My husband was diagnosed with diabetes a while back. It’s a difficult thing to adjust to, and we haven’t always done the best job of making it easy for him to eat diabetes friendly foods. But we have made a lot of changes over the years for the better, namely that we have pretty much eliminated starches from our regular menu. Rice, bread, potatoes, noodles…these are all foods that my husband should basically avoid (and unfortunately, ingredients most families use to keep grocery costs down). High carbohydrate foods are bad for him, so we try to keep it generally lower carb around here. We do pretty well when it comes to what we have around the house (although there is certainly room for improvement, and we haven’t mastered how to make the best choices when we are out and about). Here are a few changes we’ve made that have stuck with us, things that weren’t too hard to change but make a difference:
1. Use spaghetti squash instead of noodles. We have spaghetti squash at least once a month. We would have it more except the darned things are kind of expensive (about 4x the cost of noodles). However, they taste yummy. Actually, now that I’ve eaten spaghetti squash for a while, I kind of prefer them to noodles. They go great as substitutes in dishes like spaghetti, casseroles, and alfredo noodles.
2. We buy either Healthy Life bread or Sara Lee 45 calorie bread. This one took a little more for my husband to get used to because the bread is noticeably thinner than the big thick slices of speciality bread he prefers. However, they have lower amounts of carbs and a higher amount of fiber. This has been a healthy, positive exchange for our family and has allowed us to forgo giving up bread altogether.
3. We eat the meat that’s on sale. Tonight I cooked 4 pork chops that were delicious and cost only 3.50. They were on sale at our local supermarket, Gerbes, which actually has great sales on meat pretty regularly. Whenever I see some good meat on sale there, I buy it up and stick it in the freezer if we won’t eat it all. Being as how those lower priced starches and grains are out of the question for us most of the time, finding meat (and veggies) on sale is important!
4. Find creative recipes for salads. You can only eat so many chef salads, people. They get boring, at least for us. We’ve made strawberry chicken salad, taco salad (without any crunchies), and lots of others. You have ditch the croutons and find or make dressings with fewer carbs (which means the super sweet kinds are out). This is another area I’ve been surprised to find I actually prefer to, you know, taste the vegetables in a salad and have it seasoned with berries and some kind marinated meat instead of it being drowned in a heavy dressing.
5. Breakfast, for me, has always been the main struggle. I love bagels. I love cereal. I love pancakes and waffles. I love english muffins. I could eat breakfast foods all day every day. But all those things I just mentioned are pretty much off limits when it comes to being diabetes friendly. At first, the only options were eggs. Lots of eggs. And bacon, which was the silver lining. However, sometimes you have to figure out something else. There are cereals like Fiber One Original that are pretty good for you and won’t agitate a diabetic too much, but most cereals are really, really bad for a diabetic. So, we do quiches and omelletes when I get the chance. An apple for a quick breakfast. But, seriously, I miss me some bagels.
Trying to be lower carb as a whole family can be tough. We don’t go all Atkins-20-carbs-per-day, but honestly, keeping carbs to around 50-100 per day can be challenging, especially at first. Especially if you include fruit in your diet, which is high in carbs, too, and yes, even too many carbs from fruit can cause problems for a diabetic.
However, the changes are worth it. My husband is better off for these changes, and so our kids. And so am I. We could do better. We don’t always adhere to our standards when we go out to eat and we don’t always do so when we are at someone’s home where there are healthy and unhealthy options. We could use artificial sweeteners a little less. But I think we’re getting better, and we’re learning what works best for us all the time.
Has someone in your immediate family been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes? How do you handle the restrictions in diet?