Learning to Like Veggies: It's All in the Preparation

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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 diabetes health. In this article, Ward explains the importance of having vegetables in your diet, and offers a few ways to spice them up so that you can actually enjoy them.

You may laugh – I have chuckled myself – but I consider myself to be a lucky diabetic. Don’t misunderstand; I’m not lucky to be a diabetic, but a lucky diabetic.

You see (confession time) I actually like vegetables. I also like, and am willing to make the time, to cook and create new dishes. Sure, there are foods I miss. But I have to admit that, like not smoking anymore, I miss those dishes less and less all the time.

In many ways, I am lucky to have had a family group riddled with diabetes but unwilling or unknowing how to manage their disease. I got to witness first-hand how it made them miserable and shortened their lives.

Hate Vegetables?

We all don’t like something. I am always amazed at the vegetarian who won’t eat mushrooms or maybe eggplant. They have, by choice, limited their diet from eating all things, and on top of that, they have eliminated more stuff that is usually part of a vegetarian diet. I know, it is a texture thing. Then there is my brother-in-law who pulls out the shredded lettuce and tomato from a sub sandwich, while proudly proclaiming, “Don’t want to have too many veggies.”

To all those self-proclaimed vegetable haters, I say piffle! Get over it! Don’t you have enough on your plate already? Oh, wait, you don’t. Having had to either limit or give up pasta, rice, bread, potatoes and corn - wait, corn is a vegetable, although a very starchy one. Other than protein, that plate can be pretty empty, not to mention potentially dangerous.

It's All in the Preparation

Now, a pile of boiled broccoli on the plate may not be the answer (even with butter). How about making it look and taste better? A sprinkling of grated cheese? Some shallots sautéed in that butter? Hey, why not go whole-hog and add some sun-dried tomatoes? What? You don’t like broccoli no matter what anybody does to it? Don't eat it! Try some cauliflower (trust me, my recipe for mashed cauliflower is killer) or zucchini (try the Julia Child recipe). Julia was right: “Just don’t tell them what it is.”

Then there are carrots, string beans, snap peas (much lower in carbohydrates than garden peas), spinach, tomatoes and okra. Wait a minute. I don’t do okra. Adding more vegetables to your diet can be a fun challenge. No really, it can.

Diabetic Eating Can Be Decadent

Every time I create a new recipe, or go back to a recipe that I created to meet my dietary needs (not because I need to go back to it, but because I really liked the recipe), I am rewarded not only by the tastes but also by a great A1c. When I entertain using my “diabetic” recipes and my guests smack their lips together and stuff their faces, it is further reinforcement that diabetic eating can be decadent.

One of the vegetables that I have prepared a lot is cabbage. (“Oh, it smells up the house.”) I am a big fan of red cabbage. One of my favorite restaurants in New York, Pergola des Artistes, served me red cabbage with apples along with a loin of venison. It was curl-up-your-toes-and-die time. I share with you my version of the cabbage recipe. I don’t get my hands on venison often, but use it instead with a pork chop or a steak. Get those toes curling.

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