Flavor: The Key to Enjoying Your Diabetic Diet


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 InformationAboutDiabetes.com with permission.

You may have noticed that I don’t suggest or endorse any specific diet. I am not qualified to do that. I am a chef, not a doctor or nutritionist. My “shtick” is for you to decide what works best for you – and look to me for ideas about how to make it taste better and keep it interesting.

But be clear that it is also my intention to assist you in doing something. Once you have chosen to do that, I am your man. Well, in truth there are lots of us around who you can turn to for advice and ideas on how to keep your diet interesting. I just choose to focus on eating for Type 2 diabetics. (Makes sense; I am one of them.)

Everyone Can't or Won't Eat Something

I look at my diet, and therefore your diet, as just a food plan, not as anything more than all of us do every day. I would bet that there is not a family or person around who doesn’t restrict something from their diet. For some, it is gluten. For others, it is nuts. Others can’t tolerate shellfish. Some people will not eat foods for religious or moral reasons. Then there is the bulk of us who just hate something – peppers, spinach, spicy foods, fish, broccoli, mushrooms, beans, eeewe! The list is endless.

What diabetics and all of those people have in common is that there are foods that they can’t and/or won’t eat. Like some vegetarians who won’t do mushrooms, most of us diabetics won’t do something. So here we are with a restricted diet, and we choose to restrict it more? Does that make any sense? You bet it does! I don’t care how good kale is for you; if you hate it, you won’t be likely to eat it. If you don’t see other alternatives to it, you might get upset. I am about sticking to a food regime. If you treat your diet as something nasty, how long will you be able to keep it up?

The goal is to give you as many choices as I can to assist you in reaching your goals. I am absolutely clear that no matter how much I love kale, no matter how many variations on a kale recipe I give you, I may not be able to convince you to love kale. Guess what? That is just fine with me. I am as guilty as you are. No matter how much I loved and appreciated my grandmother, there were dishes she brought over from the old country that I could never eat. Sorry, Grandma!

There Is a World of Flavors to Discover

I looked over my recipes this morning. What struck me is that many of the choices have a common thread of Mediterranean cooking. I am NOT suggesting you follow the Mediterranean diet. One reason is: Which Mediterranean diet? Surely not what the city people eat. Is it what the country people eat? I just suggest the flavors of that region to add to your diet to spark it up. You see, I want you to think about what will make up a plate that you enjoy and are willing to come back to time and again.

I could just as easily have sung the praises of Asian foods. The foods of the East are still a bit of a mystery to me, but I like to share what I've got. One blend of spices that I use a great deal is called Chinese five spice. It is readily available in most “stupidmarkets.” It is “usually” a blend of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel and pepper.

As a rule, I don’t recommend using a prepared spice mixture. In this one instance, I do. Just because I like the flavor, I add ground ginger to the mix as well. When using this as a marinade for chicken or pork, adding soy sauce and mustard along with a neutral vegetable oil and both low-sodium chicken stock (or broth) and dry sherry will give the protein great Asian flavors. (If this is too adventurous for you to start with, just try the ginger, mustard and soy sauce.) Instead of rice or noodles, I suggest you try some Brussels sprout salad or spaghetti squash, some simple steamed broccoli or, my favorite, red cabbage.

The deal is: The world of flavors is there for you to tap. Just let your fork, knife and napkin be your passport to a world of tastes that make diabetic and all eating more fun.

Enjoy, be happy, be Healthy, BE DECADENT!

Click here for Ward's Chinese Pork Chops recipe!

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