Tips and tricks for creating healthier diabetic meals


Making your favorite dishes diabetes-friendly is easier than you think! Try these fixes to keep the flavor while losing the fat.

There’s no need to toss your favorite recipes after a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Try these fixes that modify the ingredients while keeping the flavor.

It’s one of the first questions that most people have after a diabetes diagnosis: “What do I eat?” The good news is that a healthy diabetes diet is pretty much the same way we all should be eating. And you don’t need to discard your favorite recipes — as long as you apply a little know-how.

However, managing Type 2 diabetes does mean being careful about how your food is prepared. You may need to switch to more healthful cooking techniques and ingredients than you used before your Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, but these steps will add up to an overall healthier you.

And you needn’t be a world-class chef to prepare meals that follow a diabetes diet. Little changes in recipes can make a big difference in improving management of Type 2 diabetes.

Get a Fresh Start with these Type 2 Diabetes Diet Tips:

Start with these easy changes:

Experiment with healthier cooking techniques. “One of the best ways to adhere to a diabetes diet is to use non-frying methods of cooking,” says McLaughlin.

Stir-fry, bake, or poach instead of frying or sautéing. Baking and poaching require no cooking oil at all.

To stir-fry, you heat just a small amount of oil in a wok. Then add fish, chicken, or lean meat. When the meat is almost done, add your veggies and cook for a few more minutes.

Cut the fat.

Replace saturated fats, namely butter and lard, with olive oil or canola oil when some fat is needed. Other saturated-fat substitutions for a diabetes diet include:

  • Skim milk instead of whole milk
  • Fat-free cream cheese instead of regular varieties
  • Fat-free plain yogurt when a recipe calls for sour cream

You can often skip the fat-based toppings, too.

Lemon or lime on fish and vegetables are much healthier choices than butter or sauces for people with Type 2 diabetes.

Make sugar substitutions.

Try some of the various artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda (sucralose), to reduce sugar in recipes. With a little creativity, many sugar-free recipes can be just as tasty as standard recipes containing sugar.

Instead of sugar in baking, try sweet spices, such as ground cinnamon, or add vanilla extract.

If a recipe calls for fruit, it’s best to always use fresh; the next choice is frozen. If canned is your only option, make sure that fruits are packed in their own juices or water, not in sugary syrup.

Stash the salt shaker.

Flavor your foods with herbs and spices instead of salt. Try garlic salt to slash the amount of sodium. If you must use regular salt, opt for sea salt. Most sea salts contain slightly less sodium than regular table salt.

Another option: If a recipe calls for a teaspoon of salt, use half a teaspoon and substitute fresh herbs for the missing salt. Your food will actually be more flavorful, and healthier, too.

Go with whole grains.

Refined grains — white bread, white rice, and white pasta — are not good choices for people trying to stick to a diabetes diet because much of the glucose-friendly fiber has been removed in the refining process.

Fiber helps keep blood sugar levels under control by releasing glucose at a leisurely rate.

If you eat a big meal of refined grains, your blood sugar can soar. So make brown rice instead of white rice and use whole-grain bread for sandwiches.

If you’re craving spaghetti, buy whole-grain spaghetti.

Choose cheese wisely.

Cheese is loaded with saturated fat, but there are ways to make cheese better for a diabetes diet. Use a strongly flavored cheese, such as sharp cheddar, blue cheese, or feta, instead of mild cheddar, American, or Swiss. A little bit of sharp cheese goes a long way.

The stronger flavor will allow you to cut down on the amount you use in recipes and on burgers. Less cheese means fewer calories and saturated fat, too.

Prepare healthy meats.

Use skinless chicken and lean cuts of meat; for example, if you like bacon with breakfast, substitute Canadian bacon or turkey bacon to reduce the fat. Make your burgers with extra-lean ground beef, ground chicken, or ground turkey.

Or use half ground beef and substitute a non-beef ground meat, such as turkey, for the other half. Having a cookout? Use aromatic woods on the grill, such as mesquite, to help disguise substitutions.

Reduce portion sizes.

King-size portions of high-carbohydrate foods can send blood sugar levels and your weight skyrocketing. To prevent weight gain and out-of-control glucose levels, cut your portion sizes.

When dining out, resist the temptation to finish those generous servings; instead bring half home in a container.

Transforming standard cooking instructions and old family favorites into tasty diabetes-friendly dishes may take some effort and creativity.

Going the extra step in the kitchen will make sticking to a diabetes diet much easier. And that’s a recipe for good health.