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Monday Medical: Managing diabetes? Try home-cooked meal

Susan Cunningham/For Steamboat Today
Monday Medical
MondayMedical

If you go

What: Cooking for Diabetes: Tailgate Time

When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 21

Where: Yampa Valley Medical Center

If you’re dealing with diabetes, the kitchen might be your new best friend. There are a number of benefits of cooking from scratch, especially when it comes to managing diabetes.

“When people are cooking more from scratch and using fresh foods, I think they’re happier with the food that they’re eating and take pride in it,” said Pam Wooster, registered dietician/nutritionist and certified diabetes educator with Yampa Valley Medical Center. “Their blood sugars come down, they’re more aware of what they’re eating and cholesterol and triglycerides improve, too.”

Following, Wooster shares her tips for cooking diabetes-friendly meals from scratch.

Start with a well-rounded diet. That means lots of vegetables and fruits, some lean meats, low-fat dairy or dairy alternatives, nuts and seeds and healthy grains.

“It’s about being well-rounded,” Wooster said. “We want to have a well-rounded diet that includes good foods that help your health. The person with diabetes has the same nutrition and health recommendations as most other people at the dinner table. We want to see more fruits and vegetables in everyone’s diets.”

Swap ingredients to decrease carbs and increase nutrients. If you’re a big fan of cream-based sauces, try a nut-based sauce, instead. For instance, an Alfredo sauce made from cashews or almonds has a creamy texture and flavor, with fewer carbs and more nutrients than a standard milk, butter and flour base.

Another idea is making a risotto with rice and cauliflower: You’ll lower the carbohydrate content, while maintaining flavor.

Wooster also recommends choosing more non-starchy vegetables, such as green beans, broccoli, tomatoes and asparagus, instead of starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, peas and corn. Or, blend non-starchy vegetables with rice or quinoa to lower carbohydrate concentration and increase nutrition.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t have starchy vegetables,” Wooster said. “You want to be aware of it and relate it back to your blood sugar.”

Prepare ahead to have success during the week. One deterrent to cooking is that it can take time. If you’re home late from work, and the fridge is empty, it’s easier to call for pizza than run to the store and try to make a meal.

That’s why preparation is key. Wooster recommends steps such as chopping vegetables on the weekend and keeping them in the refrigerator, making a big batch of grains, such as brown rice or quinoa, to enjoy throughout the week or making a casserole or crockpot dish ahead, so it’s ready to pull out of the freezer.

It also helps to have a few tried-and-true dishes you know you can make easily.

“Have things you know are easy to prepare,” Wooster said. “Once you’re in the routine of cooking, you know you can pull it out and get it done.”

Try a quick stir-fry with lots of vegetables and thinly sliced meat or a vegetable soup that cooks in the crockpot while you’re at work. Salads are also a good option — start with a bag of pre-washed greens, and add beans or meat, hardboiled eggs, some chopped fresh vegetables for color and flavor and a homemade dressing.

Know that, once you start, it’s easier to keep going. Cooking from scratch helps people cut back on processed foods, which tend to cause higher blood sugar spikes and can contain a preservatives and additives. It also helps people learn about food.

“The knowledge of food goes up when preparing food,” Wooster said. “When you cook more, it just gets easier … If you’re building on routine and paying attention to basic concepts as they relate back to nutrition, it can be simple.”

Susan Cunningham writes for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at cunninghamsbc@gmail.com.


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