Ahhhh, the joys of summer’s bountiful harvest! All those wonderful fresh vegetables just can’t be beat. Fresh summer tomatoes taste absolutely marvelous. Is there a better meal in the world than peas, corn, fried okra, sliced tomatoes and cornbread? I defy the Iron Chef, Emeril Lagasse, Rachel Ray or any other celebrity chef to come up with something better. Then add fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, blackberries, honeydew, figs, and Chilton County Peaches and what a feast! As a person with diabetes, you absolutely can enjoy all these blessing but not in unlimited amounts. That should be the case for all of us, not just those with diabetes. Diabetics must always be aware of portions sizes and carbohydrate content and should balance carbs with proteins. Protein (as well as a small amount of good fat) slows the digestion of carbs thereby reducing those sugar spikes and drops. It’s all about balance.

Since most people with diabetes also have cholesterol problems, limiting fat intake is important for heart and blood vessel health as well as limiting sugar (aka carbohydrate) intake. Here in the south we are very fond of frying everything; fried chicken, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, etc. At fairs and festivals you can even buy fried Oreos, fried boiled corn, fried batter (funnel cakes), and even fried butter! Some good ole fried okra along with tomatoes and green beans won’t hurt once in a while but a steady diet of fried foods is doing a lot of damage to your blood vessels not to mention your waistline. Not only do you have to consider the calories and effect of the oil that is used for frying, you have to consider the carbohydrate content of the batter that is used when something is fried. A good way to avoid blood vessel damage from frequent frying is to try different cooking methods and recipes.
There are worlds of cookbooks available for people with diabetes and there are many diabetes friendly recipes on trusted diabetes websites. Try some of these to keep you menus interesting and tasty so you will not fall into the old habits of eating foods that are unhealthful or prepared in an unhealthful way. If you do not use the internet at home, remember that you can go to your public library and use the internet there. If you are not comfortable doing this for yourself, the library has wonderful people there who will help you. Friends can help with this, too. If you choose to buy a cookbook, look through it well before you buy it. Some of them have such gourmet recipes that you would not be able to find half the ingredients in them. Some take a very long time to prepare. Most people do not have the time or the inclination to deal with these recipes. There are plenty of recipes and cookbooks for diabetics that are quick, easy and delicious. Find and use these.
The American Diabetes Association publishes several good cookbooks, but if you go to their website, you can find many recipes for free, 272 to be exact. Check out www.diabetes.org. Also check out www.health.nih.gov.  Type the word diabetes in the search bar and when it pulls up the list of topics, scroll down to Tasty Recipes for People with Diabetes and Their Families. Scroll down in this and you will find several recipes or if you choose, you can order the booklet. Be wary of free cookbook offers. Often these are your “free gift” when you enroll in some plan to acquire your medications or supplies from a particular company.
Diabetic Meals in 30 Minutes—or Less, Diabetes Cookbook for Dummies and many more great cookbooks are available in many bookstores and on the web. “Mr. Food” even has one. Most pharmacies have free magazines for diabetic that usually have some great recipes. But remember, just because a recipes is “diabetic friendly” doesn’t mean you can eat all of it that you want. Portion control is the key. After all, “sugar free” cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream and candy still have plenty of carbohydrates in them and carbs turn into sugar in the body. Learn all you can about balancing your diet and the amount of proteins, fats and carbohydrates you should be eating to help control your blood glucose (sugar). Sit down with a dietitian and be sure you work out a good food plan that will work for you. What works for your friend may not be suitable at all for you. You have to find out what works best for your body.
Most insurance will cover the majority of the cost for a consultation with a dietitian if you have diabetes. Some will cover a consultation annually. Talk to your doctor and request an order for this consultation. This month at our diabetes management meeting here at UAB Medical West, one of our clinical dietitians will be talking about nutrition for people with diabetes. Come and bring your questions. Bring a friend, too. These meetings are offered as a free service to our community. Come and take advantage of it. The meeting will be from 6 p.m.-7 p.m., Thursday evening, the 25th, in the Civic Room on the C Level of the Professional Office Building. As always, we will have diabetes friendly refreshments provided. If you need more information call me at 205 481-7496, but you do not have to call to register for the meeting; just come. Hope to see you then.