Two Cents Worth of Diabetes Advice: Go for It, But...

1865 2 Cent Rev. by Ben Jenkins on flickr.jpg

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 with permission.

I was in New Mexico a couple of months ago, looking at property. (Winters here in New England have been awful.) It came up in conversation with my agent, Michael, that he was also a person with diabetes. Holy cow, we are everywhere! Move a rock, there is another test strip.

Not unlike people who are fans of the same sport, we got to talking about our disease. I told him what I do to manage my diabetes, and he told me that he manages his via diet and exercise. His numbers (like mine) are so good that his doctor has said he wished he could take back the diagnosis. My doctor has said something similar to that.

Michael said that the best advice he ever got was from another person who also has diabetes. Her advice, her "2 cents" worth, was: “Don’t deprive yourself. If you really want something, go for it.” So when Michael wants a dish or a flavor, he has it. What he does then is balance the rest of his meal and meals to help even out the increased content of his treat.

I envy him. Even after five years of really great results, I am still a bit afraid to “go for it.” But I do not live a deprived life. It took a while, but I discovered, and hope to continue sharing with you, ways to make my diet so interesting, so flavorful, so exciting, that not only don’t I feel deprived, I usually feel inspired.

Healthier and Better-Tasting Recipes

Sometimes I have to scratch my head because something I have learned to prepare tastes so good, as good as the original, maybe better than the original, that I can’t believe that I made it work. Even after I have prepared the dish a few times and it has become part of my stable of recipes, I still am in some awe of just how good it tastes. I am not a man with a small ego when it comes to my chef’s skills. Maybe because I was so prepared for the worst, the fact that food still tastes great still seems too good to be true.

The protein dishes are and were always easy for me. I had to change very little, if anything, from my original preparation. It was the side dishes, those ever-so-desired, neutral side dishes that added very little flavor but texture and balance to the plate, which needed my full attention. It is really only using things in different ways and portions.

We can still have mashed potatoes, just a little. The trick is to make it so good that a little goes a long way. Well-seasoned (onion, garlic, Parmesan cheese) wilted spinach gives you a great bang for the buck under Chicken Parmesan. It is NOT pasta, it never will be pasta, but it is good, has always been good, so I have no reason to kvetch (complain).

Using toasted and ground nuts in my baking (to replace up to one-third of the flour in the recipe) has done the same thing. My crusts are as flaky as they always were. My cakes may not rise as high as they once did, but they now have a subtle layer of flavor. Now they taste even better as the nuts give the batter and the crust “weight,” more texture, and a bit more moisture.

Little Lydia's Literally Lovely Lemon Cake

Many years ago in Boston, we had to discharge our pastry chef for stealing. There I was in the middle of the night with no desserts for the next service. I threw together a few items, including an old favorite of mine to get through the next day. The chef/ogre in me really enjoyed telling the wait-staff that that day we would be serving Little Lydia’s Literally Lovely Lemon Torte (cake). I enjoyed how they struggled with that very long and difficult title. I even threatened to dock them a quarter if they did NOT say the full title of the dessert (OK, I am a softie; I relented). Bottom line: We sold out in the first hour. Not bad in a pinch.

Speaking of being in a pinch, diabetes was a big food pinch for me. I have redone most of my cake recipes to work for a diabetic-compatible diet. This includes my recipe for Little Lydia’s Literally Lovely Lemon Cake – easier made than said!

Enjoy, be happy, be Healthy and BE DECADENT!

Click here for Ward's Little Lydia's Literally Lovely Lemon Cake recipe!

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

Image credit: Ben Jenkins / flickr