp. dried
Any of your favorite herbs
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
OPTIONAL: Freshly grated low-fat cheese or grated Parmesan
Heat oil in a medium-size skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until golden, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and mix until fragrant. Add the zucchini and cook until softened, about 3 minutes, stirring almost constantly. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas and mix well. Let simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the basil and thyme, salt and pepper, mix well and cover. Simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes, mixing once or twice. Remove cover and cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. You can top with some grated low fat cheese or Parmesan. Serves 6
Lentil Butternut Squash Chili (Pareve or dairy)
Lentils are good for diabetics because they are loaded with healthful nutrients, are low fat, high in protein and high in fiber at 8 grams a serving. Add some delicious butternut squash and some seasoning and you have the makings of great, light chili.
1 Tbsp. canola oil
4 to 8 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 onion, diced
1 to 2 Tbsp. chili powder, to taste
32 oz. (low-sodium if you like) vegetable broth
3/4 cup dried brown or green or red or mixed lentils, rinsed and any debris removed
1 to 2 tsp. smoked chipotle hot pepper sauce or tabasco sauce, to taste
2 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 can (about 14 to 15 ounces) diced tomatoes (low-sodium or salt free)
Chopped fresh cilantro, to taste
Optional: Fat-free sour cream
Toasted Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, sauté until golden and add the garlic. Cook about 30 seconds and add the chili powder. Mix for about 30 seconds. Slowly add the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Add the lentils and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, add the hot pepper sauce, to taste and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the squash and tomatoes and simmer for about 20-30 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed and the squash and lentils are tender. Garnish with cilantro, fat-free sour cream and pepitas, if desired. Serves 4.
Stuffed Bell Peppers (Meat or Pareve or Dairy)
Use any color pepper and fill with lean hamburger meat, ground turkey, chicken or meat substitute like seitan or tofu. You can go completely veggie and add some cheese. Very versatile.
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 to 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil (additional)
1 to 2 tsp. tomato paste
6 oz. lean ground hamburger meat, ground turkey, ground chicken, seitan, or cubed tofu
1 cup diced tomatoes, fresh or canned, drained
1 cup cooked brown rice
Crushed red pepper flakes
Herbs and spices such as cumin, oregano, parsley, chives, cilantro, paprika, to taste
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
2 large bell peppers, cut in half stem to flower end, seeds and white membrane discarded
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a large skillet, add the olive oil and the onion and sauté until golden. Add the garlic and mix for about 30 seconds. Make a space in the middle of the pan and add a teaspoon of olive oil.
Place the tomato paste on the olive oil and let it sizzle for about 10 seconds. Mix into the onions. Add the meat and mix to break up any clumps. Cook until cooked through. Add the diced tomatoes and mix well. Add the rice and mix well. Season as desired and fill the four peppers. Place in a roasting pan and add about 1/2 cup of water to the pan. Place the peppers in the pan and cover tightly with foil. Roast for about 45 minutes, removing the foil for the last 10 minutes. Serves 4.
Note: Studies have shown that as little as 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon a day can help control blood sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon has more antioxidants than a full cup of pomegranate juice. I mix 1 tsp. of cinnamon with 1 packet of sugar substitute and sprinkle it on some low fat cottage cheese or steel cut oats for a delicious breakfast.