Questions About Diabetes, Answered

Raising Hands

This guest post was written by type 2 diabetic and chef Ward Alper. It originally appeared on his website, The Decadent Diabetic, and was republished on Information About Diabetes with permission.

I always look in on the sites (including Diabetes Support / Information About Diabetes) that use my articles and recipes. I am struck by how often I see some comments and would like to take the time to address two of them with you:

Question 1:

I was recently diagnosed with diabetes. I don’t know what to do. I am lost. I am having a terrible time finding a nutritionist. I don’t know what to eat.

My Answer:

Even though I know that every day dozens of people are diagnosed with diabetes, my heart sinks when I see this comment. Was I just lucky to have a doctor that cared enough to spend some time with me and get me started on managing my diabetes?

Do not misunderstand; I walked out of his office in a daze, but not without some hope. He handed me a few booklets on diabetes and set me up to meet with a diabetes educator and nutritionist.

A new reader came to me some weeks ago with their situation of being newly diagnosed and did not know where to turn. This was my response to her:

First of all, I want to give you fair warning, I am relentlessly positive and optimistic about managing diabetes. Second I am answering your questions as what I am, a chef with diabetes, who creates recipes for myself and other people with diabetes. I am NOT a medical person.

You need to be absolutely clear that you are already doing great. No, I mean that. ONLY a very small percentage of people diagnosed with diabetes chose to do anything about it. (This goes for all of you as well. Even if you only look at one or two sites dedicated to diabetes, it is more than most people do. Reach over and pat yourself on the back for me!)

There are over 30 million people in the US alone that have been diagnosed and just look at how few follow any of the sites that have information to share. So CHOOSING to change anything is a fantastic step. Researching and reaching out is even better.

As for finding a nutritionist, bang on your doctor's door and see if her office can recommend somebody. Try your local hospitals. Many have practices devoted to diabetes management.

One thing I want you to be clear about is that the nutritionists are there to guide you. Take from them what will work for YOU long term, and go from there. Make certain they treat you with kindness and respect. My first encounter was a horror story.

Keep in mind that the training they get is heavily focused on heart health. That is good, but they often are not as well informed about diabetes even if they are part of a diabetes practice. Also remember each of us is different and have different medical needs (food allergies, high blood pressure, etc.).

Remember that these people are guides and consultants, nothing more. Seeing a nutritionist is no different than working with any consultant. They are there to advise you, but the final choices HAVE to be yours.

For example: if a career consultant suggests you should not pursue a certain career but you love that industry, find a way to make it work for you. Same thing goes for foods you love. If there is a food that you love, figure out how to make it taste so good that the recommended portion works for you.

I did this with mashed potatoes, but also with mashed cauliflower. I made them both taste so good I could have either but now chose to have the lower carbohydrate cauliflower and more of it. BUT for Shepard's pie, I still choose to use the smashed spuds.

Question 2:

What should I be eating?

My Answer:

As for eating, the accepted common science is to lower the intake of carbohydrates.

Most important: make certain that you and your medical team are on the same page and that you are treated with care and respect that you deserve. If that is not what is happening… find others to guide you!!!!

I can always tell a person with diabetes in the supermarket. They are the ones reading labels. My personal format is to work with NET carbs (carbohydrate grams minus fiber grams). For recipes check out the recipe list on some of the diabetes related sites like here at Information About Diabetes… and website.

Keep in mind that if you HATE recipes for lima beans, you really don't have to eat them or download ANY lima bean recipes. (By the way, I don’t have any lima bean recipes. Why?... I don’t like them)! Spend an evening cuddled up in front of the computer and figure out what foods you think you want to add to your eating. Download those recipes and… USE them.

My answer about what is smart to eat is: figure out your carbohydrate budget: what you can eat that will lower your numbers and keep them low, but also as part of an eating plan you can stick with long term.

My example of a poor portion size: The recommended serving size for turkey is three ounces. Who do you know that has that size portion? Maybe they “should” but that seems pretty unrealistic to me. For a sandwich, it is fine, but not on an empty plate.
I hope my answer to the readers is of assistance to all of you.

ENJOY!!! Be happy, be healthy, be creative, and BE DECADENT! –w!

Click here for Ward's Smashed Spuds or Mashed Cauliflower recipe!

Get more cooking tips and recipe ideas from Ward Alper, the Decadent Diabetic, on his website.

Photo credit: Derek Bridges on Flickr