The Diabetic and the Green Stuff


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.

For many of us with diabetes, we have a food-management plan that includes a lot of vegetables and a lot of salads. I think this is the hardest part of keeping your food interesting.

This also can be a lot of work. Forget the planning; all that chopping is hard work, although it helps tame some of the tensions of a bad day as in: Take that, you fool, chop! It is my choice to wash the greens even when they say "pre-washed." Add to the work by making your own dressing, and sometimes you think you would rather give up and dive into a pre-packaged Twinkie. And if you do the right thing and make a salad, how interesting can it be compared to that Twinkie?

The good thing is that summer is here all year long these days, and the salad ingredients are easy to find and cheaper than years ago. So this week I have some suggestions to make it more interesting without all that much work.

For a Good Salad, Start with a Good Base

Change your lettuce. I sometimes just love iceberg lettuce with bacon and blue cheese. I don’t care who frowns at me because of the iceberg. That simple salad does NOT work as well with any other lettuce I have tried. Well, yes, it is pretty good (maybe) with a really crisp romaine. If you are like me and have to tinker with a recipe, try adding a little thinly sliced celery over the wedge. But if you want to give into lettuce snobbery while changing up your salad, there are lots of good choices out there:

  • Red and green leaf lettuce is readily available all year long. It is a little tastier than plain iceberg, but you really have to wash it very well. I like to add a little white vinegar to the first wash water. Somewhere, sometime ago, I read that it helps to dissolve some of the pesticides. I don’t know for sure that it is true but I do it anyway.
  • Boston or butter lettuce is this wonderful “soft” textured lettuce. It does not have that much more flavor, but it is such a good texture on your tongue.
  • There are also a million kinds of pre-packaged lettuce combinations. I found one that I like with a little bit of herbs in the mixture – a lot more flavor and somebody else did all the work.
  • In some of the bagged mixes there is this “funny” looking lettuce called frisee. I always liked it. I decided to do a very simple (keeping it simple can be great) salad using ONLY the frisee. Wham, bam, what a terrific salad! I just did it with a little oil and vinegar and some shaved Parmesan cheese. The next time I went crazy and added a few tomato slices, radish, pea pods and a few walnuts. Make it small for a side salad or large for a dinner salad. And PLEASE add what you like to it to make it your own. Just so you know, when you can find it, frisee is pretty inexpensive. Ask your produce manager to get it for you. It is well worth the try.
  • Last but not at all least, get yourself to your local farmer’s market. Once a very rare occurrence, farmer’s markets are popping up more and more.

Make the Salad Interesting by Making It Your Own

Add extra things. Let your likes and imagination guide you. Think easy and out of the box. Canned artichokes, nuts, cheeses, broccoli, snow peas, strawberries, raspberries and anything else that you like to eat go well as part of the salad.

Try a new dressing. Do it from a bottle of low-carbohydrate dressing if you want, or mix it up for yourself. Let your imagination run wild. Below is my simplest base recipe for a dressing. Change the type of vinegar to a rich, syrupy balsamic (Ariston happens to be my personal choice) or raspberry vinegar, and it is an entirely new flavor. Add a little (1-2 tablespoons) of Trop 50 orange juice, and it becomes fruitier and softer on the tongue.

If using your imagination is too much work, try some of the suggestions I have made here, and salad will easily become one of your most intriguing new friends.

Enjoy, be happy, be Healthy, be Creative, and BE DECADENT!

Click here for Ward's Basic Dijon Vinaigrette dressing recipe!

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