Diabetes-Compatible Awesome Alternatives

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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.

My article on the “un-potato” was featured here at Information About Diabetes a few months ago. One of the readers posted this simple comment on the Diabetes Support Facebook page:

Bekki : Awesome Alternatives...

The word "alternatives" struck a chord with me. Not substitutions, not replacements, but alternatives. What a perfectly positive word. I promised her I would use it more often, starting now!

What Keeps Us on Track

Some days are too busy to cook or shop. When time is a problem, I rely on my diabetes-compatible versions of “fast” foods. The other night as I took a bite of a hamburger (stuffed with onions and cheese), I realized that it was a beef burger, not my usual turkey burger. The “old standby” that night was the alternative to what has become a staple of my kitchen.

I started eating turkey burgers and making turkey meat-loaf back in the days when cholesterol was my biggest concern. I don’t know if I just got used to the alternative of ground turkey or if the taste was so good that I all but forgot about ground beef. The truth is that both are delicious. One may or may not be better for your overall health, but both are delicious. Delicious is what keeps us on track.

What sometimes happens is that we force ourselves to make choices that help us manage our diabetes. Sometimes we resent them so much that we decide that we hate the choice we felt forced to make. But why?

Awesome Alternatives

The aforementioned article was about using cauliflower. Sue H., another reader, dubbed me "the cauliflower ambassador to the world." It is a title I happily accept.

I always liked cauliflower well enough, but since my diagnosis six years ago, I have found a lot of new ways to use it. What was once an occasional vegetable is now a mainstay on my table.

That is also true of a lot of other things, including spaghetti squash. It was tolerable, even OK, but needing an alternative for other higher-carbohydrate foods, I found new ways to use it. What makes it an awesome alternative is the flavors used in each dish to bring out the best in an otherwise almost dull vegetable.

Better Choices

Let’s go back to my burger the other night. My market sells burgers that are mixed with onion and cheese. They present a few problems for me:

  1. I have no idea of the fat content in the meat they use.
  2. I have no clue how much cheese and onion they use.
  3. Most important, the burgers stick to the pan or my grill. I really don’t need extra clean-up in my kitchens.

What I did as an alternative was stuff the burger with the cheese and onion myself. I got to choose how much fat, cheese and onion went into what I was making. I also got to season it the way I wanted to season it. One more thing was that I could make it with ground turkey – if I wanted to do that.

The other alternative was the bun. I have said that a burger on a plate is just a meat (or turkey) patty. It's not that a patty is a bad thing; it just looks so lonely there no matter how well seasoned it is, no matter how much side dish there is. It almost looks up at you and begs for a bun.

In the old days (pre-diagnosis) there was the bun. The buns were puffy and white and, to be absolutely honest, pretty tasteless. Now I have found a couple of alternatives for that bun. Arnold or Pepperidge Farm or Wal-mart sandwich thins and Josephs oat, flax and wheat pita breads all work really well, as does the light Thomas’s English muffin. The bonus is they all have some flavor and fiber. The diabetes-compatible alternative is, once again, better than the old choice.

My life is much easier and tastier now that I look at the awesome alternatives not as something to suffer through, but as something that is different and often better. Remember: Lamb chops are an alternative to pork chops, unless you have convinced yourself that you need to hate lamb.

ENJOY!!! Be happy, be healthy, be creative, and BE DECADENT! One more thing: Be open to it!

Click here for Ward's Loveable Lamb recipe!

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

Photo credit: Ruocaled on Flickr