Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Question of the week: Gluten Intolerance

One of my readers has posed the following question, "I have type 2 diabetes and just found out I have gluten intolerance. I haven't been able to figure out what I can eat. I have been leaving grains out of my diet. What should I do?"

Gluten intolerance is a condition where foods containing gluten should be eliminated from their diet. Consumption of these foods may cause symptoms various gastrointestinal issues such as abdominal pain and distention, gassiness, and diarrhea.

There is no need to avoid all grains. Grains that contain gluten and should be eliminated from one's diet are wheat (including varieties like spelt, kamut, farro and durum; and products like bulgur, semolina), barley, rye, and oats(oats are inherently gluten-free, but are often contaminated with wheat during growing/processing).

Grains that can be included in a gluten-free diet are as follows: amaranth, corn, millet, montina (Indian rice grass), quinoa, rice, sorghum, teff, and wild rice. Although okay to eat, you will still need to watch your portion sizes and count carbohydrates when consuming these particular grains.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Peas & Carrots - Ok for Diabetics? - Question of the Week

A reader has posed the following question for response on this blog: "Is it ok to eat peas & carrots if you have diabetes? I heard to avoid those two veggies."

As long as you watch your portions and are aware of how much carbohydrate is in both peas and carrots, there is no need to avoid either one.

Despite being a vegetable, peas are considered starchy and contain more carbohydrates than many other vegetables. A 1/2 cup of peas contains 15 grams of carbohydrate. Corn, canned pumpkin, yams, plantains, parsnips, acorn/butternut squash, and potatoes are other examples such as this.

Carrots are not considered a starchy vegetable and therefore one serving contains approximately 25 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrates for 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked. Other vegetables in this "non-starchy" vegetable category are spinach, green beans, broccoli, and cauliflower.

As long as you have this information there is no need to avoid any vegetables.

More information:

Here is a list of other "non-starchy" vegetables:

* Amaranth
* Artichoke
* Artichoke hearts
* Asparagus
* Bamboo shoots
* Beans: green, Italian, wax
* Bean sprouts
* Beets
* Broccoli
* Brussels sprouts
* Cabbage: bok choy, Chinese, green
* Carrots
* Cauliflower
* Celery
* Cucumber
* Eggplant
* Green onions or scallions
* Greens: collard, kale, mustard, turnip
* Leeks
* Mixed vegetables without corn, peas or pasta
* Mung bean sprouts
* Mushrooms
* Okra
* Onions
* Peppers, all varieties
* Radishes
* Soybean sprouts
* Spinach
* Summer squash
* Swiss chard
* Tomato: raw, canned, sauce, juice
* Turnips
* Water chestnuts
* Zucchini

For more information, you can visit the following link from the American Diabetes Association:> and the Mayo Clinic:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Question of the week: Which is better, frozen dinners or restaurant food?

One of my readers sent the following question, "Since I live alone, I rarely cook (if ever). I have type 2 diabetes and I'm wondering which is better... eating frozen dinners or restaurant food? Thank you for your help."

The answer is, it depends.

Check the nutritional information on the frozen dinners you are eating and see if the numbers are acceptable for your own meal plan. The advantage to the frozen dinner is that you have the nutritional information easily available to you. Keep in mind that many of frozen dinners are high in sodium and fat. In addition, frozen dinners usually have additives, preservatives, and are heavy in carbohydrates, gravies, and sauces.

In regards to restaurant food, some (mainly chains, i.e. Chili's, Applebees, Macaroni Grill)have nutritional information available for their menu items listed on their websites. However you don't know every ingredient being used in their preparation.

My suggestions if eating out in a restaurant:

1. Skip the appetizer - as well as the bread that is put on the table.

2. Drink water(ask for lemon or lime for flavor) - skip the sugary drinks.

3. Ask your server how items are prepared before you order it. Don't be shy about "special ordering".

4. Choose menu items that are broiled, roasted, grilled, steamed, or baked.

5. Ask your server to request that no butter or salt is added to your dish.

6. Plan to take home leftovers! Restaurant portions are usually exaggerated. Ask for a "take home" container before you even start eating and put half of your protein and starch in it. See my suggestions in one of my earlier posts on how to approximate portions sizes (deck of cards = 3 oz Protein, fist = 1 oz of starch).

7. If ordering chicken - remove the skin before consuming. Choose leaner meats such as poultry or seafood.

8. Request sauces, dressings, and gravies be served on the side! Stick with oil/vinegar for your dressing - avoid croutons, bacon bits, and anything laden in mayo.

9. When possible, swap white rice for brown, pasta for whole-wheat, fries for a baked potato (sans sour cream and butter - use a little lemon juice instead.)

My suggestion, if possible, is to pre-prepare your own meals in larger quantities and freeze the extra so you don't have to cook as often and you can have complete control over the ingredients and "healthiness" of what you consume. Utilize frozen vegetables, and crockpot recipes for less prep time and the ability to make the task easier. If you can reserve one day over week or two and make several dishes this way, you don't have to cook everyday.

Don't forget to use for assistance on nutritional information:

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Nutty Truth

In addition to being a good source of protein, nuts and seeds are also chock full of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The fat that nuts and seeds contain are of the unsaturated type which is considered "good" fat which our bodies require. Although nutrient dense, portion size is very important with nuts due to their calorie and fat content.

A handful is a good guide - it equals approximately 1 ounce. Try to stay with 1.5 oz for a serving. They make a very satisfying snack or sprinkled on top of a salad for extra protein and an added crunch. Flax seeds are great to add to yogurt smoothies or to sprinkle on top of oatmeal.

High in calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Also contain folic acid phosphorus, and iron. Almonds contain about 18% protein.

*Brazil Nuts:
Rich in calcium, magnesium, thiamine (B1), and potassium. They also contain significant amounts of B6, zinc, and iron.

These nuts contain large amounts of calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. In addition to those minerals, cashews also are a source of phosphorus and potassium.

Although high in carbohydrates, chestnuts are a source of B-complex vitamins, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron.

*Flaxseeds: High in protein and rich in essential fatty acids. Flaxseeds also contain calcium and phosphorus.

*Hazelnuts (aka filberts): High in fiber and a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, B, and E.

These nuts are rich in magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, vit B1 (thiamine), and B3 (niacin).

*Peanuts: Very rich in protein (26%) and an excellent source of B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin). Peanuts also contain potassi8um, magnesium, calcium, and iron.

*Pecans: A good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium as well as being high in fiber! These nuts also contain small amounts of vitamins A, B, C, and E.

*Pine Nuts:
These nuts contain iron, magnesium, potassium, and folic acid. Another nut that is a rich source of fiber.

A good source of calcium, magnesium, potassiu, iron, folic acid, and B6 and C.

*Pumpkin Seeds (pepitas): Rich in iron, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins A and B. Pumpkin seeds are very high in protein (29%) as well.

*Sesame Seeds:
Rich in iron, calcium, and vitamins A, B, E.

*Sunflower Seeds:
A good source of calcium, iron, and rich in omega-6 fatty acids.

*Walnuts: Rich in vitamin E, copper, and magnesium. Walnuts also contain potassium, vitamin B6, B1 (thiamine), and essential fatty acids.

Nuts should be stored in cool, dry conditions in airtight containers away from the light. Due to their high fat content, many nuts benefit from storage in the fridge or freezer to prevent rancidity.

Look for dry roasted, raw, unsalted or low-salt varieties when possible.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Reducing your salt intake in a pinch!

Just because you don't use your salt shaker doesn't mean that you aren't eating a diet that is high in sodium. Sodium is hidden in many of the foods that we eat on a daily basis. Another name for table salt is Sodium Chloride and some people are more sensitive to sodium than others.

Your body does require some sodium in order to maintain blood volume levels and controls fluid balance in the body. Sodium(salt) becomes a problem when amounts get too high. In addition to increasing blood pressure, high sodium levels in the diet can also cause fluid retention. Shortness of breath may result if fluid retention occurs around the lungs.

Most Americans consume a diet that is very high in salt. The current daily recommendations for sodium intake are for less than 2400 mg (milligrams) daily. That is equivalent to only one teaspoon daily (6 grams)! Studies show that people with a sodium intake of 1500 mg and lower were able to reduce their blood pressure.

Tips to Reduce Sodium Intake:

1. Read your labels! Take note of the amount of sodium in the foods you eat and choose low sodium varieties when available.

2. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables!

3. Instead of using bottled salad dressings - use vinegar and oil.

4. Limit the amount of prepared foods that you eat. This includes all frozen, canned, and boxed foods. Sodium is used in these processing methods and these foods are usually high in salt. Note that usually frozen fruits and vegetables are usually low sodium (except for any amounts that appear naturally).

5. If you choose to use canned vegetables/beans, search for low sodium varieties. When using canned vegetables, rinse the product with cold water and a strainer to try and reduce some of the sodium from the product.

6. Limit the amount of foods eaten away from home. When you don't prepare it, you can't control the chef's heavy hand with the salt shaker or the ingredients that they use. You can always request for sauces/gravies on the side, or ask the kitchen to not use any added salt or MSG.

7. Monitor your cheese intake. Cheeses are usually high in sodium. Use low sodium varieties when available or use smaller amounts. Grated and shredded allow you to use a little bit to get the most flavor.

8. Instead of using salt, season your dishes with garlic, onion, fresh or dried herbs and spices. Many types of salt-free herb blends are available to use such as Mrs. Dash.

9. Reduce or eliminate processed, canned, smoked, or cured meats as they are high in sodium levels. Choose tunas that are packed in water and rinse with fresh water when possible.

10. Read the labels on the cereals and breads that you purchase. Many of them have high sodium levels that you might not even be aware of.

11. When choosing snacks, look for salt-free or reduced salt nuts.

Check out this helpful link as it will show you other names of ingredients containing salt/sodium that may appear in the ingredients list of a product.

If you suspect that you have high blood pressure, please contact your physician.

Please feel free to post your suggestions and ideas for reducing the salt intake in your diet. I'd love to hear them!

Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Question of the week - Is Diabetes reversable?

The following question was submitted by one of our readers, "My 45 year-old husband was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few months ago. Is it true that you can reverse diabetes?"

With type 2 diabetes, your body is either resistant to the effects of insulin or your body doesn't produce enough to maintain a normal glucose levels. If left untreated, the consequences of type 2 diabetes can be life-threatening.

While there is no cure for type 2 diabetes (also known as adult-onset or non-insulin dependent), it is possible to manage or possibly prevent this condition. One can start by eating healthy foods (see previous posts), increasing physical activity, monitoring blood sugar on a regular basis, speaking with a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), and maintaining an ideal (healthy)body weight. In some instances when diet and exercise are not enough, diabetes medications or insulin therapy might be required in order to manage your blood sugar levels.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Survival Strategies For Your Holiday Dinner

I'm sure many of you will be attending a family holiday dinner on Sunday and these occasions make it very easy to overindulge. It is not necessary to deprive yourself of many of the delicious dishes that may be put before you, however, it is a good idea to watch the amounts of these items that we are consuming.

Below are a few tips that I put together to help you get through the holiday:

1. Skipping meals before a big holiday party or holiday meal will cause you to binge on all the wrong types of food. Have a little protein, small meal with lots of fiber, or a piece of fruit before you go which will not leave you ravenous when the festivities begin.

2. Use a small salad-sized plate when choosing from the holiday table. With a larger plate you are more likely to try and fill it.

3. Balance your plate with protein and fiber-rich foods such as lean meats, salad, vegetables, and fruits. Simpler is better; shrimp cocktail, crudités (without high fat dip) are great party staples to enjoy.

4. Try to steer clear of anything that is fried, cheesy, or oily. Stay away from mayo-based salads, greasy appetizers, fatty dips, or anything deep-fried.

5. Use oil-based dressings for your salad and put them on the side. Dip the tines of your fork in them before piercing your salad for flavor. You'll save on calories but not skimp on flavor.

6. Don't deprive yourself of the goodies being served as some of these particular dishes only come once a year. Sometimes a taste is all you need to satisfy a craving.

7. Although nuts are healthy, it is very easy to eat them mindlessly and end up eating more than just a handful which adds up in calories and fat grams.

8. Don't drink your calories (save it for the food). Drink water with your meals - add a lemon or lime slice for flavor. If you want to have a holiday drink, enjoy a wine spritzer instead of wine - you'll save on calories but not substitute flavor.

9. If possible, ask if you can bring an entree or side dish - that way you can make something healthier and have control of the ingredients that are in it.

10. When socializing, try to do it away from where the food is displayed. Out of sight, out of mind.

After dinner, and if the weather is nice - go for a walk outside with some of your family and friends to continue socialize. It's like multi-tasking!

Friday, April 2, 2010

What are antioxidants?

A reader has posed the following question for discussion on my blog, "I have seen the word antioxidants all over the place in regards to food. What exactly are they and what can they do for me?"

Antioxidants are special compounds that are found in certain vitamins and minerals that protect against the process of oxidation (also known as cellular damage), as well as diseases associated with aging and certain types of cancer. The most well-known antioxidant vitamins are vitamins C and E as well as beta-carotene.

What are good sources of antioxidants?

Beta Carotene is found in vegetables and fruits of orange, red, yellow, and dark green color. Think: cantaloupe, carrots, pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, broccoli, spinach, kale, and beets.

Vitamin C, which is found in large quantities in citrus fruits, can also be found in other fruits/vegetables such as broccoli, cantaloupe, cherries, bell peppers, strawberries, kiwi, raspberries, tomatoes, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and potatoes.

Some good sources of Vitamin E are almonds, olive oil, oats, sunflower seeds, and peanuts. In addition, it can be found in blackberries, corn, and grapefruit.

Photo courtesy of