Amy Olson, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, may soon have to replace her favorite cookbook. She still loves the recipes, and so does her family. But the book -- Quick and Healthy Recipes and Ideas: For People Who Say They Don't Have Time to Cook Healthy Meals by Brenda Ponichtera (Scaledown, 1991) -- is so dog-eared and stained with splotches of sauce that she could use a new copy.
For Olson, a good cookbook is more than just a convenience. Like her clients at the hospital, she has diabetes, and her health depends on the choices she makes in the kitchen. The recipes in her favorite cookbook aren't specifically geared for people with diabetes, but they do tend to be light in fat, calories, and carbohydrates. As an added bonus, every recipe comes with detailed nutritional information, such as calories, total fat, and carbohydrate count, making it much easier for her to fit the meals into her daily plan.
Find recipes for foods you like
Olson encourages all of her diabetes patients to find healthy recipes that they'll enjoy cooking at home. A cookbook doesn't have to have the word "diabetes" on the cover to be helpful, but each recipe should include a breakdown of fat, calories, and carbs. "A lot of general cookbooks have that information, but diabetes patients may have to weed out some of the recipes," she says.
When shopping for a cookbook, people with diabetes should think about what kinds of foods they really like to eat, Olson says. Chilled cucumber soup may be healthy, but it isn't always realistic for people who crave heartier fare. If you're a carb lover, for instance, it's possible to find a cookbook that satisfies your taste buds yet stays within your dietary budget.
Organizations with healthy cookbooks
The Joslin Diabetes Healthy Carbohydrate Cookbook might be a good choice for you. Many cookbooks feature quick and easy recipes for those who don't have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. The Joslin Diabetes Quick and Easy Cookbook and The American Diabetes Association's Brand-Name Diabetic Meals in Minutes are just a couple of examples.
In addition to a few good cookbooks, people with diabetes should arm themselves with a pocket nutritional guide, Olson says. In her mind, it's hard to beat the Doctor's Pocket Calorie, Fat and Carbohydrate Counter by Allan Borushek (Family Health Publications, 2004). The guide lists the nutritional content of many foods, including typical restaurant dishes. A quick check will tell you whether that enchilada or hamburger can really fit into your diet.
If you're ready to shop for a cookbook, you won't be lacking for options. In addition to general cookbooks, there are plenty of books made with the diabetic in mind. The American Diabetes Association sells more than 40 titles on its Web site . The highly respected Joslin Diabetes Center lists recommended diabetic cookbooks and resources at https://store.joslin.org/815_1585.asp
Interview with Amy Olson, RD, CDE.
Joslin Diabetes Center. Recommended cookbooks and resource books. 2003
American Diabetes Association. Cookbooks.