Deprivation Leads to Diabetic Exploration and Inspiration

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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 with permission.

When you think about your diabetic diet, do you feel deprived, sad, depressed – or inspired?

Many of us become depressed by having to make changes. I was certainly one of those people. I felt truly deprived of a big part of my life. Some foods that I had been eating forever and without thought became my enemy. It was an awful experience.

Millions of better choices are out there in the world of online information. I certainly looked on the Internet before my diagnosis for inspiration. After my diagnosis, it became more important than ever to look beyond what was routine to find foods that were a better choice.

Discovering Foods and Rethinking Recipes

I have spoken about finding “new” food products that helped me to eat better and made me feel more “normal.” Some, like Joseph’s breads and now Explore Asian pasta, are big deals for me. Others were right in front of my mouth; realizing that veggies and cottage cheese were a great substitute for fruit salad and cottage cheese gave me the inspiration to look at all foods another way.

Finding Trop 50 orange juice was a big improvement over swallowing my morning vitamins with plain water. But I also use it to flavor cakes and frostings, not to mention creamsicles. Being able to have the taste again brought me back closer to my old lifestyle. Dannon “Light and Fit” Greek-style yogurt (a product I already ate) became a new joy when I discovered (by reading the label) it was already a diabetic–compatible food.

Certainly learning to read food labels in a new way made a big difference. I still complain about portion sizes that are unrealistic, but I learned to work with those portion sizes to make foods that suited my needs for volume and flavor. I look forward to the upcoming changes in package labels. I, like most people with diabetes, do enough math homework already.

Not Giving up Chocolate

Chocolate has always been a big thing in my life. Even when I was a little kid, it was one of the things in life I felt deprived. Easter and Passover are usually at the same time in the spring. As a little Jewish kid, that huge chocolate Easter bunny was simply off limits. Chocolate covered matzos were not even in the running. How could a flat, dry piece of cracker covered in the best chocolate in the world ever compare to that cute bunny? Nice try, but no chocolate cigar here! The best I could ever hope to do was find a leftover bunny after Easter and buy it when Passover finally was over. It was not easy to do. Most chocolate makers would reclaim the bunnies and melt them down to make other candies. If I wanted to break off a chocolate bunny ear, I had to be quick on the draw.

When I left my doctor’s office five years ago, I looked at Dr. Dan and said: “So I guess that means no chocolate, huh?” Part of why he is the perfect doctor for me is that he did not say NO. He just indicated with his fingers to me: “Maybe a very little bit.” The important thing for me was that he did not say NO! That left the door wide open for me to find a way to make that little bit work. A little bit, yes, but enough to satisfy.

Back to reading labels. As one thing led to another, I discovered that the Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder that I have always used really had very few carbohydrates (1 gram net carbohydrates per tablespoon). For all of you who love chocolate, you will be happy to know that one tablespoon goes a very long way in a recipe. So what I did, and still do, is to add one or two tablespoons of that cocoa powder to my base recipe for a cake. Lo and behold, CHOCOLATE CAKE!

What makes me THE Decadent Diabetic is having found ways to make foods that I like in a new way that still gives me EXACTLY what I crave, just in a better way to control my diabetes. If I can do it, so can you. Why not start with my King of the Night uber chocolate cake (recipe below) and go on from there to make your eating world a better place?

Enjoy, be happy, be Healthy and BE DECADENT!

Click here for Ward's Kind of the Night Cake recipe!

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