Finding out you have diabetes not only brings up concerns about your health, but also concerns about your food: Will you be able to enjoy meals? Or do you have to wave goodbye to all of your favorite foods as their blander, healthier cousins take their spots in the pantry?
Don’t fret: Eating with diabetes can be anything but boring. Sure, it’s still best to limit your added salt and sugar intake, but that’s something we should all be doing regardless of our blood sugar levels. And it’s not difficult to do once you discover the many flavorful seasonings that can not only enhance the taste of your meals but give your body a health boost, as well.
Even better, favoring food with certain seasonings and spices can actually enhance your overall health by reducing inflammation in the body, which can cause many health problems, including insulin resistance, says Francisco Arredondo, MD, MPH, a board-certified endocrinologist at RMA of Texas. “Many spices contain polyphenols, a micronutrient with anti-inflammatoryproperties.”
Ready to take a trip to Flavortown? Buckle up!
Start your morning off right with some cinnamon in your breakfast.
“Some studies show that this delicious, sweet spice might help with blood sugar and cholesterol control among people with type 2 diabetes,” Weisenberger says. Try making a bowl of cottage cheese, grapefruit slices, and cinnamon.
But you don’t have to stop there: Cinnamon can be sprinkled onto cereal, fresh fruit, or even coffee or tea as a sugar alternative.
“If you are baking, you can reduce the amount of sugar up to 25% without affecting the structure of the recipe,” says Melissa Joy Dobbins, RD, CDE.
Two of the best opportunities for incorporating and experimenting with seasonings are in lunch and dinner dishes. Fish, for instance, makes a great match for many different herbs and spices, especially basil. Just be sure to skip calorie-laden toppings, sauces, breading, and deep-frying. which will increase the amount of added sugar and saturated fat, advises Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute.
“Sprinkle fresh basil with lemon over salmon to get those heart-shielding omega-3 fatty acids,” Weisenberger adds. “Or slip a few leaves onto your sandwich for a burst of flavor.”
Marinating animal proteins, such as poultry or beef, is a terrific way to enhance flavor; however, many store-bought marinades are packed with added sodium and sugar. Instead, create your own to get all the flavor and none of the excess.
“Citrus oils and vinegars such as balsamic or white wine vinegar can be combined and used to make homemade marinades as well as sauces,” Dobbins says.
Just like marinades, commercially prepared salad dressings are often high in calories, saturated fats, and added sugars. Good thing whipping up a tasty salad topper is super easy!
“A vinaigrette dressing can be made simply by using olive or canola oil, lemon juice or vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, and your favorite herbs,” Weisenberger says. Not only are these homemade varieties better for your body, but they are often better for your wallet, too.
Fresh fruit and vegetables offer the perfect opportunity to add flavor with seasonings and herbs. For example, “mint pairs perfectly with cucumbers, carrots, fresh fruit, and peas,” Weisenberger says.
And who doesn’t like salsa? Weisenberger suggests mixing up some fresh cilantro, diced red onion, tomatoes, and your favorite fruit for a tasty homemade salsa that can be used as a topping on dishes such as fish (salmon paired with mango salsa is one of our favorites) or burgers. The salsa replaces that carbohydrate-heavy bun – which you won’t miss, we promise!
So what are you waiting for? Get cookin’!