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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Healthier Choices: Adapting for diabetics

What do you do when people you care about develop high blood sugar or diabetes? Invite them over for a meal of macaroni cheese, pierogies, and lima beans? Give them a gift basket full of your famous home-baked Christmas cookies and your home town's best artisan chocolates? Yes, I did serve them that high-carb meal, followed by cake and ice cream. It was my child's birthday dinner. I still feel guilty about it. At Christmas, though, I skipped the cookies and made them a nice basket of their favorite cheeses.

What should I serve the next time they are over? Surely, most of the things I've been eating for the last couple of years are pretty good. The DASH diet is pretty well balanced, not too high in blood-sugar boosting refined sugars and carbohydrates, right?

I asked some questions at the Diabetes discussion group at bigoven.com. What do you know? The very first recipe I posted here, a delicious, hearty, one-pot, balanced, healthy meal is not really so well balanced for diabetics. I was told the recipe was high in "net carbs" (total carbohydrates - fiber), because it has so many potatoes, and the serving size really represents an awful lot of food for one meal.

So I used an EXCEL spreadsheet to help me figure how many servings of what food groups I would get by fiddling with ingredients and quantities, and used BigOven to figure the nutritional information. I used the EXCEL spreadsheet to help me replace half of the potatoes with rutabaga, and then reduce the number of vegetable servings from 4 to 3 while leaving the meat unchanged. This took a little bit of fiddling and weighing of rutabagas. I used BigOven's nutritional links to help me get to and save information about how many cups of diced rutabaga I can get from half a large rutabaga.

After I was done fiddling with the quantities in the recipe, I updated my recipe in Bigoven to reflect the decisions I had made. Then I used Bigoven's nutritional calculator to tell me how I had done. Success! The original recipe had 367 calories in an enormous, 2-cup serving, and included 55g of carbs with 9g of fiber for a 46g of net carbs. The revised recipe has has 257 calories in a 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cup serving, features 3 half-cup servings of vegetables, 33g of carbs and 7g of fiber for 26g of net carbs. The group told me I was now on the right track.