Many people with diabetes have to rethink their approach to eating. Often, that means a new approach in the kitchen, too. You can bring out great flavors in foods without adding a lot of fat, calories or salt. If your kitchen is a place where healthy menus go to die, it's time to try some new cooking tips.
For starters, a diabetes-friendly kitchen doesn't come equipped with a deep-fat fryer.
Deep-frying meats or vegetables or anything else will always add a lot of fat and calories to any meal. You'll be much better off grilling, baking, broiling, or stir-frying your food. Instead of frying chicken, for example, you can bake it in panko bread crumbs (light, flaky bread crumbs made from crustless bread) without missing out on any flavor or crunch.
If you want to saute onions or vegetables, use small amounts of healthy fats such as olive oil or canola oil instead of butter, margarine, or vegetable oils. No-stick sprays are a healthy alternative, too. If you still want butter flavor, add a pat at the end of cooking.
Make it your goal to fill half your plate with vegetables at every meal. Steam vegetables in low-sodium, low-fat broth for a little added flavor, then season them with lemon juice and herbs instead of salt or cheese sauces. Some veggies, including summer squash, are also delicious sauted with onions.
Here are a few other tips:
When serving fish, zing it up with lemon or lime juice instead of butter or heavy sauces.
To further cut back on salt, rinse canned beans and vegetables before cooking them.
When cooking chicken or turkey, you can cut way back on fat and calories by simply removing the skin.
Get more fiber and vitamins by choosing whole wheat pasta and brown rice over the white versions, and whole grain breads and cereals.
Take it easy on red meat. Include no more than 4 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards) three times a week.
You might find that you can substitute lower-fat proteins in your favorite recipes without sacrificing flavor. Try ground turkey instead of ground beef, turkey bacon instead of pork bacon, and turkey sausage or a meat-free equivalent.
If you make your own soups and stews, refrigerate them so you can easily skim the fat off before serving them.
Watch those portion sizes. Sometimes the simplest way to make a meal healthier is to eat less. The "servings" in most recipes are generous. If a recipe for lasagna says it serves four, try to get five or six meals out of it.
Take the oil out of baked treats. For fluffy foods like cake or cornbread, try applesauce instead. For dense foods like brownies, try pureed prunes. Really, they'll taste great.
Find a good cookbook with diabetes-friendly recipes. Or go to the American Diabetes Association's Web site at www.diabetes.org and check out their online recipes. Even if you don't like to follow recipes step by step, you'll have a good starting place for your own creations.
Joslin Diabetes Center. Managing your diabetes: Healthy cooking techniques and diabetes. http://www.joslin.org/managing_your_diabetes_4527.asp.
American Diabetes Association. Diabetes forecast: 8 tips to turn decadent dishes into diabetes-friendly meals. November, 2009. http://forecast.diabetes.org/magazine/features/8-tricks-turn-decadent-dishes-diabetes-friendly-meals
University of Alabama at Birmingham. Healthy cooking tips for persons with diabetes. http://www.uabhealth.org/14366/