When the Diabetic Cooks for the Family

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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 weighs the options for diabetics who cook for their families.

I have been “speaking” this week or so (via e-mail) with a lady who was just diagnosed with diabetes. She does not meet with a diabetes counselor until mid-April, and she was wondering what she could prepare that is “legal” for her and that her family will like to eat.

Like so many other diabetics, I don’t live alone. I have a spouse to feed every day, and I entertain a fair amount. I can and still sometimes do fix food that I don’t eat. I just don’t put it on my plate, or if I do put some on my plate it is not a small portion but merely a taste. No, smaller than a taste – a taste-lette.

Extra Dishes vs Low-Carb Versions of Family Favorites

While I can’t say it bothers me too much to prepare food that I don’t eat, it just makes meal preparation and that empty spot on my plate a little more stressful. Fortunately, I enjoy cooking, so making an extra dish for another person is not a problem. The funny thing is that when I have to cook for a guest or a family member who is allergic to something, I don’t think twice about creating a special dish or leaving something (NOT garlic) out of the dish. For me to do it just for myself seems a chore.

Gotta admit I am not sure what I would do if I had a kid around. I can make a mean pizza with Joseph's mini-pita breads, and I use their lavash to make chips. I use Arnold Sandwich Thins for Sloppy Joe’s and burgers. Oven-baked fries work out really well. The smaller amount is satisfying enough as long as I have a lot of something else (like skinny slaw) on the plate.

I was thrilled to find that snow peas and snap peas were low in carbohydrates. I use them all the time to replace garden peas (same kind of flavor and far less carbohydrates). So this flavor still shows up on the table for me and my family.

Can't Find a Substitute for Everything

Alas, I have no substitute for French bread oozing with olive oil or butter; I have not found anything to replace that. One of my favorite lunches when I lived in Europe was cheese and bread – not a grilled cheese “samich” (I still make that) but a loaf of crusty bread. This is something that I can now only have a taste-lette of. But I just can’t remove that from the family table. I just need to remember how good the cheese tastes and that lavash or sandwich thins ain’t bad and are a better choice for me.

Then there is what to do with all the leftover bread I don’t eat. I like to feed the birds in my yard, but with French bread it seems sinful. It does freeze very well, and if I remember, and it does not get lost in that black hole I call my freezer, I defrost it and just warm it slightly to bring back the freshness.

Make Foods that Everyone in the Family Will Enjoy

The way I have found it works for me is to make what I can eat so appetizing to others that they and I don’t seem to miss the really few things I shouldn’t eat. Then there are slight changes in a recipe like substituting Parmesan cheese for bread crumbs or, as in my chicken pot pie recipe (below), substituting grated cheese for some of the flour in the crust to lower the carbs AND add some extra flavor.

As I keep saying, it gets better, it gets easier! And even the family will...

Enjoy, be Healthy, Be Happy, BE DECADENT!

Click here for Ward's Chicken Pot Pie recipe!

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