Making Regional Foods Diabetes-Compatible


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.

As some of you know, I am originally from New Yawk City. New York, like other cities all over the world, has some amazing foods. But it is the memory foods that stick with you and you get stuck missing eating if you think you can’t.


What could be more natural for a person living in New York than to grab a bagel with butter or cream cheese on their way to work? I have a couple of problems with this:

  1. I now live in Maine, home of the ... blueberry bagel. No self-respecting person would even consider this an acceptable variety. But it gets worse. What passes for bagels here in Maine is closer to doughy/squishy white bread with no flavor or texture. Hey guys, a bagel is SUPPOSED to bite back at you. Wait, it does get worse. The other day I walked into an office and on the desk was this 6-inch-long twisted and frosted thing. I asked what it was and was told, “It is a cinnamon twist bagel.” Whoa! Folks, to paraphrase Julia Child, “A bagel is round and has a hole in the middle.” A cinnamon raisin bagel in New York bears no kinship with this thing. So my taste memories will just have to wait until I get back to New York for a visit.
  2. There is another little problem: Bagels are high in carbohydrates. The recommended serving size is one-quarter of a bagel. I don’t even want to think about that small of a portion. On the bright side, I can save a fortune on cream cheese. So the same as being a Mainer, as a person with diabetes, I will just have to wait until I visit New York and make my treat really count.

Southern Comfort Foods

As I said, food memories are everywhere. A lady from the South commented on a post of mine on the Diabetes Support Facebook page. She had just been diagnosed with diabetes and said that as a “Southern Girl” she was used to her comfort foods. She wanted to have stuffing, not just for Thanksgiving but also for her pork chops. Her other request was for rice.

It really is easy-peasy. For her stuffing, I suggested replacing the bread she was using with a lower-carbohydrate variety and adding more mushrooms and nuts to the mixture. As for rice, no problem, if you keep an open mind. “Riced” Cauliflower works very well for me. Like rice, it is a neutral flavor. It does look like rice, has the same texture as rice, and supports a strongly flavored dish just like rice.

Regional Foods

So if you are from Wisconsin and it is Friday Fish Fry you miss, try a lower-carb version of Oven “Fried” Fish and chips. Oven “frying” allows you to use less breading to get a crunchy crust.

Is Philadelphia your home town and you are missing cheese steak? Try it on a low-carb pita folded over to form the bun (recipe below) or even a sandwich thin or round, and the carb count will come tumbling down.

Is Maryland your home, where crab cakes are king? Try a little (and I mean little as in 2 tablespoons) panko in the mix. Just remember you are making crab cakes, not pancakes.

I could go on, area by area, but you (and I) would get bored.

There is a funny memory for me. It is called a Charlotte Russe. No not that incredible confection of creams and lady fingers (that is great too) but this little cardboard cup with a little sponge cake and swirls of whipped cream topped with a maraschino cherry. I can make a diabetes-compatible version of it, and I do once in a while. But it was a “pick-up” food – something you grabbed at the bakery and strolled down the busy street, making a mess of yourself with.

Speaking of making a mess, I could never visit Philadelphia or any city near it without getting me a “Philly” cheese steak sandwich. Now that many markets sell shaved steak, I make this recipe pretty often. I would get shot, I suppose, because I don’t use “whizz,” but this recipe is just as good, and I sorta know what is in the cheese part.

ENJOY!!! Be happy, be healthy, be creative, and BE DECADENT!

Click here for Ward's 'Philly' Steak & Cheese recipe!

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