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Living With Diabetes: Diabetic Diet and Meal Preparation

Updated on March 6, 2015
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Stephanie Hicks has been a type 1 diabetic for 15 years. She manages the disease with an insulin pump, doctor visits, diet, and exercise.

How to Revise Recipes for Diabetics

If you or a loved one suffers from diabetes, you may be wondering whether you can still enjoy some of your favorite recipes. The answer is - delightfully - YES!

With proper revisions to tried and true recipes, healthy cooking for diabetics can be simple. The truth is that high sugar, high carbohydrate and/or high fat dishes can be adjusted without changing the overall taste of the dish. Calorie counts are often reduced, as well, improving overall health of the family as a whole.

Living with diabetes is often the catalyst to making better food choices and increasing exercise. A diabetes diagnosis can be a great opportunity for everyone to think about what is on their plates! Awareness of proper serving sizes can also help improve health, as well as assist with weight loss.

As a Type 1 diabetic myself, I've made a number of diabetic recipe adjustments in our family's meal preparations. I hope that these diet tips will help improve the health of anyone with diabetes, or similar health conditions. After increasing your intake of fiber and whole grains, reducing fat, and cutting down on added sugar and processed foods, most people will feel more energetic and healthier.

Even desserts can still be enjoyed by diabetics when these recipe revisions are implemented! Read on for tips you can use in healthy meal preparation - whether or not you have diabetes.

Brown rice is healthy for a diabetic diet
Brown rice is healthy for a diabetic diet | Source

Diabetic Meal Preparation: Cut Down Sugar and Carbohydrates

Healthy cooking for diabetics is simple and easy when you follow these general tips in cooking and baking:

  • Make your own sauces to avoid hidden sugars and fats
  • Use whole-wheat pasta instead of egg noodle pasta
  • Use brown rice instead of white rice
  • Replace white and non-whole grain bread
  • Incorporate high-fiber, whole grains

Living with diabetes requires an awareness of carbohydrates in food. Pre-made, canned or bottled sauces (including tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, ketchup, salad dressings, etc.) are often loaded with preservatives and sugar/corn syrup, among other things. Diabetics should limit or avoid these foods.

Whole-wheat pasta and brown rice contain more nutrients, are digested more slowly, and will not result in blood sugar spikes, which anyone with diabetes can appreciate. It may take some adjustment to their nuttier taste, but over time, you and your family should enjoy the results of their healthy components. Brown rice is also available in 5 minute cooking versions, for those used to fast white rice made on the stove top.

100% whole grain bread is also a preferable choice in diabetic meal preparation, compared with breads made with processed flour. You can find whole wheat flour in the baking aisle at the grocery store, which is excellent to use in homemade breads, crusts and even cookies and other desserts.

Of course, fresh fruits and vegetables are always good options in a diabetes diet, as long as salad dressings are kept to a minimum. Hidden sugars and fats lurk in the bottles, threatening to take a healthy meal into potential artery-clogging range. Anytime you add sauces or dips to a meal, you should think about whether there is a healthier option. Simple balsamic vinegar and olive oil is very tasty on salad greens, and will not spike blood sugars.

Honey is a good substitute for granulated sugar
Honey is a good substitute for granulated sugar | Source

Egg and Sugar Substitutes in a Diabetes Diet

Easy diabetes recipes can be created from your own favorites with a few suggested tips:

  • Try egg substitutes instead of whole eggs
  • Use sugar substitutes in place of some, or all, of the granulated sugar required in a recipe

Using egg substitutes will help those diabetics with high cholesterol, a condition that often accompanies diabetes. Cooking with egg substitutes is easy, tasty and convenient. You can measure the amount you need and re-close the container for future use. No mess! Alternatively, cooking with egg whites only, is an option for those that wish to eat real eggs.

Living with diabetes generally requires reduction in intake of sugar, which is quickly converted into blood glucose. Fortunately, sugar substitutes have come a long way since the introduction of aspartame decades ago. Splenda is a sugar substitute that is made from sugar and does, in fact, taste like sugar when sprinkled on the top of cereal or fruit (unlike other bitter competitors). It can be used in recipes very easily, as it measures and sweetens cup for cup like regular granulated sugar. The drawback, of course, is that it is much more expensive. Some people have noted allergies and/or concerns over the safety of sugar substitutes. But the American Diabetes Association positively comments on the use of sugar substitutes in general, and notes, of course that they do not affect blood sugar (the most important aspect)!

Stevia is a "natural" sugar substitute made from plants, which may be a preferable sweetener to use in a diabetic diet. In addition, applesauce, honey or blackstrap molasses can all be used in recipes in place of granulated sugar.

pH Diet for Diabetics

Homemade almond milk is a good addition to a diabetic diet
Homemade almond milk is a good addition to a diabetic diet | Source

Dairy and Low-Fat Diet Substitutes for Diabetics

Healthy cooking for diabetics also can be accomplished with these dairy substitutes:

  • Choose lower-fat versions of milk, sour cream and cheese
  • Consider almond milk
  • Remember that mono unsaturated fats are OK
  • Cook with liquid oil rather than margarine or butter

Saturated fats should be reduced when you are living with diabetes. This means you should take the skin off your chicken (an easy change to make) and go for a cheeseburger, instead of a bacon cheeseburger. Healthy fats are found in nuts, avocados, and olives, so work those into your recipes to replace ingredients such as bacon. Get creative with your recipes!

So many of the changes that can be made in a diabetic diet are common sense and do not have to be limited to the diabetic's household. As with any dietary regime, you should consult your doctor first.

The recipe revisions discussed in this article are very general approaches to meal preparation overall. Fortunately, there are many books on the market and lots of websites that have specific diabetic recipes ranging from chocolate chip cookies to strawberry cheesecake! So, don't despair if you're on a medical diet. There is plenty of good taste to go around.

© 2008 Stephanie Hicks


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    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Everyone's health may improve by following these tips for good blood sugar management, making these easy diabetes recipe adjustments. Thank you for the comment! Best, Steph

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      susanm23b 6 years ago

      You did a great job with this subject. Before my daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, we already ate the whole wheat pastas, lots of fruits and veggies, etc. Our adjustment was in learning to count carbs. Voting up and useful :)

    • Balinese profile image

      Balinese 8 years ago from Ireland

      Thanks for the info!

      my auntie sufers from diabetes and we always give her a turmeric juice - and it help to reduce sugar level .



    • profile image

      doris scott 9 years ago

      i'm having to learn how to adjust my cooking to ethnic foods; especially rich ggravies and sauces and advoid vitamin K based products Requires a little extra but i'm determined to succeed

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Ruthie, I can't agree more! I've had to adjust my cooking over the past 5 years, and no one complains or even notices any longer. Like you, I've been surprised that no one appears to be very interested in this topic. Interesting that you had a similar response on squidoo. ;-) Maybe its the denial thing?

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      RUTHIE17 10 years ago

      Nice Hub--Cooking for a Diabetic isn't really hard if you use your head and the cookbooks for Diabetes and low-carb recipes are plentiful and easy to find.

      I find it strange that with so many Diabetics in the USA, as well as the world, that there were no comments for this hub of yours.  I received the same response for articles I'd written under another name with my husband both here and on S_ _ _ _ _ o. (Don't know if I'm not supposed to mention the other's name!)  It's a topic I thought people would be interested in.