The Expense of Being Diabetic


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 discusses eating healthy on a budget.

I will share a secret with you. Keep it under your hat. Eating a healthy diet costs more than a less healthy diet. The thing is you don’t have to be Diabetic to be aware of this. The fact is, this is true for the Jones, Smiths and the Finkelsteins down the block. I keep telling Diabetics we are not alone.

For example, nutritionists tell you to eat more fish. Fish costs far more than chicken or pork. Eat more vegetables they say. Vegetables cost more than pasta, potatoes, or rice. Using ground nuts or nut flours is much more costly than even whole wheat flour.

Although for the most part homemade dishes cost less than store bought. A great example of this is soup. Not only will it cost less to make you own soup, it will taste better, have less sodium, and fewer preservatives and YOU get to choose what flavor you want. If you do it in a big batch, it will save time. Our time is worth something too.

What it Takes to Eat Healthy

Does this mean that to be healthy you have to be rich or have a lot of time? Wouldn’t hurt, but really you just have to be an alert shopper and a good planner. Oh great, something more to add to my plate (metaphorically speaking). I can’t have this, I can’t have this, I can’t have much of that; it takes longer to plan and prepare what I can eat. Now I have to watch the budget. I can’t even clip coupons for most of the foods I use. Now I am forced to watch for sales on what I can eat? Will the indignities never end?

Eat Seasonally

The odd thing about watching for a sale is that by and large when a fruit or vegetable, or fish is on sale it is in season (if only in Peru) and tastes fresher and better.

Every market runs sales on different veggies each week. There is cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day, sweet potatoes and cranberries for Thanksgiving, and cucumbers and Lobster in August. Watch for broccoli and cauliflower to show up on sale every few weeks. Where there is a will, etc., etc.

Get Creative

Your time is also an expense. It seems to take much longer to plan and prepare foods that are good choices for you. Now your neighbors down the block can just substitute whole grain products for processed grains and they start a healthier lifestyle. For us it is harder. No question whole grain pasta and brown rice is a healthier choice, but both still remain very high in carbohydrates. I started out by replacing mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower. It takes a bit more work and time but I discovered that is was a really good choice and really had a great taste by itself. No need to just use as a substitute. True, a head of cauliflower costs more than a pound of potatoes, but if you weigh the health benefits and the fact that you can have more of the cauliflower than of the potatoes, it sort of evens out. Spaghetti squash, after you discard the seeds and rind, is more expensive than pasta (I use it instead of rice), takes longer to prepare, but again you get to have a fuller plate for less carbohydrates than if you had the minuscule allotment of pasta. Who can even think of sauce on that little pasta?

Eating better will go a long way to helping your health. We all get to choose not only we diabetics, but the Jones, Smiths and Finkelsteins too.

Weighing the difference in costs, more food for less carbohydrates or more carbohydrates and greater difficulties managing your health, should make your choice easier. I know for some of us that is a hard choice. You never had to do this before. It is “so much” trouble. Who said you can have your cake and eat it too? ME!

Try this Lime Tart recipe that Ward has shared with us.

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