I always teach that diabetes is “more than food” but each and every patient is more interested in “cutting to the chase” and learning quick food tips. As the nurse educator, I am hopeful that the patient understands the disease process since this gives them a basis for the life style changes needed for proper diabetes management. After a general overview with specifics on their medications and exercise guidelines, we jump into a food plan for that patient. Here are some general food tips to start using in your everyday life as we enter into summer:
There are many easy cooking methods to use in the summer with boosted flavor and without adding a lot of calories. Those who have convection ovens can reduce cooking time to almost half of that of a regular oven without overheating the kitchen. Baking in a convection oven does not require a lot of added fat which will instantly reduce calories. Baking can be done with a tin foil cover to keep the natural juices in and then removed towards the end to add crispiness. Braising is a healthy cooking style which starts out on the stove top and eliminates heating up the entire kitchen. The food is initially browned or seared to keep juices inside, and then a liquid such as water, cooking wine or low sodium broth can be added to keep the food flavorful without more calories.
The outdoor grill is a summer cooking classic which helps keep extra calories at bay. You can expose the food to direct heat with no added butter or oils. It is best to marinate the fish, chicken, pork, lamb or beef in citrus and spices to keep the food moist and reduce carcinogens as eating well done food from a grill has been associated with possible colon cancer. Fat drips below the food which is a perfect way to lower saturated fat intake. Wrapping foods in heavy duty tin foil is another technique used on the grill to retain deep and delicious flavor. Poaching can be done on the stove top and requires food to be simmered in liquids such as broth, water, vinegar or wine and spices to lock in moisture.
Sautéing in a pan on the stove top is quick and easy. You can use a high quality ceramic non-stick pan or cooking spray to lightly glaze the pan. Add in some fresh or dried spices to add taste to the meal without added fat and calories. Placing a teaspoon of high quality olive oil to the pan will also provide more flavor.
Steaming foods on the stove top is simple when you put a perforated basket on top of a pan of boiling water. Stir-frying is an Asian technique using small pieces of protein and moving them around a pan or wok with either broth or oil. Cut pieces of vegetables are cooked with fish, shrimp, beef, poultry or pork. With a dash of garlic, ginger and low-sodium soy sauce you have a complete meal. Using the microwave to heat a frozen meal is a great way to have a quickly prepared dinner without a hot kitchen. Microwave cooking actually helps retain vitamins and minerals since it requires short heating with a small amount of liquid. Purchase BPA-free containers that you can heat and freeze in. Find containers with multiple sections which can help with portion control. Lastly, you can forgo heating or cooking and put a simple summer meal together with canned tuna, fresh veggies and a few whole grain croutons covered lightly with oil and vinegar dressing.
You can bring summer to your home by planting a few tomato vines, even with limited space, out on a deck. There are countertop kitchen herb gardens which come in pre-seeded containers. You can easily grow a patch of fresh mint to add to unsweetened tea. You can pick up fresh basil, thyme or rosemary plants at the local store and sprinkle the herbs into your foods. When using fresh herbs in your cooking, add towards the end of your meal prep to prevent wilting. When using dried herbs, add early in the cooking process to let flavors seep together. Look for rosemary, mint, thyme, garlic, curry powder, black, white or cayenne pepper, cumin, chili powder and paprika. Besides taste, you will make more healthful meals. Cook with flavored vinegars, low-calorie Italian dressing and different kinds of mustard for minimum calories and no-added sugar.
Keep Foods Available
Have cans of black, red, and cannellini and garbanzo beans ready to mix into salads. Always rinse them before using even when buying low-sodium beans. Keep bagged frozen vegetables ready to microwave when you get home for simplicity. Add canned chicken, salmon or sardines to the vegetables and keep a pot of cooked brown rice available; dinner is served without a hassle. Scramble eggs and add onions and potato slices for a quick omelet. Store unusual grains such as jasmine, Basmati or yellow rice on hand and quinoa, bulgur or buckwheat to cook up in 20 minutes. Keep shelled hard boiled eggs or pre-cut cheese wedges for a properly portioned size treat and fast snack.
Look for Gadgets
Big box stores and infomercials are always tempting us with new products which will simplify our kitchen experience. The latest tool is one that creates “noodles” from vegetables such as green or yellow summer zucchini. This is a perfect product for those with diabetes who want to eat less pasta but like the experience. Sauté the zucchini noodles in cooking spray and add marinara sauce with grated cheese for a super quick and tasty pasta substitute. Purchase “egg cups” where you place raw eggs in and microwave for a perfectly poached egg. Spend time finding products that attract your interest and tastes.
Chop up nuts or mushrooms to add to burgers for bulking up flavor with no saturated fat and more fiber. Flavor desserts with cinnamon, nutmeg, dried fruit and extracts for sweetness. Replace brown sugar, white sugar, Agave and honey since they are “all sugar” and will raise your numbers. Substitute Stevia, Splenda, no-sugar added applesauce, mashed pumpkin or mashed prunes to your baking and add a bit of almond flour to your whole grain flour. Buy plain Greek yogurt and use fresh berries and chopped un-salted nuts instead of yogurt with added syrupy fruit or yogurt with sweet granola and chips. Purchase unflavored oatmeal packets and add your own fruit, a handful of Fiber One and cinnamon instead of pre-sweetened maple brown sugar and apple sweetened packets. Spread whole grain bread with mashed avocado, lemon juice and sliced tomatoes instead of butter and jelly. Mix olive oil with butter in recipes so you can reduce the amount of butter required and retain all the taste. Olive oil may buffer cancer risk, stabilize blood sugar, reduce heart disease, blood pressure and protect bones according to recent research. Use in moderation since a spoon is 100 calories.
Instead of rushing through the grocery store, plan on spending an extra 15 minutes and start reading food labels and attempt to branch out with your food choices. Avoid all high fructose corn syrup. Look for words that say “unsweetened, no sugar added, natural sugar, natural sweetener and sugar free.” Look at the products and understand the carbohydrate content. It may be helpful to hire a dietitian to accompany you to the store to learn label reading. Try to eat more natural foods and fewer ones that come bagged or boxed. If you choose to eat them, be educated about the ingredients.
Look for Healthy Trends
According to food industry articles “meat reduction will be a trend due to higher costs, added hormones, antibiotic use and cruelty to animals”. This could lead the way to fresh produce with new and exciting choices. Restaurants and local markets will be searching for seasonal treats to keep costs down and menus fresh. Wine pairings used to be done with meat, fish and poultry; the wine industry is now interested in pairing vegetarian main dishes with wines selections. According to Today’s Dietitian “beets will be a trendy vegetable since they contain betalains, antioxidants, fiber along with manganese, potassium, copper and magnesium. Small amounts of beet juice is said to help reduce blood pressure. Berries, especially blackberries, remain high on trend since they contain 3 times the amount of antioxidants compared to raspberries. Cantaloupe is a great summer selection which is easy to find, priced well and contains vitamin C and A with just 55 calories per cup. Another trend to follow comes out of the University of Edinburgh and University of Cambridge in England. The latest research states “a square of 70% or higher dark chocolate has even more benefits than thought”. According to the research, “dark chocolate may help with sleep patterns. Magnesium, found in dark chocolate, levels are a part of the body’s circadian rhythm which affects sleeping and waking”. Magnesium is also found in nuts and dark green leafy vegetables. A final trend is to keep it real simple and buy “one ingredient foods”. Think fresh fruit or vegetables, legumes, plain yogurt, eggs, fish, meat, poultry and whole grains. Add water with citrus slices to keep you hydrated during the hot months of summer and it can’t be simpler.
Summer food tips and trends can be accomplished with ease once you know what to do. Hopefully you do now!
Always feel free to email me your questions at RKleinman@adwdiabetes.com if you would like to share them with ADW diabetes.
NOTE: Consult your Doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.
She is a member of the American Diabetes Association as well as the South Florida Association of Diabetes Educators. She worked with the education department of NBMC to help educate the hospital's in-patient nurses about diabetes. She practices a healthy lifestyle and has worked as a personal fitness trainer in the past.
She was one of the initiators of the North Broward Diabetes Center (NBMC) which started in 1990 and was one of the first American Diabetes Association (ADA) certified programs in Broward County, Florida for nearly two decades. Robbie has educated patients to care for themselves and has counseled them on healthy eating, heart disease, high lipids, use of glucometers, insulin and many other aspects of diabetes care. The NBMC Diabetes Center received the Valor Award from the American Diabetes Center for excellent care to their patients. Robbie has volunteered over the years as leader of many diabetes support groups.
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