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[IP] Diabetic cooking brings flavor and variety back to the kitchen

Excellent article on cooking for US on 

Diabetic cooking brings flavor and variety back to the kitchen
Eating well doesn't stop with a diagnosis. Creative and tasty 
diabetic-friendly dishes can be fun and easy to make
Editor's note: Author Elizabeth Hiser died on Wednesday August 9, 2000 in a 
car accident in New York State. She is survived by three children ages 8, 10 
and 19.

By Helyn Trickey
CNN Interactive Associate Editor/Writer

August 29, 2000
Web posted at: 3:31 p.m. EDT (1931 GMT)

In this story:

Making eating transitions without fear

Boosting fiber and flavor

Satisfying the ever-hungry sweet tooth

Diabetes: a family affair



ATLANTA (CNN) -- When Chef Chris Smith was diagnosed with diabetes seven years 
ago, his physician advised him to drop out of culinary school and find a new 
vocation altogether.

"My doctor said it would be just too hard to work around all that food," he 

Instead, Smith decided to put his professional experience to use. He began 
conducting diabetic cooking seminars and is set to release his first cookbook 
in June. "Cooking with the Diabetic Chef" is a guide to eating that strives to 
add intense flavors to food without adding fat, salt and sugar.

"I want to break barriers," Smith says. "Most people might have two or three 
chicken recipes that they know how to make. I want to give them a whole 
library of ways to prepare chicken. I want to show diabetics that there is 

"We don't want the diabetic diet to be a sentence," agrees registered 
dietician Margaret Fowke. "That is probably the biggest concern diabetics have 
when they are first diagnosed. They say, 'Oh my gosh, I can't have my fried 
chicken and my chocolate chip cookies.' We feel they must have some 
flexibility in their diet plans."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15.7 million 
Americans, or 5.9 percent of the general population, have diabetes. Nearly a 
third of those people have yet to be diagnosed. For newly diagnosed diabetics, 
the shock of having to change tried and true eating habits is hard to digest.

Specially designed cookbooks can help. The recipes in these publications may 
vary from fancy-shmancy to downright homey, but the message is the same: 
Choice, flexibility and good food don't disappear just because you have 

Making eating transitions without fear
When 48-year-old Bernice Moore was diagnosed with Type 2 (adult-onset) 
diabetes last year she was afraid to eat much of anything for two weeks. Moore 
had a strong family history of diabetes -- two of her sisters and her mother 
suffer from the disease -- but when the familiar symptoms began affecting her, 
she thought at first she was just working too hard.

"When I saw the symptoms I was sort of shocked," she says, "but then I 
realized the extreme thirst, the burning eyes, the blurry vision -- it had to 
be diabetes."

Moore was afraid some of her favorite foods might be aggravating her 
condition. She often ate fruits like bananas and apples for snacks and even 
meals, and she panicked at the thought of not being able to follow her usual 
eating habits. The most difficult part of the transition, she recalls, is that 
she considered herself a smart, healthy eater prior to diagnosis. Having to 
limit her fruit intake was a major adjustment.

Fowke, who worked with Moore to construct a workable eating plan that also 
includes some of her favorite fruits, recommends a newly diagnosed diabetic 
see a dietician as soon as possible. She also emphasizes the importance of a 
regular exercise plan and finding ways to incorporate more vegetables and 
fiber in your diet.

Fowke says you don't have to buy a special cookbook to maintain a healthy 
diet, but the specialized recipes can help you figure out how to make those 
peas and carrots a little more exciting.

"Type 2 diabetics should remember they are not on a special diet, rather they 
are on a diet that works for everybody," says Elizabeth Hiser, who recently 
penned the cookbook "The Other Diabetes: Living and Eating Well with Type 2 

"I think the most important thing for the Type 2 diabetic is calorie control 
and getting to the point where your weight is good," Hiser says. She 
emphasizes that the quality of a diet has to be high if people hope to stick 
with the changes and still feel satisfied.

Boosting fiber and flavor
While both the Asian and Mediterranean diets are recommended for people trying 
to control sugars and fats, the Asian diet -- with its emphasis on rice, 
vegetables and fish -- can seem stark to people used to traditional American 

Registered dietician Margaret Fowke suggests getting screened for diabetes 
every time you have a physical by asking for a fasting glucose test. This is 
especially important if you have a family history of diabetes or gestational 

By contrast, the Mediterranean diet is rooted in complex carbohydrates like 
pastas, polenta and grains. The diet also calls for using olive oil and canola 
oil because they are both low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated 
fat, or the "safe fat." For this reason, many of Hiser's recipes revolve 
around tasty grilled vegetables and whole-wheat pastas.

She suggests in her book that planning meals around unprocessed grains, 
vegetables, legumes and fruits and striving to make each meal contain lots of 
fiber will boost energy, decrease blood sugar levels and leave you feeling 
fuller and more satisfied.

In addition to a wealth of light, herb-laced recipes in her book, Hiser also 
suggests re-thinking the pantry. She lists a while host of items that can 
quickly add dimension to last-minute meals or snacks.

"My goal was to show that you can have things in your freezer and cupboards -- 
convenient things -- and still eat well. Frozen greens are great to put in 
soups. They not only add a lot more fiber and vitamins," she said, "but you 
get a lot of taste in there as well."

Hiser suggests defrosting frozen vegetables, tossing them with a vinaigrette 
and sprinkling some feta cheese over the top for a quick, easy salad. "Rinse 
chickpeas and toss them with some chopped onion, vinaigrette, roasted red 
peppers and toasted walnuts. ... It makes a wonderful dish."

Smith says making vegetables taste good is really a matter of knowing a few 
classic techniques. He urges people learn how to saute, grill and poach their 
foods to enhance flavors. For example, Smith says carrots take on a whole new 
character if you boil them to the tenderness desired, remove them from the 
water and then reduce the water you cooked them in down to a sauce.

"To exaggerate the flavors of the carrot," he says, "grate some orange zest 
and add a dash of white pepper to the reduction." After cooking the glaze down 
to just a tablespoon of liquid, Smith suggests coating the carrots with the 
liquid for a new twist on the standard vegetable.

Satisfying the ever-hungry sweet tooth
And what should diabetics do about sugar? Is the sweet stuff permanently 
banned from dining tables and kitchens everywhere?

"That is an old myth," says Hiser, "and we have a hard time trying to get rid 
of it. People still can't understand that table sugar is not going to raise 
blood sugar levels as much as too many calories will."

Sugar can still be part of a well-planned diet, if eaten in small amounts and 
incorporated into a healthy diet with regular exercise.

A variety of sugar substitutes on the market today make it easier than ever to 
add sweets to diabetic food plans
"If you take some fruit and sprinkle some sugar over it and bake it in the 
oven," Hiser says, "that is not going to send your blood sugar over the edge."

Fowke points out that there are many sugar substitutes on the market today 
that are safe, easy to cook with and that taste good, too.

"Fifteen years ago there weren't very many options," she says, "but today 
there are so many sugar-free foods on the market, and a good meal plan will 
have those foods blended into it."

But Smith, who prides himself on working with authentic ingredients, advocates 
using the real thing. "Stay away from the sugar substitutes," he says. "Go as 
natural as you can." Smith says working with basic ingredients like raw sugar 
allows you to know exactly what you are putting in your body and the effect 
these foods have on your blood sugar.

One of his favorite desserts is an elegant chocolate cake and fruit 
concoction. To construct the dessert, use a glass to punch out two round 
pieces of cake from a chocolate sheet cake. Next, moisturize the cake by 
lightly brushing a favorite liqueur like Kahlua or Grand Marnier on it using a 
pastry brush.

"If you don't want to use a liqueur," Smith says, "then take peaches canned in 
their own juice, puree them in a blender and lightly brush that on the cake."

Next, add fresh blueberries or blackberries on top of one layer and top it 
with the second layer of cake. Finish off your creation with more fresh fruit 
and garnish with a tiny dollop of whipped cream and a dusting of chocolate 

"It looks spectacular," he says, "and you've got a lot of fresh fruit in that 

Smith emphasizes portion size. For instance, in the dessert above he uses real 
chocolate cake and whipped cream. "But notice the portion size," he adds.

Diabetes: a family affair
Seven years after his initial diagnosis, Smith says the disease was ultimately 
a giant stroke of good luck.

"I am thankful that it is a disease that is controllable," he says. "It has 
allowed me to apply my professional expertise with my personal life, and to 
prepare good food for people who need it most."

Smith thinks back to a Thanksgiving dinner in 1993, just after he had been 
diagnosed with diabetes. Nearly 50 family members were gathered around a huge, 
mouth-watering spread of homemade food. Aside form the traditional recipes, 
his family had also prepared special foods for "Chris the diabetic."

"It was really alienating for me," he says. Although Smith appreciated the 
effort his family made to care for him, he rarely forgets what it was like to 
feel like the odd man out.

Because of that, Smith urges family members get involved in the dietary 
changes required of a diabetic. After all, the diet is a healthy, 
well-balanced approach to eating for anyone. Armed with some creative recipes 
and classic cooking techniques, it can be a delicious change for everyone 
around the dinner table.
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