A Few Thoughts about Eating and Cooking When You Have Diabetes

No matter what the latest diet fad is, people with diabetes must always focus on carbohydrates, because carbohydrates raise blood sugar. Choosing the right foods, exercising every day (such as walking), and taking diabetes medications are the three things these people do to balance their blood sugar levels and stay healthy. (Actually, the first two are what we all should do to stay healthy!)

What Exactly is a Carbohydrate?
Now, you may have been cooking all your life and still not be sure what a carbohydrate (carb) is. Our mothers and grandmothers showed us how to design a meal, and this is still pretty much the way we fill a plate:

starch (rice, pasta, potato, squash, corn, peas, beans) -- carb
bread -- carb
milk, water, tea -- carb
dessert (fruit, cake, ice cream, etc.) -- carb

You see carbohydrates (carb) in the starches (rice, pasta, potato, squash, corn, peas, or beans), in the bread and milk, the sugar in your tea, and the dessert (including fruit). These are foods we all like to eat, and none of us can -- or should -- go for more than about two weeks without carbohydrates in our meals. We need the nutrients that come in carbohydrate foods, which are our body's favorite fuel. The trick is in choosing which ones, because today we have so many choices that our grandmothers didn't have.

Why Vegetables Work for You
There are a few carbs in the vegetables and salad on your plate. Green leafy, red, and orange vegetables -- everything but the starchy potatoes, squash, corn, peas, and beans -- have carbohydrates. But they don't have much, so you can have second and third helpings before your blood sugar is affected. Don't forget that vegetables are also a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals -- and that's great for your health.

Vegetables also have fiber, which slows down digestion of your food, which in turn slows down the rise in your blood sugar. (Can you see that vegetables really are the stars of the dinner plate?) Eating foods with fiber keeps your body working well. Simply put, these are the qualities within carbs that your body prefers, whether it is a whole grain, fruit, or vegetable. These foods come to you straight from the farmer's field, so they contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Some whole grains to look for are slow-cooking oats (sometimes called "rolled oats"), whole wheat flour, stone-ground cornmeal, and brown rice.

Watch Out for These!
Other carbs are part of the bread, starch, drink, or dessert categories, but they have traveled far from the farmer's field before getting to you. Processed grains, such as white flour and white rice, have had their germ, bran, and fiber removed. That takes out a lot of their natural vitamins and minerals, so the food manufacturer puts some artificial vitamins back in. You can read the names of these artificial vitamins on the food labels attached to the packages containing breads, cookies, and other products. Because they don't have fiber, these carbs are digested quickly, raising blood sugar more quickly, too.

Chips, cookies, and desserts are carb foods that also contain fat. Fat slows down digestion, so it helps balance the blood sugar spike caused by white flour and white sugar. But some fats are better for you than others. Most processed foods contain fats called "trans fats" that are found in the "hydrogenated vegetable oil" listed on the ingredients label. We are learning that trans fats may be the worst of the saturated fats, so food processors are starting to use other fats in their products.

Good Fats
Research shows that we all need to eat some fat every day. Our bodies just don't work right without fats. So which fats are best for your health? You probably have heard that you shouldn't eat a lot of solid fats, such as margarine, butter, marbled meat, or cheese. Vegetable oils are better, and olive oil and canola oil are the best oils because they contain balanced amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 fats. These fats are important for your heart and blood vessels (which is why you should eat more fish and freshly ground flaxseeds).

Processed foods contain a lot of omega-6 fats, but almost no omega-3 fats. You need balance. You find balance and good fats in nuts; avocados; olives; nut butters; olive and canola oils; and sesame, pumpkin, flax, and sunflower seeds. In fact, you might try a handful or two of raw almonds as a part of your daily "bread."


Good carb choices: whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Good fat choices: olive oil, avocados, fish, nuts, and seeds.

--American Diabetes Association


Mile-High Shredded Beef Sandwiches
Miriam Christophel
Battle Creek, MI
Mary Seielstad
Sparks, NV

Makes 8 servings
(Ideal slow cooker size: 4-quart)

3 lb. chuck roast, or round steak, trimmed of fat
2 Tbsp. oil
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup sliced celery
2 cups lower-sodium, 98%-fat-free beef broth
1 garlic clove
3/4 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. chili powder
3 drops Tabasco sauce
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1. In skillet brown both sides of meat in oil. Add onions and celery and sauté briefly. Transfer to slow cooker. Add broth.
2. Cover. Cook on Low 6-8 hours, or until tender. Remove meat from cooker and cool. Shred beef.
3. Remove vegetables from cooker and drain, reserving 11/2 cups broth. Combine vegetables and meat.
4. Return shredded meat and vegetables to cooker. Add broth and remaining ingredients and combine well.
5. Cover. Cook on High 1 hour. Remove bay leaf.
6. Pile into 8 sandwich rolls and serve.

Exchange List Values: Carbohydrate 1.0, Meat, lean 3.0

Basic Nutritional Values: Calories 239 (Calories from Fat 88), Total Fat 10 gm (Saturated Fat 2.4 gm, Polyunsat Fat 1.3 gm, Monounsat Fat 4.6 gm, Cholesterol 73 mg), Sodium 444 mg, Total Carbohydrate 12 gm, Dietary Fiber 1 gm, Sugars 8 gm, Protein 25 gm


Ann's Boston Baked Beans
Ann Driscoll
Albuquerque, MN

Makes 20 side dish servings
(Ideal slow cooker size: 4-5-quart)

1 cup raisins
2 small onions, diced
2 tart apples, unpeeled, diced
1 cup chili sauce
1 cup chopped extra-lean, reduced-sodium ham
1 lb. 15-oz. can baked beans
2 141/2-oz. cans baked beans, no-added-salt
3 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 cup sweet pickle relish

1. Mix together all ingredients.
2. Cover. Cook on Low 6-8 hours.

Exchange List Values: Starch 1.0, Fruit 0.5, Carbohydrate 0.5

Basic Nutritional Values: Calories 148 (Calories from Fat 6), Total Fat 1 gm (Saturated Fat 0.1 gm, Polyunsat Fat 0.2 gm, Monounsat Fat 0.1 gm, Cholesterol 3 mg), Sodium 443 mg, Total Carbohydrate 32 gm, Dietary Fiber 6 gm, Sugars 16 gm, Protein 6 gm


Seven Layer Bars
Mary W. Stauffer
Ephrata, PA

Makes 18 servings
(ideal slow cooker size: 4-5-quart)

2 Tbsp. light, soft tub margarine, melted
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. butterscotch chips
1/4 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup fat-free sweetened condensed milk

1. Layer ingredients in a bread or cake pan that fits in your slow cooker, in the order listed. Do not stir.
2. Cover and bake on High 2-3 hours, or until firm. Remove pan and uncover. Let stand 5 minutes.
3. Unmold carefully on plate and cool.

Exchange List Values: Carbohydrate 0.5, Fat 1.0

Basic Nutritional Values: Calories 87 (Calories from Fat 42), Total Fat 5 gm (Saturated Fat 1.4 gm, Polyunsat Fat 0.9 gm, Monounsat Fat 2.3 gm, Cholesterol 0 mg), Sodium 37 mg, Total Carbohydrate 11 gm, Dietary Fiber 1 gm, Sugars 9 gm, Protein 1 gm

Reprinted from Fix-It and Forget-It Diabetic Cookbook: Slow Cooker Favorites -- to include Everyone!. Copyright by Good Books (www.goodbks.com). Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Phyllis Pellman Good is a New York Times bestselling author whose books have sold more than 7 million copies.

Good also authored the New York Times bestselling Fix-It and Forget-It Lightly: Healthy, Low-Fat Recipes for your Slow Cooker. She co-authored the national #1 bestselling cookbook (with Dawn J. Ranck) Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook: Feasting with your Slow Cooker, which appeared on The New York Times Best Sellers list, as well as the best seller lists of USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Book Sense. In addition, Good authored Fix-It and Forget-It Recipes for Entertaining: Slow Cooker Favorites for All the Year Round, also in the series (with Ranck).

Good's other cookbooks include The Best of Amish Cooking, The Best of Mennonite Fellowship Meals, The Central Market Cookbook, and Favorite Recipes with Herbs.

Phyllis Pellman Good is Senior Editor at Good Books. She received her B.A. and M.A. in English from New York University. She and her husband, Merle, live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They are the parents of two young-adult daughters.

For a complete listing of books by Phyllis Pellman Good, as well as excerpts and reviews, visit www.goodbks.com.

The American Diabetes Association is the nation's leading voluntary health organization supporting diabetes research, information, and advocacy. Its mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. The American Diabetes Association is the leading publisher of comprehensive diabetes information. Its huge library of practical and authoritative books for people with diabetes covers every aspect of self-care cooking and nutrition, fitness, weight control, medications, complications, emotional issues, and general self-care.

To order ADA books, call 1-800-232-6733.

Or go to the web bookstore at store.diabetes.org (no www is needed).

For more information about diabetes, call 1-800-342-2383.