What Could Be Better?

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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 shares his secrets for enjoying a diabetic diet.

It is getting cold up here in Maine. What could be better than a broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber or zucchini soup?

The recipes I make are all good. The recipes are easy. And by the way, the recipes are all not only perfect for a diabetic; they are just perfect, and there is no need to alter the recipe to make it diabetic-friendly/compatible. Who needs to be diabetic to make, eat and enjoy them? Answer: no one.

An Alternative to Finding Substitutions

Sometimes diabetics, including myself, get stuck in the rut of finding suitable, reduced-carbohydrate foods to substitute for other foods. I try not to do that as a rule. Yes, cauliflower can substitute for potatoes. True, spaghetti squash can be a substitute for either pasta or rice. But what I always try to do is make a dish that stands on its own, not fake anything but real good. Even in that sometimes I forget that foods that are naturally low in carbohydrates (meat, fish, chicken, pork) are just naturally wonderful. All they need is a little interest in flavoring, and the end result is perfect and wonderful.

Seasoning those foods with herbs and spices you already enjoy (Herbs de Provence is one of my favorites) just makes it taste better than ever. It isn’t food for diabetics; it is just food. The trick for me is to make it special to be special, not just to be “diabetic-suitable.” It already has that quality. Now just challenge yourself to make it wonderful. You will find that when you “spark up” the flavor of what you can eat, you start to forget about the things you should not eat.

Salad: From Tolerated to Delicious

In truth, there is nothing wrong with salad. We were all eating salads long before we were eating “diabetic” foods. We liked them long before we remember thinking about what we should eat. Just because they are a big part of our food intake doesn’t mean that they have to be just tolerated. What they want to be is delicious.

So you say, “That yummy dressing out of a bottle is too high in carbs.” Sometimes true, sometimes not (see some of the Ken’s Steakhouse varieties). You also can’t tell me that you are incapable or too busy to mix: a great vinegar (I urge you to try the Ariston Balsamic), a great oil, mustard (Dijon or whole grain), salt and pepper together in a jar. Neither you nor I believe that. It doesn’t even take any effort. That is something everyone can and will eat. It is not just for us; it is just good. Enjoy it, stuff your face, it is OK.

It's All About Your Attitude

I know I am a chef, and for me cooking is easy. The plan is to make what I prepare so good that I stop dwelling on the negative aspects of eating as a diabetic and focus on the positive aspects of eating. After a while, I found it was not too hard to do that. The thing is to treat your diet the way you treat chicken. How many different ways are there for you to prepare a chicken dish? Being diabetic gives you the opportunity to apply that concept to everything. Like I said, it is all in your attitude. The rest is in your imagination.

Zucchini Pancakes Recipe

Potato pancakes are not a great choice for us type 2 diabetics. I combined a recipe of Ina Garten for zucchini pancakes with a technique from Julia Child’s “Dreaded Zucchini Casserole” and added a touch of Italian Parmesan cheese and Jewish matzo meal. Clearly, I like to get everyone into the act. To cut down on fat, I baked them instead of frying them. The result was wonderful. Roasted meat and pancakes are mine again!

Click here to check out Ward's recipe for Zucchini Pancakes!

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