Adjusting to a New Normal with Diabetes

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Ward Alper is a type 2 diabetic and chef who lives and eats decadently in Portland, Maine. Since his diagnosis more than four years ago, he has refocused his recipes and eating to support his diabetic health. In this article, Ward shares diabetic-friendly replacements for juice, bread and dessert.

After you get diagnosed with diabetes, or any disease for that matter, what is normal goes away. All of a sudden you are pricking your fingers, watching your carbohydrate intake, dealing with the strange side effects of your medications, and trying harder to drop some pounds.

There is a feeling of loss, almost mourning, for the way things were and the way we expect food to be. All of a sudden you need your glasses every time you go to the “stupidmarket.” Label-reading is now the new normal.

Finding Replacements

When speaking with other diabetics, I am fascinated with the things they miss and want to find replacements for in their diets. Bread, desserts and juice spring to mind as biggies.


During a speaking engagement, I was surprised to see this one lady burst into tears when I started talking about Trop 50. She had not had juice in years, and my sharing this product with her filled a hole in her life. I thought it such a little thing. For her it was the world.


My world was rocked with finding breads that made the old humdrum sandwich a part of my life again. I went for months eating a lunch of salads or a protein with salad. It took longer to prepare and never satisfied me the way lunch usually did. Finding the Joseph's Lavash, Sara Lee Delightful and Arnold Sandwich Thins filled a hole in my eating life.

I won’t tell you that any of these products replaces a ham on rye for me. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy these products. They have become my new normal. Do I still crave a baguette slathered with butter or olive oil? You better believe it. I know that I can do the baguette every once in a while, and it would be a treat for me like ice cream in the summer.


Still for others it was/is dessert. Sometimes even I am impressed with all the desserts I still make, still enjoy, and share with others. Replacing the sugar with a sugar substitute was the start. Replacing the flour with ground nuts made so many things work. Finding out that chocolate did not have to be forbidden was, pardon the pun, the icing on the cake. Eating cakes that did not rise as much as they did with sugar became the new normal for me.

What also became normal were the subtle added flavors that the ground nuts imparted to cakes. I remembered that my grandmother used to add nuts to her sponge cakes for a variation on a theme. That old memory combined with the new subtle flavoring was a bonus. The ah-ha moment was getting that I could do what I needed to do to lower the carbohydrates and, at the same time, make something that was better than the original. Life is not all bad!

One of the people I spoke with requested ONLY my dessert recipes. That is what she misses most from her diet. Desserts are not it for me. Sure I like/love them. Sure I eat them. But for me it is having a full plate when I need it. Foods like my skinny slaw that gave me a lot to eat became most important. I hated feeling hungry when I could only have a spoonful of this, a palm full of that.

So I slog along, working harder at preparing meals, reading more labels than I care to read, still missing the pasta and the rice, but happy for things like mashed cauliflower and cauliflower salad, spaghetti squash, and a bit of bittersweet chocolate on the weekends and in my desserts. So that is my new normal. OK, I can live with that!

Enjoy, be healthy, be DECADENT!

Click here for Ward's Creamy Broccoli Soup recipe!

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