Cheating on your Diabetic-Compatible Diet

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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.

Am I bad? I have been on a diet of one kind or another since I was in high school. It started with just a simple switch from butter to cottage cheese on my morning toast. That grew into cottage cheese (did low-fat exist in those days?) and Jell-O (?) for lunch. By the time I went to college, my chubby adolescent body had slimmed down.

In my mid-20s, I had put that weight back on and decided I HAD to look good as an example of a person working in the fashion industry. OK, who is kidding whom? I just wanted to look “hot” – well, hotter. I slimmed down to a racy 128 pounds, dripping wet (I am only 5-foot-6). I loved the attention.

I kept that weight down for years by eating some very strange diets. There was the yogurt and diet soda suppers, the 100-calorie soup suppers, the lettuce suppers, and the walking for miles.
What did all those bizarre diets have in common? I kept thinking of ways to CHEAT!

Fighting the Urge to Cheat

In 2008, when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I made the CHOICE to do whatever it took to be healthy. I won’t bore you with the sad history my family had with diabetes. I have no intention of just letting that happen to me, not if I have anything to do with it!

I took the medication even though it made my system rebel. I cut down – way down – on the number of grams of carbohydrates I ate. Even though I was sick to my stomach and bored beyond words with my diet, I stuck with it.

But old habits die hard. Even though I knew I was doing this to battle a serious disease and to keep my health, I kept thinking about cheating. Didn’t I deserve it? I lost weight, my blood work was better than terrific. I hated eating. My diet was boring. My doctor even suggested that I do a little cheat every once in a while.

Committing to a Healthful Diet

The funny thing this time is I could not cheat. I tried. I made a pasta dish for my birthday but chickened out. No, I really mean chickened out; I put so much chicken and mushrooms in the dish, so I didn’t need much pasta, that I made one of the worst dinners in my life.

Then I thought to myself, “Well, if I just have something ‘cheaty’ right after the HbA1c blood work was done, who would know the difference?” Or maybe right after I left my doctor’s office and he told me how proud he is of me and asked for more of my business cards to give to his other diabetic patients.

I can’t do it. No, not because I WANT to be a role model for others. No, not JUST because I want to stay healthy. I relearned how to cook. My recipes are good enough to satisfy me and my spouse that we simply don’t feel deprived. Nobody else who eats my food feels like “Oh, this is OK for a 'diabetes dish.'” They love it for how good it tastes. Some people are shocked to see how rich a diabetes-compatible recipe can be.

Making and Finding Great Recipes

I have dozens of really delicious desserts. For example, for Christmas last year, I made a diabetic-compatible trifle. In place of ice cream, I make low-carb creamsicles and coffee pops, I freeze Light and Fit Yogurt, and I found Healthy Choice fudge bars. It is mostly what I prepare, but there are some great commercial choices out there.

I found several types of breads that work for me. Almost all of my old meat, chicken and fish meals just happened to be diabetes-compatible. Who knew? For things I really missed, I created substitute recipes that were as good, or better, than the thing they replaced, like cauliflower for potatoes. I keep working at it and sharing it with you.

My latest success is a pancake recipe. What? Am I kidding you? YOU try the recipe (below) for whole-wheat and nut pancakes with only 3.5 grams of carbohydrates per 4-inch pancake, and then let me know if I still need to cheat – although next week is my HbA1c, and there IS a new restaurant nearby that’s said to have killer onion rings. Hmm.

Enjoy, be happy, be healthy, be creative, and BE DECADENT!

Click here for Ward's Whole-Wheat Pancakes recipe!

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

Photo credit: La Citta Vita on Flickr