Nearly 1 in 3 of us is at risk for diabetes and more than 86 million Americans have prediabetes , most of whom don’t realize they are on the cusp of the disease. Diabetes prevention matters and can ultimately be life-saving. In May 2018, Blue KC introduced the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a lifestyle change program designed to help participants lose weight, adopt healthy habits, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. It’s a program that’s considered a preventive benefit and is available at no cost to eligible members.
The DPP also focuses on healthier eating, which is where I can offer guidance. A big part of being executive chef of our Live Blue Kitchen + Café is to educate people on the values of a good diet and provide resources to help combat diseases that happen as a result of diet, like diabetes. I’m sharing some tips on how to eat right to avoid diabetes and three diabetes-friendly recipes everyone can enjoy.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is the condition in which the body does not make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin properly. It currently affects 30 million Americans. Most of the food a person eats turns into glucose or sugar that our bodies use for energy. The pancreas, which makes a hormone called insulin, helps glucose get into the cells of our bodies.
It’s important to distinguish the different types of diabetes when discussing the condition:
- Type 1: The condition that’s also known as juvenile diabetes usually gets diagnosed in young children and teens. Typically, the pancreas is making little or no insulin at all. Type 1 only affects five percent of those who suffer from diabetes.
- Type 2: 90-95 percent of adults with diabetes have type 2. The condition happens when your body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin and the pancreas makes more insulin to get the cells to respond, but unfortunately this causes blood sugar to rise and type 2 diabetes to occur. You are likely to develop type 2 if you are age 45 or older, have a family history of diabetes, or are overweight or obese.
- Gestational Diabetes: Some women develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy and it can affect a baby’s health, but blood sugar can return to normal soon after delivery. Those with gestational diabetes do have a higher risk at type 2 diabetes, but those with the condition continue working with a care team to manage it.
How to Cook for Diabetics
You don’t have to be a professional chef like me to cook for a diabetic. Here are some helpful guidelines to achieve a healthy diet and diabetic-friendly lifestyle.
- Complement Your Carbohydrates With Fats and Proteins: The key to preparing food for people with diabetes is to limit carbohydrates and to make sure meals that do include carbohydrates are complemented with proteins and fats. I recommend limiting carbs to 35-55 grams per full meal and while you’re eating snacks, keep your carbs to 20 or fewer grams per snack. Foods with proteins and fats are important because fat slows down the breakdown of carbohydrates into the bloodstream so insulin does not build up as a result.
- Eat Food With A Low Glycemic Index: Of course, we don’t want to completely remove carbs from our meals and diets. When we look at carbs, we have to examine the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a relative ranking of a carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Foods that cause diabetes include high glycemic indexes, so the lower the glycemic index, the better it is to combat diabetes. Foods like quinoa, a complex carbohydrate, take longer to break down, which is better for your glucose levels. Try looking for low glycemic index foods that contain lots of water within them like vegetables, including celery, broccoli, bean sprouts and bok choy.
- Sample Food From Other Cultures: Eating diabetic-friendly food is a great opportunity to try new cuisines from different countries. For instance, Thai, Indian, and other exotic spices and herbs are recommended for spicing up high water content vegetables. These are all great food sources that contain low glycemic indexes.
Try These Diabetic-Friendly Recipes
Can I Still Have Dessert?
Yes, you can still have dessert, but in moderation just like any meal. I like to give the example that it’s better to have two cookies with full fat, than fat-free ones because fat slows the carbohydrate breakdown response. When your body eats fat, it will send a chemical to your brain that your hunger is being satisfied by the fat and you won’t eat as much. When you eat your favorite fat-free ice cream, your brain doesn’t recognize any fat, so you’re more likely to eat the whole tub.
If you have a sweet tooth, don’t worry too much either. Two small pieces of 72 percent dark chocolate with no added sugar (or sweetened with stevia) is a good after dinner dessert choice because it’s high in antioxidants and phytochemicals, as well as vegetable-based fat that slows down the glycemic response.
To learn more about diabetes treatment and the Diabetes Prevention Program, visit MyBlueKC.com. Read more about how to live well and be well by following us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
Head Chef, Live Blue Kitchen + Café
Kyle Williams is the Head Chef of the Live Blue Kitchen + Café at Blue KC. He focuses on preparing healthy meals using fresh, local ingredients.