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Diabetes Still Isn't Easy
Diabetes Still Isn't Easy

FDI is dedicated to diabetes education, nutritional counseling, and wellness programming.

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Revamping Cultural Cuisine

I was recently speaking to a patient of mine about her diet. Her family does all the cooking but she knows it’s not the healthiest. She wants to change her diet but doesn’t want to stop eating with her family. She’s not alone!  Many people, including me, enjoy eating with their families, and enjoy eating the foods they grew up on. I’m from the Midwest and grew up on meat and potatoes. If a health care provider told me I could no longer eat meat and potatoes, I’d be pretty upset!  Instead of cutting those foods out, I’d rather learn about healthier alternatives to my favorite comfort foods.

For instance, ribs and sausage are considered fatty meats and have more saturated fat than leaner meats, such as sirloin. Sweet potatoes don’t raise blood sugar as much as white potatoes. So, a better option for the standard meat and potatoes would be a sirloin with a sweet potato. Bottom line: having meat and potatoes is still okay for dinner!  It’s just a matter of making some modifications, so the meal isn’t too high in calories, saturated fat and simple carbohydrates.

Next time you’re cooking with your family, or making one of their recipes, try to modify it so it’s not too rich in calories, carbohydrates or fat. Here are some tips:

  • Use less oil. All oils have 120 calories per tablespoon. This can really add up!  So, measure it out and be mindful of the portion size.
  • In place of salt use more pepper, fresh or dried herbs, or other spices to give it a kick. 
  • Go for the leaner cuts of meat and poultry, and choose low-fat cheese instead of regular cheese.
  • Instead of frying meat, fish and poultry, try baking, grilling or broiling.
  • Incorporate veggies into the dish. Choose what’s in season!  Not only do vegetables provide extra fiber, but they also give the dish more color and texture. 
  • If it’s a rice dish, swap the white rice for brown rice or wild rice with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.  Or experiment with an ancient grain such as quinoa or farro. 

Stay true to your culture but don’t be scared to add less oil to your family recipes to make them healthier. You and your family might be pleasantly surprised by the taste.  

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About the Author


Lynn is a nutritionist and diabetes educator at the Friedman Diabetes Institute.