Diabetes Eater’s Choice… Creatures of Habit?

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You may find it strange to hear that being diagnosed with diabetes gave me a new outlook on how good many foods I previously ignored are for both my tastebuds and my health. Getting out of my eating rut has become a real pleasure.

I have been involved with the restaurant business for almost as long as I can remember. There is no job that I have not done, from sweeping the floors and peeling potatoes (for me the potato peeler is a modern invention) to creating menus and managing the business. Every phase has led me to the relationship I have with food.

One job in particular may have had the most influence on me. From too early an age, I used to wait tables.

“Oh, can I have the steak with the coffee rub, but without the coffee rub?”

For those of us with diabetes, the request to substitute vegetables for the carbs is a really acceptable choice. Interestingly, you don’t need to explain that you have diabetes. Lots of people watch the carbs for other reasons.

For some, it is a great job. All those countless actors and singers that wanted to pursue a career in the arts were able to at least subsist on tips from waiting tables. Let me tell you, it is very hard work. I want to remind you to tip your server generously. For me, it was the greatest clue as to how to plan and cook food for other people.

Usually when you sit down in a restaurant, your server will recite a litany of “Today’s Specials.” The specials are an interesting thing. The great percentage of customers are there to enjoy a meal that:

  1. They did not cook at home.
  2. They know is going to be what they are used to eating at a particular restaurant (my phrase for business is 100 days out of 100 days).
  3. They are not adventurous and not up for the surprise of a new dish.

Let me relate these items to people with diabetes. Sometimes we just need a break from it all. Many of us spend a lot of time and effort figuring out what to cook and how to cook it. Going somewhere and have it all done for us is a great treat. Most of us are smart enough to know that one meal’s deviation from the usual will not harm us. We are also smart enough to not to waste our carbohydrates on a dish without that dish being so good it is worth the ordering.

Just after I learned about eating with diabetes, my sister (yes, she also had diabetes) and I went to dinner. She ordered a fish dish with a potato crust. After dinner she asked me if that was an ok choice for a person with diabetes. The answer is yes… and no. My answer was that I thought it was a shame to waste the carbohydrates on a potato crust that added very little flavor to the fish. I was wrong. She enjoyed it so much, it was a chance to have a little potato, and it was such a treat for her that it was the right choice to make… for her. It was far better a choice than a side of pasta.

Getting back to the “specials”; 75% of the customers in any given restaurant have no interest. 98% (I am guessing here) of the chefs enjoy creating them. Most restaurant goers return to the same few restaurants time after time. “Hey honey,” they say. “I don’t want to cook tonight, let’s go to Jove and Eddy’s and have some_____.” There may be three dozen items on Jove and Eddy’s menu and people will order the same thing time after time.

No matter what Italian restaurant my auntie Sylvia went into she would order shrimp scampi. It is ok, she like shrimp scampi and would never make it at home. If the restaurant was renowned for scallops scampi, she would smile and order the shrimp. We are, after all, creatures of habit.

Those of us with diabetes are no different. We like certain things and are timid about trying new things. They could be terrific but oh dear, are we willing to take the chance? I have discovered after 8 (almost 9 now) years that the chances (adventures) have been well worth the trying. My meals are as varied, maybe more varied than they were before. I have tried new (to me) foods and found them scrumptious. Cooking has become less of a chore.

As I said, in a restaurant, you have to be consistent. You have to have the favorites available 100 days out of 100 days, and they need to taste exactly the same each time. If your customers (you and your family) are expecting scallops wrapped in bacon and you offer shrimp wrapped in prosciutto, you may be in for resistance even though the shrimp is really more interesting and tastes better.

I recommend each of you find the inner chef inside you and think about creating the “daily specials” that work for your diet and to keep your interest and on target.

Enjoy, be happy, be Healthy, BE DECADENT.-w!

Source: Ward Alper, The Decadent Diabetic