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Diabetes is becoming one of the fastest growing diseases in Canada. Essentially, their bodies can’t produce any or enough insulin. As a result, they need to manually take insulin for their body to properly use sugar. It’s important for diabetics to manage their diets so that their blood sugar levels don’t get too high or too low (which can make them very, very sick). The good news is that healthier lifestyle choices can make managing the disease a lot easier. I can only imagine how difficult it is for people who are diabetic and must monitor everything they eat. In this article I’ll point out some tips that can help keep sugar levels balanced as part of a healthy lifestyle.

[Please note: I recommend that you consult your medical professional before making major dietary changes.]

What is diabetes?  

It’s a metabolic disorder where the body doesn’t have the ability to properly use or store glucose (which comes from sugar), so they have to manually take insulin to help regulate their system. And diet is a key factor too.

Before we get started with the cooking tips, I’d like to discuss the difference between the two types of diabetes. For that, I referred to my trusty online doctor, WebMD.  

  • Type 1 diabetes: the body’s immune system destroys the cells that release insulin, eventually eliminating insulin production from the body. Without insulin, cells cannot absorb sugar (glucose), which they need to produce energy.
  • Type 2 diabetes: the body isn’t able to use insulin the right way. This is called insulin resistance. As type 2 diabetes gets worse, the pancreas may make less and less insulin. This is called insulin deficiency.

Type 1 often begins when a person is a child or young adult.  That person will have to take insulin for the rest of their life. Type 2 is commonly appears during adulthood, but recently it’s also rising in children. Alarming! The good news, monitoring sugar intake and having a balanced diet can really help many people manage their illness more effectively.  Let’s be honest, whether or not diabetes affects you or your family, everyone should be adopting a healthier, more balanced diet. 

Grilling Makes Everything Taste Good

Grilling or BBQ is my favourite way to prepare my meals whether it’s meat or vegetables. The primary reason is that it reduces the need or tendency to use oil but still brings out great flavour in food.

 Oster Non-Stick Indoor Grill

According to Joslin Diabetes Centre, a fatty meal can slow down digestion and make it harder for insulin to work, causing high blood glucose levels hours after your meal. However, fat found in margarine or oils such as olive or grape seed, has little immediate effect on the blood glucose levels. So taking steps to reduce fat intake, like by grilling foods more often, or choosing healthier forms of oil, can reduce the likelihood of getting spikes in body sugar levels.

So use cooking spray or small amounts of olive oil instead of butter. And choose to grill or broil rather than frying foods. Personally, I love to BBQ—chicken breast just taste so much better. For the winter months, I’d recommend getting an indoor grill, like this one from OsterWith your new indoor grill, make this delicious Salmon with Mango Chutney

Recipe from diabetes.ca

Salmon Mango Chutney

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup orange juice 75 mL
  • 1 Tbsp finely minced ginger 15 mL
  • 2 tsp canola oil 10 mL
  • 2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce 10 mL
  • 6 salmon fillets (4 oz/125 g each) 6
  • 2 Tbsp hot mango chutney 30 mL
  • 1 Tbsp orange juice 15 mL 
 

Directions

  • In shallow bowl or re-sealable plastic bag, combine orange juice, ginger, canola oil and soy sauce. Completely coat salmon fillets with mixture. Marinate in refrigerator for 4 hours. Remove salmon and discard marinade.
  • In small sauce pan or microwave-safe small bowl, combine mango chutney and orange juice; warm to liquefy chutney.
  • Preheat oven to 375 ºF (190 ºC). Lightly spray baking sheet with canola oil cooking spray. Place salmon fillets on baking sheet. Brush with chutney mixture.
  • Bake in pre-heated oven for 10-12 minutes or until fish is opaque and flakes easily with fork.

Protein Can Be Your Friend

Protein is a great source of energy. But every diabetic has to monitor how their sugar levels react to the amount of protein they eat. This can be different for each person and vary from day to day. Of course, as every diabetic knows, constant testing of sugar levels is the only way to stay on top of it. Yet most diabetics need the same amount of protein in their diet as non-diabetics. We will all be healthier by choosing low fat protein choices.

Less is More, Dairy

When it comes to dairy, it’s important to limit it or switch to the low-fat variety. Instead of whole milk or half and half, use 1% or skim. My personal favourite is almond milk. Sounds disgusting for some of you, but it’s really good. 

I recommend to include a balanced low-fat protein like yogurt in your meal plan as a substitue for high-fat dairy desserts like ice-cream.  Consider this low sugar dessert, frozen peach yogurt, from Food.com.

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Ingredients:

  • (14 ounce) can peaches in juice (I used my home canned peaches)
  • cups plain yogurt
  • 12teaspoon vanilla 
  • 23cup Splenda granular
 

Directions

  1. Drain peaches reserving 1/2 cup of juice.
  2. Puree peaches in blender (I use hand held blender for faster clean up).
  3. Add yogurt, (I do this all in a four cup measuring cup) reserved juice, and Splenda; blend with hand blender until combined.
  4. Pour into freezer bowl, turn machine ON and let mix until frozen, about 25-30 minutes.
  5. If desired, pour frozen yogurt into plastic container and place in freezer until firm, about 2 hours.

Choose healthier snacks too 

Kale Chips are Cool

Chips, fries or anything starchy are addictively delicious. Certainly that starch will be converted to sugar in our bodies. Diabetics can often find much heathier alternatives. For example, kale chips are a healthy substitute for high fat, high starch snacks. They are low in fat, and high in fibre and flavour. They are easy to make too; all you need is a little olive oil and your favourite seasoning. Click here for some detailed instructions and helpful tips from ohsheglows.com. 

Fibre, Fibre, Fibre

As mentioned before, diabetics should monitor the carbs and starchy foods. It’s ideal to look for foods that have a high source of fibre. Why? The Canadian Diabetes Association states that fibre can slow digestion and may even reduce the amount of insulin needed after a meal. One easy way to incorporate more fibre is to start your day with something like oatmeal that offers a good balance between protein and fibre.

Diabetes affects many families in Canada. Luckily, it can be controlled, and a healthy lifestyle that combines exercise and good dietary choices can really help. In fact, those same choices can help all Canadians to live longer, more healthy lives.

Do you have any words of wisdom to offer other Canadians who are learning to live with diabetes? Please share in the comment section below.

Main image from WebMD