Archive for March, 2011


I am a Nutrition Editor at Foodpicker.org, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:

Question

I am writing on behalf of my sister. She does NOT cook.  She is living alone and has been diagnosed with pre-diabetes.  She lives mainly on microwave dinners and convenience foods.  She is not open to learning to cook.  Do you have any helpful hints for someone like this?”

Answer

I can certainly provide tips for finding healthier choices for convenience foods.  However, when someone is diagnosed with pre-diabetes, it may be a good time to evaluate the current lifestyle and think about what is important in life and if there is anything worth changing.  It is no secret that processed foods (i.e. microwave dinners, convenience foods) contain a lot of fat, sodium, calories, and fast-digesting carbohydrates (not the kind someone with pre-diabetes would want).   They also contain chemicals and ingredients that many of us cannot even pronounce.  These chemicals and unknown ingredients may have a big effect on our over-all health.  Whole, un-processed foods in their natural state are usually the key ingredients to a healthy lifestyle.

That being said, I understand that we are all living very busy lives and it would be handy to have some quick meal ideas.  Here are some tips:

  1. Reduce Salt intake:   If you know you will have a microwave meal for dinner, try to cut back on the salt intake during the rest of the day.
  2. Invest in a juicer and make smoothies with fresh vegetables: Most of these machines will come with ideas for smoothie recipes and it is a quick way to get a healthy meal in – especially when on-the-go.  Try blending spinach, kale, lemon, ginger, cucumber, peanut butter (natural, no salt-added) with soy milk (if this blend sounds disgusting to you, play around with other vegetables – there are millions of recipes out there).
  3. Incorporate beans into the diet: Canned beans are quick and easy.  All you have to do is rinse them really well (which gets the gas-forming substance off of them) and throw them in a salad or any numerous amounts of dishes.  Beans will provide protein, fiber and antioxidants.  Bean salads are so quick to make.  I usually take 4 different types of beans (or, even easier, the stores sell mixed canned beans), a pepper, garlic, some form of acid (lately I’ve been using brown rice vinegar), an oil (sometimes safflower oil) and mix it all together and you have a lovely bean salad.  If you’ve read my posts in the past, you know we like it spicy in my household so I will also add some siracha (Asian hot sauce).  The point is, bean salads are quick, yet packed with nutrients and there is no cooking involved!
  4. Consider microwaving vegetables:   Broccoli will cook very nicely in the microwave.  Place a little bit of water in a container, add the broccoli florets and microwave.  Cooking times will vary depending on the microwave, but it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes or so to get the broccoli to a texture that you like.
  5. Drink a lot of water:   Water helps rid of the body of toxins and waste products – this is helpful for those that are consuming a lot of processed foods.

Here is a sample meal plan that does not involve any cooking!  This may give you an idea of how to choose healthier, lower sodium options throughout the day before you get to the microwave dinner at night.  Remember, this is a “sample” meal plan and your caloric and carbohydrate needs may be higher or lower.

Quick picks 1-Day Sample Menu
Meal 1  7:00am 1 – 8oz cup Nonfat greek yogurt 

¼ cup granola

¼ cup sliced strawberries

Meal 2  10:00am Option 1: Carnation Instant Breakfast  (CIB) Shake (try blending in a vegetable such as spinach) 

Or

Option 2: Try a healthy recipe from the new juicer you just purchased

Meal 3  1:00pm ½ cup Four-bean Salad 

1 apple

1 cup baby carrots

Meal 4  4:00pm 1oz raw almonds (about 20) 

1 medium-size orange

Meal 5  7:00pm Microwave meal (choose a low sodium option)

 

Thank you for the question.  I hope you take this time to invest in yourself and learn about all the wonderful ways to eat healthy foods without hours of prep work in the kitchen.

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I am a Nutrition Editor at Foodpicker.org, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:

Question

I have a very big issue when it comes to having diabetes and that is I do not eat vegetables.  I have tried.  I want to control my diabetes and be around to raise my young children.  What suggestions do you have to add vegetables to my diet?”


Answer

Welcome to the “Vegetarian Barbarian” where vegetables are my “specialty”, so to speak.  I do eat a lot of vegetables.  But, I must tell you, I would rather stick a fork in my eye than eat food without flavor.  Perhaps raw or steamed vegetables is not your cup of tea.  No problem… This gives you an opportunity to find new ways to make vegetables an enjoyable part of your day.

Here are some tips:

  1. Flavor vegetables with spices. Choose from a wide array of flavors – Indian, Italian, etc.  You can find spices in your regular grocery store or, to find some really fun flavors like BBQ 9000 go to penzeys.com.  It is a fantastic spice store/website.  My husband made broccolini (similar to broccoli, but smaller florets and long thin stems) this weekend with BBQ 9000 and the dish has a great smokey flavor to it.
  2. Look to vegetarian sources for tons of ideas for making vegetables flavorful. Do a google search for vegetarian recipes or find a vegetarian magazine (Whole Foods sells a few of them).  I subscribe to Vegetarian Times magazine (vegetariantimes.com) and have found some pretty tasty recipes that are also quick to prepare and packed with vegetables.
  3. Check out nutrition websites for children such as superkidsnutrition.com. A website like this will showcase recipes that are easy to make, the kids can get involved in preparing it, and it may be a good intro into veggies for you too.
  4. Add vegetables to dishes that you love (disguise them). Wait, don’t leave this article yet, hear me out.  For example – if you love macaroni and cheese, consider adding something such as butternut squash (puree it so it has a smooth cheesy look and texture) or pureed cauliflower.
  5. Buy Local and Fresh. Buying locally grown vegetables may play in big part in taste and freshness.  If you are eating vegetables that are traveling from another state or another country, then you may be missing out on flavor (and possibly losing nutrients).  Try looking into a local farmer’s market or sometimes a larger chain grocery store might have a section of produce that was grown by local farmers in your area.    Check out localharvest.org for more info on where to find farmer’s markets in your area (click on the “Farms” tab at the top of the page).
  6. Try using different types of oils to cook with. By branching out and using a variety of oils, you will get different flavors and hopefully prevent boredom.  Try safflower oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, or olive oil (there are many more oils to choose from).  Using a small amount of oil can go a long way in a dish and for people who smother their veggies in butter, they may save a few calories. Here is a quick frozen spinach recipe that includes sesame oil:

Ingredients:  water, one 16oz bag of frozen spinach, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, ground black pepper

Directions: Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a pot, add the frozen spinach and a tablespoon of sesame oil.  Cook for about 3 minutes.  Drain the spinach.  Add spinach to a bowl and add ½ tablespoon of sesame oil, 1                   tablespoon of sesame seeds, black pepper to taste – mix together well and Enjoy!  I also add spicy ingredients such as siracha (asian hot sauce).

I applaud your efforts for wanting to change your eating pattern.  Vegetables have so many benefits – vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, to name a few.  If your children are not eating vegetables, this may be a good way for everyone to try new recipes together.  Maybe if they see you eating vegetables, they will want to as well.  Good luck on your new vegetable dish journey…


I am a Nutrition Editor at Foodpicker.org, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:

Question

I was recently told by my doctor I have pre-diabetes and that I need to lose weight, eat right, and get my sugar levels down.  On a 12 hour fast, my glucose level was 73 yet my A1C was 6.1%.  If my glucose is low, why is my A1c still high?  What can I do?”

Answer

The A1c relates to your blood glucose levels over a period of two to three months.  It is measured as a percentage over time.  Healthcare professionals call it glycosylated hemoglobin, which means that sugar (glucose) sticks to the hemoglobin in the red blood cells.  Here is a chart which shows you the A1c% along with the associated average blood glucose number (courtesy of http://www.diabetes.org).

 

According to the chart above, your average blood glucose may be about 126mg/dL.   Individual values may vary.  It is important to recognize that everyone is different and your doctor may set an A1c target for you depending on certain variables (i.e.; age, family history of diabetes, and various other factors).

You may find that your blood glucose levels are out of target at different times of the day.  Your doctor may have specific goals for your glucose levels when you wake, before meals, and after meals. You may also have periods of hypoglycemia (usually defined as blood glucose level below 70mg/dL).  You may want to ask your doctor about testing your blood glucose levels at different times to get a better understanding of when your highest levels are.  This may be very helpful to you (and to a dietitian, if you are seeing one) to tweak your current meal plan and reduce large spikes in your blood sugar.

The great thing is that the prescription that your doctor wrote to you:  “lose weight, eat right, and get my sugar levels down” is something that YOU can control.  Now it’s time to turn that into a prescription that you want for yourself.  When it is something that YOU want, you will see changes.

Good luck to you in your new diet and lifestyle adventures.  Please continue to ask questions for more guidance on your journey.