We Shall Come Rejoicing, Lowering the Carbs!

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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 four years ago, he has refocused his recipes and eating to support his diabetic health. In this article, Ward discusses his transition to a low-carb diet and how he was (and still is) able to enjoy eating.

In the beginning, I was told that the way to control my diabetes was to lower my daily intake of carbohydrates. Simple enough: Meat, fish, chicken, butter and cheese either have no carbohydrates or are very low in carbohydrates. Of course, if you choose to drastically increase the amount of these higher fat proteins, you may be risking your heart health. Portion control might be the answer.

Portion control like:

  • ¼ of a bagel (?)
  • ½ a banana (?)
  • 2 ounces of dry pasta or rice (?)

Does anybody really eat like that? Does anybody WANT to eat like that? What do you do with the other half of the banana? Can you really pour sauce over that little pasta and be satisfied?

In the first few months after my diagnosis, I tried to eat like that. But I left the table either hungry or sad or both. For me, that did not work.

What Worked for Me (and Still Does)

What I realized was that I was going to have to find ways to substitute other things for the carb-heavy foods, or make what little I did eat of them so good and satisfying and surround them with other foods that would “steal the show.” Vegetables became the star of the plate.

I searched the aisles looking for the lowest carbohydrate value in a product. As long as it didn’t sacrifice flavor, I chose those over the others. Sugar-free products were not always a good choice. When it came to baked goods, it was the flour that was the problem - as much as, or maybe more than, the sugar.

Working with a nutritionist, I learned about NET carbs. With her help I discovered Joseph’s Lavash bread with only 8g of carbs in a sheet. Roll-up sandwiches became a staple of my lunch. I was happy again - not staring at the bland chicken and lettuce on my lunch plate.

Rejoicing in What I Can Have

Some days it was very difficult. I thought it would be great to have a cool summer lunch of cottage cheese and fresh fruit salad. When I added up all the carbs of all the fruits I wanted to eat, it pushed the limit for the meal. I was all but reduced to tears. I was so deflated. Cottage cheese and fruit salad? What could be healthier?

It took a while to realize that many fruits are high in carbohydrates and many more are not. I figured out that berries are lower per serving than apples or oranges, and fresh pineapple is a good choice over mango. The mango thing surprised me. I thought that it was loaded with fiber. After all, it is so fibrous to cut through, just not fibrous enough to reduce the carbohydrate value.

It is a journey. Day by day, bit by bit. After four years, I am still learning and still sharing with other diabetics across the country. I am enjoying cooking and entertaining just as much as before.

I have learned to rejoice in what I can have and not get stuck in what I can’t.

Check out Ward's recipe for Decadent Orange-Ginger Glazed Carrots!

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