My first job as a registered dietitian was in a hospital in Brooklyn, NY. Part of my job was to…
My first job as a registered dietitian was in a hospital in Brooklyn, NY. Part of my job was to educate those who needed to better understand nutrition in relation to a health condition they had. Much of my nutrition education was geared towards patients who had diabetes — and this was no easy feat.
A diabetic-friendly meal plan consists of all the food groups — from veggies and fruits to proteins, whole grains and dairy — that are carefully balanced with the right amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
It took me a lot of time to explain a diabetic-friendly meal plan to patients, especially because there was calorie counting or measuring involved. Fast forward 18 years: I was approached by the American Diabetes Association to write a cookbook based on their Diabetes Plate Method. I was thrilled because this method was so much simpler than other methods I have seen.
I was so happy that the Diabetes Plate Method could help so many folks who have diabetes easily create a meal without counting, measuring, tracking or calculating. Here’s a look at my new cookbook, ” The Create-Your-Plate Diabetes Cookbook: A Plate Method Approach to Simple, Complete Meals,” which came out in March.
5 Steps to Create-Your-Plate
There are five simple steps to build a perfectly-portioned meal with a healthy balance of vegetables, protein and just the right amount of carbohydrates with nothing more than a dinner plate. You want to start with a dinner plate that’s about 9 inches in diameter. If you’re someone who needs more calories than average — because you work out regularly, for example — you can use an 11- or 12-inch plate, while someone who needs fewer calories can use a slightly smaller dinner plate of 8 inches in diameter.
Step 1: Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables.
Nonstarchy vegetables are brimming with vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients — natural plant compounds that help fight and prevent disease. Plus they provide few calories and grams of carbohydrates. Examples of non-starchy vegetables include artichokes, bean sprouts, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, radishes, tomatoes, turnips and salad greens. Non-starchy vegetables provide many health benefits for folks with diabetes and do not have a big effect on blood glucose levels. That’s why they take up the largest portion of the plate.
Step 2: Fill one-quarter of your plate with lean protein.
Foods high in protein, like fish, chicken, meats, soy products and cheese are called “protein foods.” Protein is used in the body for cell structure, to produce hormones like insulin and many other functions. You can choose animal- or plant-based protein options.
Plant-based protein foods provide quality protein, healthy fats and fiber. They vary on how much fat and carbohydrates they contain. If you do choose a plant-based protein on your plate that’s higher in carbohydrates — like beans — then balance it with lower carbohydrate vegetables (from step 1). Lean animal choices can come from beef, fish, poultry, eggs and cheese. Examples include beef sirloin, chicken breast without the skin, lamb chops, pork center loin and whole eggs.
Step 3: Fill the last one-quarter of your plate with carbohydrate foods.
Carbohydrate foods include grains, starchy vegetables, fruits and milk and yogurt. When choosing a grain, opt for whole grains whenever possible. Examples of whole grains include brown rice, whole farro, whole-wheat flour and bulgur.
Starchy vegetable options include acorn squash, corn, green peas, parsnips, plantains, potatoes and pumpkins. Legumes and pulses can also be part of your quarter plate as they also provide carbohydrates and protein. Examples include beans, edamame, chickpeas, lentils, nuts and nut butters, peas and tofu.
If you want to eat fruit or dairy, they would go on this quarter of the plate. This means you can choose a fruit salad or low-fat yogurt instead of whole grains or starchy vegetables to put in this quarter of the plate for a meal.
Step 4: To complete your meal, add water or another zero-calorie beverage.
Beverages that you drink can have an effect on weight and blood glucose. Avoid sugary drinks like regular soda, fruit drinks, fruit punch, energy drinks and sports drinks. Juice, even 100% fruit or vegetable juice, can raise blood glucose and should be avoided. Instead, opt for water, seltzer, diet soda, diet tea, hot or cold plain tea or coffee — without added ingredients like cream, sugar, milk and non-dairy creamer.
Step 5: Choose healthy fats in small amounts.
Healthy fats can be added to any part of the plate. For example, add a tablespoon or two of nuts, seeds, avocado or vinaigrette to salads. You can also opt for a protein food that contains healthy fats like salmon or tuna. They contain omega-3 fats.
[See: 10 Myths About Diabetes.]
Examples of Diabetic-Friendly Plates
In “The Create-Your-Plate Diabetes Cookbook,” I provide 125 mix-and-match recipes to choose from to build your plate based on the guidelines above. Here are a few examples of plates you can create:
Compliment this beef barley soup with sweet potatoes with a simple green salad with balsamic vinaigrette.
Beef Barley Soup with Sweet Potatoes
Serving size: 2 cups
— 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided.
— 1½ pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed of fat and cut into 2-inch cubes.
— 1 large onion, chopped.
— 1 clove garlic, minced.
— 2 ribs celery, chopped.
— 1 medium carrot, chopped.
— 1 (32-ounce)-container low-sodium beef broth.
— 2 cups water.
— 1 (14.5-ounce) can no-added salt diced tomatoes.
— 3./4 cup barley.
— 1 medium sweet potato, cut into half-inch chunks.
— 2 bay leaves.
— 1/2 teaspoon salt.
— 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the beef cubes and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the beef and place it on a clean plate.
2. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and carrots and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the beef broth, water, diced, tomatoes, barley, sweet potatoes, bay leaves and cooked beef and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until the barley is cooked and the flavors have combined, 1 hour. Add the salt and black pepper and stir to combine. Remove the bay leaves and discard before serving.
Nutrition Information per serving: 380 calories; 110 calories from fat; 12.0 grams total fat; 3.0 grams saturated fat; 0.2 grams trans fat; 60 milligrams cholesterol; 400 milligrams sodium; 910 milligrams potassium; 38 grams total carbohydrates; 8 grams dietary fiber; 9 grams sugars; 0 grams added sugars; 29 grams protein; 325 milligrams phosphorus.
Easy broccoli and shrimp stir-fry can be complimented with brown rice with scallions and whipped goat cheese-stuffed strawberries for dessert.
Easy Broccoli and Shrimp Stir-Fry
Serving size: 1 1/4 cups
— 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth.
— 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar.
— 1 1/2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce.
— 1 tablespoon cornstarch.
— 1 teaspoon ground ginger.
— 1/2 teaspoon sriracha.
— 1/2 teaspoon stevia brown sugar blend (such as Truvia).
— 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided.
— 1 clove garlic, minced.
— 1 1/4 pounds raw medium shrimp (52-63 count), peeled, deveined and tails cut off.*
— 3 cups broccoli florets (about 1 pound).
*If possible, use fresh, never-frozen shrimp that are free of preservatives. For example, shrimp that have not been treated with salt or STPP, sodium tripolyphosphate.
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the vegetable broth, rice vinegar, soy sauce, cornstarch, ginger, sriracha, and brown sugar blend.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large wok or skillet. When the oil is shimmering, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and cook until opaque, 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp and place on a clean plate.
3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the same large wok or skillet. Add the broccoli florets and cook until tender, 4 minutes.
4. Add the cooked shrimp back into the skillet and toss to combine with the broccoli and toss to coat. Continue cooking until the broth mixture slightly thickens, about 1 additional minute.
Nutrition Information per serving: 270 calories; 100 calories from fat; 11.0 grams total fat; 1.5 grams saturated fat; 0.0 grams trans fat; 235 milligrams cholesterol; 400 milligrams sodium; 890 milligrams potassium; 10 grams total carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 3 grams sugars; 0 grams added sugars; 34 grams protein; 385 milligrams phosphorus.
Recipes copyright Toby Amidor, “Create-Your-Plate Diabetes Cookbook,” American Diabetes Association, 2020.
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