5 Tips for diabetes: friendly cooking

Who says having diabetes should stop you from indulging in your favourite homemade delicacies?

Kiran Zehra September 23, 2014

When you know the essentials of meal-planning, you can make almost any recipe tick. So don’t toss your favourite recipes aside just because the endocrinologist prescribes health eating. Instead, use our quick tips to cooking wisely. Keeping healthy has never been this easy! 

1) Reduce your meat intake

All animal foods, red meat in particular, are the greatest sources of saturated fat in our diet. Additionally, they are also rich in Trimethylamine Oxide (TMAO) – a by-product that increases risk of cardiac and other diseases seven times! In fact, avoiding meat just one day a week has been proven to reduce health risks greatly. Instead, incorporate more greens and leafy vegetables into your diet. Swiss chard, collards and kale (Safaid chukander, karam kala and serbeen respectively) are especially beneficial to diabetics as they moderate sugar levels and can be cooked easily. If you are making pasta, add small pieces of kale to the saucepan for about four minutes before it is cooked and drain the water for a ready-to-go meal. Replace bread with cabbage or collard leaves and use them as wraps. Green vegetables can also be mixed into pizza or pasta sauces for a delicious and healthy twist to your favourite meals. Lentils and beans are also a great option for diabetics as not only are they filling and full of proteins but also great to taste in soups. 

2) Say no to soy

Just like meat, dairy products also contain high levels of animal protein, saturated fats, cholesterol, casein and carcinogens. It is a common misconception that soya milk – a liquid produced by soaking dry soybeans and grinding them in water – is a healthier alternative to regular milk but this too can be full of added casein and excess oils. Hence, it is highly recommended that diabetics not ingest too much dairy so as to keep the fats at bay. Should a recipe call for sauces made from cream or whole milk, use cornstarch and skimmed milk instead.

3) Avoid solid fats

If you are opting for a recipe involving solid fats like butter, use trans-fat free margarine spreads instead. It is better to cook using liquid fats like canola, corn or olive oil, so long as these are used in moderate quantities. However, there are plenty of oil alternatives to keep you clear of unwanted fats: stir-fry instead of deep-frying and using vinegar, water and sodium-free vegetable broth for cooking can go a long way. For salads, pour vinegar instead of oil-based dressings. If baking, replace normal sugar with mashed ripe bananas or apple sauce. Not only is this the healthier option but also great to taste!

4) Whole grain everything

Eating good quality whole grain foods are the way to go for both diabetics and non-diabetics if they wish to stay healthy. When the recipe you are following asks for ‘white’ flour/rice/bread, try substituting it with whole wheat flour or brown rice/bread instead as they contain less fat. If you are a fan of porridge, invest in steel-cut or rolled oats instead of the instant oat mix as the latter are processed and replete with preservatives. One can also mix different forms of whole-grain ingredients in the same recipe without compromising on the taste.

5) Skim the sugar

This is perhaps the number one rule of living with diabetes as food sugar affects the level of blood sugar in the body directly. With most recipes, one can reduce the amount of sugar added without affecting the taste adversely. However, at times, it is difficult to cut corners on the ingredients, such as in baking which requires yeast which in turn requires sugar to fulfil its purpose. In such a situation, diabetics can invest in off-the-counter sugar substitutes prescribed by doctors, provided that they are suitable for cooking. One must avoid boxed fruit juices as even the ones that claim to be unadulterated are rich with chemicals. If you love ice-cream, blend frozen bananas and mangoes together and enjoy a nutritious, sugar-free alternative right at home.

Types of Diabetes

1) Type 1 Diabetes: This type of diabetes results due to the body’s failure to produce sufficient amounts of insulin on its own accord. Only five to 10 percent of diabetics suffer from this type and nearly 70% of cases are diagnosed before the patient turns 30.

2) Type 2 Diabetes: The second type occurs as a result of insulin resistance. In such cases, the cells within the body fail to respond to insulin properly, often leading to a lack of insulin and abnormal blood sugar levels. Primary causes of Type 2 Diabetes include excessive weight and lack of exercise.

3) Gestational Diabetes: This develops during pregnancy and is caused by the increased production of hormones which hamper the body’s ability to use insulin as it should, leading to high blood sugar. Most gestational diabetes subsides post birth but increases risk of Type 2 diabetes later.

Some everyday food items to avoid if you have diabetes

1.         Nachos

2.         Fruit juice beverages, milkshakes, smoothies and coffee drinks

3.         Cinammon rolls

4.         French fries

5.         Bakery cookies, cakes and pies

6.         Processed meats

7.         Frozen meals

8.      Sodas

Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, September 21st, 2014.


Joop Zoutemelk | 6 years ago | Reply

I love cooking and your site has helped a lot! Thanks!! I just wanted to share my method for taking a boiled egg out of a pan without burning your hands. Please see this youtube video for a demonstration:


You may share this on your site if you like. Might be a great tip for others as well!

Cheers Joop

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