What do you suggest for breakfast?
We had to do a major breakfast makeover, from a morning eating pattern that was very high in sodium and saturated fat to one that is much healthier. For us, breakfast needed dramatic changes, including giving up sausage, biscuits and gravy, and Wayne’s morning sandwiches that sometimes included multiple eggs and lots of white bread. We looked for healthier substitutes for bacon and sausage, including versions made from chicken or turkey, and we limit their use much more.
We use a combination of solutions. Sometimes we make:
- Overnight Oatmeal
- Egg Beater Soufflé
- Mushroom Omelette
Sometimes we do make reduced fat/reduced sodium chicken bacon or sausage, but even that requires using allowances, so we prepare much smaller quantities. We count and measure what we’re going to make, instead of just cooking a whole package and splitting it.
What do you suggest for lunch?
Lunch is often healthy leftovers from dinner the night before, or homemade soup or salads. On the weekends, Allison likes to prepare a homemade vegetable soup (or some variation of it) and freeze some of it for the coming week. With the use of a small amount of carb allowance, Wayne can make a wrap made with chicken salad. We do limit sandwiches since white bread is a temptation, but we have found some whole grain breads that we can enjoy, including “Seed-duction” from Whole Foods, and Dave’s Killer Bread, available at grocery stores. Both are completely whole grain and loaded with good fiber.
Can you still enjoy Asian cuisine?
We had several favorite Asian-inspired favorite recipes and like many people, carryout Chinese food was a mainstay of our food plan. We were shocked to see the level of sodium just in soy sauce – 800-900 mg per tablespoon! That’s not to even mention in the dishes themselves, which often contain other sauces. As a result of that, and the fact that our favorite Asian foods rely heavily on rice, we decided to remake one of our favorite foods, fried rice, to be more vegetable based. We make it with chicken or shrimp (Wayne does not eat shrimp, but Allison splits the recipe and makes her own with shrimp). Instead of the traditional white rice, we run fresh cauliflower through the food processor and sear it lightly to make it “rice” like.
The lowest-sodium substitute we have found for soy sauce is Chinatown Soy Sauce, at 145 mg. of sodium per tablespoon. Contrast that with close to 1,000 in a tablespoon of traditional soy sauce, about 500-600 mg in “reduced sodium” soy sauce, and 340 mg in a tablespoon of Coconut Aminos, which is a popular soy sauce substitute.
Do you use dairy products?
We do use dairy products, but on a very limited basis. One thing Wayne chose not to give up is cream in his coffee, but that is a couple of tablespoons per day (he has only one cup). We no longer plan entire meals around cheese! Macaroni and cheese, a longtime favorite meal of our kids, is now a once or twice a year event when they all visit; otherwise, it has been one of our makeover dishes (cauliflower cheese casserole is our alternative). The main reason for these changes is the saturated fat that is in cow’s milk. We’ve tried to get our focus away from that and more toward plant-based nutrients.
We limit our use of eggs in Wayne’s meals. That is an individual decision, because studies have gone both ways on the effects of dietary cholesterol. Wayne chooses to use Egg Beaters in his Breakfast Souffle.
Do you avoid all use of potatoes?
We do not consider potatoes part of our “Core Meal” ingredients because the starchy carbs are less than ideal for diabetic health. We don’t strictly avoid them, but like salt, sugar and saturated fat, we consider them an “allowance” to be budgeted, and we try to minimize the damage when we do include them in a meal. Also, when we include a potato dish, we try to stay as close as possible to a pure potato with only the additions we choose, rather than a bunch of unwanted ingredients. We were surprised to find that a favorite prepared mashed potato product we used to buy weekly contained added sodium, milk solids and other things we wanted to avoid.
With a baked potato (when eating out) or potato dish we make ourselves, like Smashed Potatoes, we can control what is added, what type of fat is used, and what the seasonings are. When eating out, it is helpful to take a favorite seasoning along, to avoid the temptation to fall back on salt. A plain baked potato with a trans fat-free margarine, some great seasoning and a topper, like chopped green onions, is a pretty good option!
Most of all we do try to avoid heavily processed potato products, and convenience products with a lot of added sodium and saturated fat. There are so many reasons to avoid fast food or convenience food items that combine potatoes, cheese and lots of sodium; they are no longer part of our plan.
What are your suggestions about bread, pasta and other grains?
We mostly try to avoid dishes that are centered around bread and pasta, for the same reasons as mentioned about potatoes. When you can include a truly healthy bread that is whole grain, especially when it includes seeds and/or nuts, we love to do that, but even so-called “whole wheat” bread is sometimes as light and highly refined as white bread. It might have the word “whole” on the label, but sometimes the only thing that distinguishes it from white bread is the color.
We have tried pastas with higher fiber content, and if you must have pasta, these are probably less likely than the traditional kind to spike your blood sugar. (As with everything else, we would defer to your doctor’s recommendations.) However, our experience with high fiber pasta is that it triggers a desire for the traditional style of pasta. Instead, we’ve found that not using pasta at all works better. “Zoodles” (strips of zucchini cut in shreds like noodles) are an option for pasta-like dishes without the pasta.
How do you incorporate fruits into your eating plan?
Since Wayne had already been diabetic for several years before being diagnosed with heart disease, he was already used to the drill of watching his consumption of sweets. He does eat fresh, whole fruits, but he leans toward apples and strawberries and avoids some of the most intensely sweet fruits, such as bananas and mangos.
When it comes to fruit, it’s all relative: if you’re eating a banana instead of a candy bar, you’re at least a step ahead of the game, even if the banana is also going to spike your blood sugar some.
The reason fruits are not widely used in our Core meals is simply that we’ve made a priority of filling up on whole, fresh ingredients at meal times. If you do that, snacking will be less of a temptation and when it is, you’ll still have room in your allowances for other things.
Why don’t you talk more about desserts?
We consider desserts an exception or a splurge, so they are not part of our core meals, or our meals with adjustments. This is also a result of Wayne having lived with diabetes for several years, as mentioned above. That’s not to say that you can’t use your sugar allowances toward a sweet treat, it’s just not part of our focus. Being a country guy, Wayne is more interested in a bowl of sweetened cereal for dessert than in a cake or pie, so that’s how he uses his sugar allowances.
We do have one additional suggestion about desserts: when you do choose to make an exception or splurge, make sure it’s special and that it’s worth it. Unless you’re having a really bad day, having a co-worker bring in donuts or put M&Ms or leftover Halloween candy in the break room is not “special.” Going to your favorite fancy restaurant on your birthday and getting the Crème Brulée – that’s special, and maybe that IS worth it for you.