Eating for diabetes does mean some changes in diet, but it doesn’t mean the end of delicious food. In this edition of Eat This, Not That, we focus on easy swaps for healthy diabetic foods that are as good (if not better!) than the originals.

Instead of: A fat, juicy hamburger with fries

Many diet plans for diabetes meals focus on eliminating sugar as much as possible, but another thing to keep in mind when planning diabetes healthy meals is fat content. Because obesity is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, the days of a fat, juicy burger, dripping with cheese and loaded with bacon are numbered. And forget about a side of fries!

Try: Veggie burger varieties with creamy avocado and oven-roasted sweet potatoes

These are not your typical veggie burgers. Veggie burgers have come a long way since the early days of the dried out, crumbly patty. There are many varieties that eschew the fake meat substitutes that are filled with preservatives in favor of a creative mix of vegetables and beans. Try these 26 veggie burgers that will make meat question its existence, and then add oven-roasted sweet potato fries.

Cut sweet potatoes into strips about the size of a steak fry then toss in olive oil. You can roast these with a little chopped rosemary if you like, and just a pinch of salt. Lightly spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray (or use a sil-pat cookie sheet liner) and roast in the oven at 350˚ for about 20 minutes, flipping once. Roast longer for crispier outsides. If you choose not to use salt, you can sprinkle a bit of garlic powder and a pinch of grated Parmesan cheese on the hot, roasted “fries.”

Bonus try: If you cannot entirely give up the red meat patty, keep it small, as in slider size, and make sure your beef is free-range and grass fed. Serve it on a whole-grain bun and load it with fresh vegetables instead of mayonnaise and ketchup. For many people, a small indulgence every now and then can be okay. Check with your doctor when making any dietary changes, including adding “forbidden” foods back in to your diet.

Instead of: Traditional lasagna

With its layers of gooey cheese and noodles, traditional lasagna can be very difficult on a couple levels. For weight management, heavy noodle and cheese dishes are not recommended, and portion sizes of homemade lasagna tend to be large. After all, who can resist going back for seconds?

Try: Zucchini or eggplant rollatini (a.k.a. ”involtini”)

Rollatini are small, rolled bits of delicious food. Eliminating the noodles from traditional lasagna removes simple carbohydrates from your diet, but you won’t miss them. Sliced thin and rolled with cheese, then topped with fresh tomato sauce and baked, these rollatini are packed with nutrition that satisfies your cravings for lasagna like Nonna used to make it. Our favorite zucchini involtini adds spinach for iron and B12, plus cannellini beans for added benefits for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Bonus try: Grilling your eggplant and zucchini before rolling adds another layer of flavor. Both types of rollatini freeze well, so make double and freeze for a quick weeknight meal!

Instead of: Rich, sugar-filled desserts

No more chocolate. No more cookies. No more ice cream. Sugar can be the hardest food group to give up, but it is certainly one of the most important to monitor and may play a part in a Type 2 diagnosis. If you are used to a soda with every meal and a candy bar after work, yes, those days are over. But it doesn’t mean you can’t have dessert anymore.

Try: Naturally sweet (or lightly sweetened) fruit desserts

Fruit can be a delicious way to satisfy your sweet tooth. The key is to prepare each fruit the best way possible and to eat fruit in season. Fruit in season is at the peak of its flavor, so sweet berries are sweeter, juicy peaches are juicier, and crisp apples are crisper. Try an easy apple crisp in the fall by chopping one fresh apple and mixing it with one teaspoon of cinnamon (good for controlling blood sugar spikes) and a drop of maple syrup. Put in buttered ramekin and sprinkle with one tablespoon of oatmeal that has been mixed with a tiny pinch of salt and a tiny pinch of cloves. Dot with butter and bake at 350˚ until the apples bubble through the crust and the crust is brown.

In the summer, slice a peach in half and remove pit. After dinner on the grill, place the peach, cut side down, directly on the still-warm grill. The sugars in the peach will caramelize. Serve with chopped fresh mint. Another delicious summer treat is a pineapple sorbet. Use this recipe, but substitute just one tablespoon of honey and make sure your pineapple is devastatingly fresh.

Bonus tip: Yes, you may be able to have small amounts of dark chocolate. The cocoa content and the amount is what matters here. Look for high quality dark chocolate with 70% cocoa only (no milk chocolate), and only indulge every now and then.

Caution: Many newly-diagnosed diabetics will reach for sugar substitutes. Sugar substitutes can be dangerous to your health and should be avoided. In addition, artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar and should only be used sparingly, if at all. It’s better to learn moderation and substitution of naturally sweet foods than to inundate your body with artificial sweeteners. There is some conflicting research about the facts on artificial sweeteners, so talk with your doctors and take a look at what the Mayo Clinic has to say about them.

Healthy meals for diabetics are less about what you can’t have and more about expanding your knowledge of what you can have. With a few easy substitutions and some great recipes, you can eat the foods you love and manage your diabetes.

What are your favorite healthy meals for diabetes?

Image by woodleywonderworks via Flickr


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