The Great Diabetic Bun Switch

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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 five years ago, he has refocused his recipes and eating to support his diabetic health.

So you have been diagnosed. It seems that you will never eat anything you really like ever again. Your life is now controlled by: pricking your fingers, looking at labels, counting your carbs, taking meds, worrying about your future, and eating cardboard. (How many carbs are there in cardboard, anyway?)

It does not have to be that way; well, not entirely that way. I always tell people who have just been diagnosed that it will get easier and it will get better if you choose to make it that way. I also (being a prized “foodie”) tell them it will get more delicious. If the “I-gotta-have-dessert king” can do it, so can anybody else.

Making Simple Changes

One day when I was wallowing in the self-pity of what I canNOT have without reworking it to be diabetic-compatible, I stumbled across the idea that making things that work for me was not the case of rebuilding the pyramids, just doing a little spackling where the diabetes wore away some of the surface.

Some very simple changes made things work again: using substitute sweetener in place of sugar, ground nuts to cut the carbs in cakes and pastries, replacing potato with cauliflower and pasta with spaghetti squash (I am testing a bean-based pasta at the moment with very good results), eating bigger portions of veggies. But even those changes involved a little extra time and work. My Almost Mac and Cheese is as good as or maybe even better than the old blue box, but it takes more time, work and thought.

What has made my life simple are some of the new breads that I am using. Thomas' Light English Muffins (net carbs = 17 grams) taste as good as the regular whole-wheat muffins that Thomas' produces. They are perfect for my breakfast of a mushroom and cheese omelet or to rest my shredded cheese in my onion soup. All of the Joseph’s products (available in many markets, Walmart, BJ’S and online) that are Flax & Oat Bran based (net carbs = 5-8 grams) are a great replacement in sandwiches, tortillas, chips, and pizza. My quick weekday morning breakfast is as good as ever using Sara Lee “Delightful” wheat breads, both Honey Wheat and Multigrain (net carbs for two slices = 13 grams). That product also makes a very good grilled cheese sandwich. And then there are Sandwich Thins (Arnold, Pepperidge Farm or Walmart brand, Whole Wheat) with 15-17 grams of net carbs.

Keeping Hamburgers and Sloppy Joe's in Your Life

What is a hamburger without the bun? It is nothing but a meat or turkey patty on a plate. No wonder I was depressed. The buns average 30-40 grams of carbohydrate each. I try to keep my meals to no more than 30-35 grams total. So buns were not in the cards. The sandwich thins (also called rounds) made the hamburger a possibility again. I could even bring it with me and discretely replace the restaurant bun with my bun. The trick is distracting the rest of the table while you make the switch. Isn’t that Tom Hanks over there?

Heck, if I could have hamburgers, what about Sloppy Joe's? Use the same bun. A little problem with that is the sauce for Sloppy Joe's. If you use the canned variety, it has 10 grams of carbohydrates for a ¼-cup serving. ¼ cup for a serving? Who is kidding whom? Making your own with ketchup is just as high with 20 grams for that ¼-cup serving. However, making your own sauce is really very easy, and the carb count for a real serving is only 6 grams. Bonus here is that you also get to control the sodium. If you thought this “comfort” food was out of your life, think again.

Enjoy, be happy, be Healthy and BE DECADENT! ...and use napkins!

Click here for Ward's Sloppy Joe's recipe!

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