Cooking For a Diabetic

I cook every day, three times a day.

I'm a good cook but not because I'm a natural at it. For me, it's always part looking at a recipe, part tweaking, and part agonizing that I did the right thing. 😄

Since Greg became a diabetic I've also become a nutrition savant out of necessity.

There are a few things I've learned about diabetes. 

  • It's more than sugar that affects glucose. You have to think about carbs-- a lot.

  • Some carbs are not as bad as others.

  • Different diabetics have different tolerances to the glycemic indices of high glycemic foods.

  • Handling some food differently can lower or raise glycemic values.

  • Pricking your finger several times a day sucks. 

I have yet to figure out why Greg's glucose reading is ridiculously high in the morning. Yet the tests at the doctor's office always place him with good numbers.

I think he's experiencing the Dawn Effect or the Somogyi Effect. The Dawn Effect occurs naturally because the body is preparing itself for waking and needs that energy. The Somogyi Effect occurs because the body feels its blood sugar has fallen too low and needs to rescue it. Here's a link if you'd like to learn more.

Both are frustrating because I want to know if he's safe or not. Currently he's on Trulicity, one injection a week. It works differently than insulin because it forces the pancreas to do it's job rather than handicapping it with insulin. Trulicity is monstrously expensive though. I don't care. It keeps him normal (mostly).

I still have to meal plan carefully. I can't cook a normal meal because every ingredient has to be scrutinized for sugar and carbs.

His favorite desserts are verboten. Even foods moderate in glycemic levels are only allowed when he's just started Trulicity or early in the day when physical activity will negate any ill effects.

I've learned a few tricks along the way.

Moderation is critical. If I make pasta, I don't include bread. If I make French fries, the portions are smaller. For every meal I substitute lower glycemic foods whenever possible. 

Here's a chart with the glycemic values for common foods.

When I bake I make muffins and cakes with almond or oat flour. Sugar substitutes are a godsend. I generally use stevia or monkfruit as sweeteners.

Greg loves candy. He likes Werther's sugarfree caramels, Reese's sugarfree peanut butter cups, and a new-to-him candy that a friend introduced to him, called Chocolate Gems by Russell Stover. 

It's not a free for all since these candies usually are high in carbs but when you have a sugar craving it helps.

Pasta and rice are awful for him. The sugar spikes are incredibly high. But I read somewhere that if you cook it the day before, refrigerate it and reheat it the second day, the glycemic level is less. 

We tried it and it's true. His sugar doesn't spike.

It's a constant series of learning lessons. And what works for one doesn't necessarily work for everyone.

Diabetes is a killer. There are lots of drugs to combat it. But there are also things a person can do on his own too.

From my observations, the one thing that immediately and greatly lowers blood sugar is physical activity. On days that Greg works out on the farm doing actual physical work his sugar numbers are astonishingly low.

Greg does not like physical activity. Go figure.

I've offered many times to walk with him any morning he wishes, but there's always some reason he doesn't want to go.

Bottom line: You can lead a man to lower blood sugar levels but you can't make him exercise. 

I wish I understood diabetes better. I get that everyone is different, but I would like to understand why people's pancreases stop working properly. What is the body telling you? Why is it so prevalent? There's got to be a common denominator.

I used to think it happened to overweight and sedentary people, but I personally know thin and active people who still get diabetes. My elderly neighbor in east Texas was 87 lbs soaking wet yet both her and her brother were diabetics. He lost a leg to it.

My advice for what it's worth: pay attention to your glucose numbers when your doctor does a blood test. If they keep climbing every year, put the breaks on early and be proactive with your diet before it becomes full blown diabetes.

After seeing how others have to live with it, I do my best to limit my sugar now too.



Mike Keyton said…
Sounds like very hard work. You have my sympathies, you really do
Have you tried whole grains, such as WW pasta or brown rice, Farro, etc? Is there any difference in glucose levels as opposed to refined?

Maria Zannini said…
Mike: It's a pain. I miss eating bread and pasta like we used to.
Maria Zannini said…
Marlene: Our neighbor introduced us to chickpea pasta which isn't quite the same as durum pasta but okay when you have the craving.

I also serve spaghetti squash as a pasta substitute. Quinoa isn't too bad on his sugar either, but it's at that tipping point so I only serve a little at a time.

I don't generally serve whole grain pasta because I don't like it and I hate to go through more trouble for me to eat something different.