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Holiday Sweets & Treats

December 16, 2010

Recently I received the following question on

Question: I have diabetes and this time of year is the toughest for me.  It seems holiday treats/sweets are everywhere tempting me!  Is it ok to indulge a little?  If not, how can I build up enough will power to avoid holiday sweets?

Answer:  There are so many sweets and treats out during the holiday that it can be rough on anyone’s diet, so you are not alone!  There is no reason that you need to deprive yourself – it is okay to indulge a little (yes, just a little).  If you do eat sweets, monitor your portion sizes by sticking to one serving, or sharing a serving with a family member or friend.  Remember, carbohydrates also cause a spike in blood sugar just as sweets and treats do.  If you indulge (a little) you can compensate through medication or your diet later in the day.  Here are some tips to help you from overindulging:

  • Keep sweets/treats out of your house completely.  When grocery shopping, skip the sweets aisle and ask family members to help you stay on track.
  • If you are attending a holiday party, bring a diabetes-friendly dish.
  • Exercise!  This will help you avoid the holiday bulge.  Exercise could make you feel better about yourself and help you avoid the dessert table.

Happy holidays!


Low-Sodium Dinner Ideas

December 10, 2010

Recently I received this question on


I have pre-diabetes and have just been diagnosed with high blood pressure as well.  My doctor says to watch my sodium intake.  I feel like I’ve been hit with a double whammy!  In addition to trying to lose weight and watch my carb intake, I now have to watch my salt as well.  Could you give me some low salt ideas for dinner meals?


The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) would be a great diet to follow.  It is not a “typical fad diet,” but will help you make lifestyle changes that will help control your pre-diabetes, prevent diabetes, and lower blood pressure.  The DASH diet focuses on high fruit and vegetable, low-fat dairy, and low-fat/low-sodium food consumption.  For dinners, focus on preparing lean meats (chicken, turkey, salmon, cod, etc.), vegetable dishes (steamed, grilled), salads (full of fresh vegetables, no cheese, with low-fat or oil-based dressings), and whole grain pasta, bread, or rice.  These fresh foods are not processed foods and are therefore naturally lower in sodium that foods found in a can or pre-made.

Ways to decrease added salt:

  • Use spices and herbs.  These add lots flavor to your food without the salt.
  • Marinate your lean meats before cooking them.

Try this delicious recipe!

Pasta Fagioli

This recipe can very easily be halved if necessary.  Serve with a salad of mixed greens and French bread.

1 lb. whole-wheat pasta, boiled

2 T. olive oil

1 T. minced garlic

½ tsp. red-pepper flakes

28 oz. canned diced tomatoes

1 ½ to 2 tsp. oregano

2 cans beans, approx. 15 oz each cannelloni, chickpeas, kidney, or your choice, drained

½ lb. fresh spinach, torn or other greens such as chard, kale, etc.

Fat-free Parmesan blend for sprinkling on top

Heat oil, garlic, oregano, and red-pepper flakes over low heat until garlic smells fragrant but does not brown, about 2 minutes.  Add everything else except spinach and Parmesan blend.  Bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer and cook 10-15 minutes.  Stir in spinach.  Cook just until wilted.  Pour over cooked pasta.  Sprinkle with plenty of Parmesan blend.  Enjoy!

Diabetes and Soup

November 14, 2010

Recently I received this question from

Question: I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes last spring.  I enjoy eating hearty soups in the fall and winter months.  Can I still eat soup?  Are there any soups that are better for me to eat than others?

Answer: Yes you can definitely still eat soup.  Here are some guidelines to follow when making your own soup or choosing pre-made soups.  Choose soups that:

  • Are full of non-starchy vegetables.  These are high in fiber and contribute to your daily vegetable recommendation.
  • Are high in beans.  Beans are great, healthy fiber and protein options.
  • Are low-sodium and broth-based.  Cream-based soups are higher in calories and fat.
  • Contain lean meats like chicken, fish, and turkey.
  • Are full of herbs and spices.  Many herbs have antioxidant effects and contain vitamins and minerals.  Bay leaf, savory, dill, and oregano are some herbs that add lots of flavor and will keep you from adding salt.  Sea salt is also a great option if you need to add any salt.  It has more flavor and contains minerals.  Try finding a recipe that uses cinnamon – cinnamon helps stabilize blood sugar!

If you are buying pre-made soups make sure to read the nutrition label first.  Pre-made soups can often be high in sodium and high-fat or processed meats.

Do away with the Fad Diets

November 7, 2010

Recently I received this question from

Question: My doctor has diagnosed me with diabetes and has told me to lose weight.  I have heard about high protein diets, low fat/high carb diets, and many others.  I want a sound diet instead of a fad.  What type of diet is best given my situation?

Answer:  Instead of focusing on diets, focus on adapting a lifestyle.  Try to eat a diet that is high in nutrient-dense food, and low in fat and calories.  Do not omit carbohydrates, healthy fat, or protein from your diet.  Eat a well-balanced diet.  Focus on eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains.  These foods are healthy carbohydrate options and are high in fiber.  Fiber is important to incorporate into your diet because it can help control blood glucose and is also found in nuts, and wheat bran.  Some other healthy carbohydrates are beans, peas, and low-fat dairy products.  Some fishes could be a great alternative to high-fat meats.  Cod, tuna, halibut, salmon, and mackerel are some great options.  Stay away from fried fish and any fried meats though.  Avoid processed meats, and choose lean meats. 

Focusing on some of these tips will allow you to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet.  This is better than any fad diet because it will be easier to maintain throughout your life.

Eating “lots” of vegetables.

October 24, 2010

Recently I received this question from

Question:  I was just diagnosed with pre-diabetes.  The nurse told me to eat lots of vegetables.  Could you tell me what “lots of vegetables” means and what type of vegetables to consume?  Also, how should I prepare them?

Answer:  When your nurse told you to eat “lots of vegetables” she was likely referring to non-starchy vegetables.  The goal is to eat 3-5 servings of non-starchy vegetables per day.  Non-starchy vegetables are typically low-calorie and contain 5 grams carbohydrates per serving (1 cup raw, 1/2 cup cooked).  Some examples of non-starchy vegetables are asparagus, broccoli, onions, cauliflower, carrots, celery, cucumber, mushroom, peppers, tomato, and zucchini.  Salad greens are considered a free food.  The Mayo Clinic has a lot of helpful information and many more non-starchy vegetable options!  Starchy vegetables include corn, potatoes, peas, squash, and pumpkin.  These options are higher calorie and 15 grams carbohydrate for 1/2 cup.  There are many different kinds of vegetables, and many different ways to prepare them.  Start exploring and trying different things and slowly 3-5 servings of non-starchy vegetables will be no problem for you to do!  Some ways to incorporate more vegetables:

  • Make a pizza and load it up with vegetables (broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, spinach, and mushrooms)!
  • Eat broccoli, celery, carrots, or cauliflower with low-fat veggie dip instead of chips.
  • Grill vegetable kabobs – lots of peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc.
  • Add peppers, cucumber, onions, spinach, or tomatoes to a sandwich.

Stock up on fresh  non-starchy vegetables and snack on them throughout the day.  Grill, bake, saute (with little olive oil), or steam your vegetables.  Try different cooking methods and different seasonings.  Mrs. Dash is a great seasoning that is delicious and a healthy option!

Ordering at Mexican Restaurants

October 17, 2010

Recently I received this question from

Question:  I have type 2 diabetes and love Mexican food.  Could you give me some tips on what to order at my favorite Mexican restaurant?

Answer: Some options at Mexican restaurants can be wonderful choices for those with diabetes!  Carefully read the menu and ask questions if you are unsure of any of the items.  Focus on foods that are low-calorie and low-carb.  Some great options following those guidelines are foods that contain:

  • beans
  • grilled chicken
  • salsa (tomatoes, herbs, spices)
  • soft tacos (instead of fried).  1 6in tortilla is 15 grams carbohydrate or 1 carbohydrate choice.  If your tortilla is larger, share it with someone or bring home half.
  • grilled veggies

All of these options can be combined to create a delicious taco, chicken fajita, or maybe even a salad!  Those are just a few options, but not an exhausted list.  Some foods to avoid:

  • fried tortillas
  • ground beef
  • alcohol
  • easy on the sour cream and cheese (high fat content)

Make sure to not consume large amounts of rice or tortilla chips with your salsa.  A handful of chips with salsa is fine, however.  You can still enjoy Mexican restaurants without stressing over food choices, but make sure you follow some of these guidelines.

Which bread do I choose?

October 7, 2010

Recently I received this question from

Question:  My husband has diabetes and we always eat whole wheat bread but wanted something different for a change.  Is rye bread or sourdough bread as good of an option as whole wheat?

Answer:  What is great about wheat and whole grain breads is that they contain lots of fiber.  When choosing bread make sure that “wheat” or “whole grain” is somewhere on the nutritional label.  Specifically, make sure that “wheat” or “whole grain” is listed as the first ingredient on the nutritional labels.  The problem with choosing rye or sourdough bread is that they are lower in fiber.  Grams of carbohydrates generally doesn’t differ, so 1 slice of bread is 1 carbohydrate choice, or 15 grams of carbohydrate.

Visit the “bread” section on for more nutritional information and more bread choices!