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Ward Alper is a type 2 diabetic and chef who lives and eats decadently in Portland, Maine. Since his diagnosis more than five years ago, he has refocused his recipes and eating to support his diabetic health. In this article, Ward explains how he remains satisfied while sticking to a low-carb diet.
Some months after my diagnosis, after I had reached the goals that were set for me (weight-loss and an A1C under 6.0 percent), I swear to you, I was chomping on a radish (crunchy, tangy and not used enough) and all of a sudden I felt like Scarlett O’Hara.
There is the famous scene where she pulls a radish (OK, maybe it was a turnip) from the ground, bites into it, and looks up to the heavens and shakes her fist and says: “As God is my witness, as God is my witness, they’re not going to lick me. I am going to live through this, and when it is all over, I’ll never be hungry again. Not me, nor any of my kin.”
Yup, me too! I had had it. Enough of this eating that made me sad and left me emotionally hungry! I was going to find a way of eating again that kept me healthy and HAPPY.
Deciding to Stop Being Sad About Food
After so many years of having what I considered decent-sized portions of pasta and rice, my emotional palate hated the change. The carbohydrate rug had been pulled out from under me. Two ounces of what I always ate a lot of was not satisfying. My mind kept telling me that it was not. I needed to stop being sad about FOOD. Isn’t there enough grief in life without being distressed?
As people with diabetes, we can eat tons of cabbage, nuts and most vegetables. We still can have fish, chicken, pork, beef and cheese, even bacon. I have dozens and dozens of ways to prepare all of those foods. I just put more emphasis on vegetables. For example:
- Spinach as a salad, a side dish or a bed for chicken.
- Cauliflower takes the place of potatoes and even rice.
- I can have huge servings of skinny slaw or cauliflower salad.
- Eggplant is a great replacement for noodles in lasagna.
Really, what do I have to complain about? Oh yeah, the rice, bread and pasta were pretty much out of the diet. What helped was finding out that there were breads that still fit into the picture and a smaller amount of highly flavored potatoes also work for me.
Thriving on What I Can Have
Grab a bunch of berries, sweeten them lightly, and pour a tablespoon of Trop 50 orange juice or fresh lemon juice over them. Spoon the berries over some Greek-style yogurt, and a rich-tasting, easy dessert is waiting for you to just dive in and enjoy. And CHOCOLATE! Never forget the chocolate. Seventy percent or higher chocolate has few enough carbs for us to have a piece (about an ounce and a half). It is big enough to satisfy us. In truth there are still so many wonderful foods to tempt the palate.
The reward to my partner and to me is to make what we do eat count for much more than what we (I) can’t. Last Friday night, we had a lovely steak and roasted asparagus (on sale during the early spring) with lemon and butter. Lunch today was an enormous plate of fresh veggies and cottage cheese. Now who wouldn’t love those meals?
I have long since stopped suffering because of the foods I can’t or shouldn’t have. Thriving on what I can have is second-nature to me now. Thinking about cheating on my diet is almost a thing of the past. I have to learn how to fill our plates with things we love and still fit into our lower-carbohydrate diet. It is easier than you might think.
I have not been licked by diabetes, not me, nor has any of my kin.
Enjoy, be happy, be Healthy, BE DECADENT!