Recently, my husband went for a physical. Something about turning forty made him think it was a good idea this year! As he was leaving the doctor’s office, he called me, sounding disappointed. “Well, I knew it would happen eventually, but I’m officially diabetic.” The disease runs in his family, so the diagnosis was inevitable, but we’d hoped it would hold out till at least fifty. No such luck.
He brought home diet outlines and graphs of plate proportions. Instantly I was overwhelmed. As the one who does the grocery shopping and meal prep, I instantly made it my job to heal him of his disease through my food. But I had to talk myself down off that ledge, too much pressure!
So we’ve started working on those changes. Thankfully, I’d revamped my diet in the past couple of years, so I was familiar with some healthier swaps we could make. But monitoring sugar was new to me.
Skipping out on straight sweets and sugar isn’t a huge deal for him. But the doctor explained that certain kinds of carbs turn to sugar and have the same effect as birthday cake.
But here’s what we’ve learned. My hubs needs about 4-5 servings of carbs a day. A serving consists of 15g of carbs, calculated by subtracting the dietary fiber from the total carbs. (Who knew I’d really need algebra one day!) The dietary fiber is digested by the body in a healthier way, not turning to sugar. That’s it in a nutshell, coming from someone who is NOT a health professional. Just your normal, everyday wife of a diabetic.
And just in case anyone out there is in a similar boat, here are a few super practical things we have started doing.
Beans. This gassy legume is a diabetic’s best friend! It’s a good source of both protein and fiber. And guess what? They’re pretty cheap! Dry beans are both healthier and cheaper, but require a little bit more prep work. It’s not difficult, just takes some planning ahead.
First, they need to be stored in an airtight container to optimize their shelf life. About 24 hours before you plan on using them, they need to soak. There are methods out there for skipping the soak step, but I’ve found it works better not too. I typically throw them in a bowl with about two inches of water above them (they will expand) and let them soak overnight. In the morning, I’ll drain them and either move to the fridge or to a crock pot.
In order to have them pretty much ready to use, cooking them most of the way in the crock pot has worked best for me. I’ll actually do pinto beans and black beans on a weekend, so that I have them quickly accessible throughout the week.
But canned beans are also pretty cheap, in case this route isn’t right for you!
Noodle swaps. Noodles are such a tasty filler for dinners, but horribly carb ridden. So here are a few alternatives that we have tried:
· Whole Wheat Noodles- Not the most diabetic friendly, but definitely an improvement on regular noodles. The carb content is still high, but there is more dietery fiber.
· Soybean Noodles- I found these at Aldi, and they are one of his favorite subs. Like the whole wheat noodles, there’s still some carbs, so moderation is needed. But it’s even more of an improvement.
· Spaghetti Squash- This one is my favorite! To prepare it, slice it in half longways, leaving the peal on. You have to muscle this a little bit, but cutting the ends off makes it little bit easier to balance as you cut. Next you’ll scrape the seeds out. You should end up with two oblong boats. Brush some oil and your choice of seasonings on it. You can roast in the oven, but I prefer to put it in the air fryer on 390 for about 25 minutes. It should soften up and turn pretty crispy on the top. Now take a fork and scrape loose the spaghetti looking squash noodles. (Tip- grap some tongs to hold it still while you scrape- it’ll be hot.) Add a little bit of parmesan cheese on top and you can put it on your plate or eat it straight out of the squash boat!
· Veggie noodles- I have a spiralizer on my wish list for this Christmas, but a grater will do the trick as well. Grab the veggie of your choice- zuchinni, summer squash, butternut squash- and scrape them out into noodles. These noodles need very little cooking, and taste best when they’re not soggy. You can eat them cold, or throw a couple of tablespoons of oil in a skillet and saute the voodles until they are slightly soft.
Potato Alternative. The thing that Brandon misses the most (besides Chinese food!) is potatoes. And honestly, him liking this alternative really surprised me. Radishes. I love radishes cold- dipped in ranch or on salads- but had never thought to roast them. When you do, it takes the spicy flavor out. So toss them in some oil, salt and pepper them, and then roast then in the oven for about 25 minutes, until they reach a fork poking consistency. They make a decent ‘potato’ in many recipes.
I’m sure we will come across a lot more hacks and swaps as we continue down this road, and I can’t wait to share them with you as we do!