Dieting with Diabetes

Barbara Wilson

In our feature on Healthy Eating with Diabetes, you can see there are a number of strategies to help diabetics regulate their blood sugar levels.

A very popular approach is to choose foods according to the Glycaemic Index (Gi).

The glycaemic index is a ranking of foods based on their effect on blood glucose levels. Foods that breakdown quickly during digestion and lead to an immediate and sharp increase in blood glucose are regarded as high in the glycaemic index, or are High Gi foods.

Foods that breakdown slowly and release glucose gradually into the blood stream are low in the glycaemic index, or are Low Gi foods. These foods do not cause the blood glucose levels to rise sharply and so help maintain steady blood glucose levels. They also help you to feel fuller for longer.

You can make a few simple changes to your diet to replace high Gi foods with low Gi foods:

- Choose breakfast cereals made from wholegrains, barley or oats instead of corn or rice
- Choose wholegrain bread instead of white bread
- Replace potatoes with pasta or rice
- Choose brown rice over white rice
- Go for low Gi fruit such as apples, cherries, prunes and pears instead of high Gi fruit like passion fruit, watermelon or pineapple
- Include pulses, beans, nuts and seeds in your diet

And to help you put this theory in practice, here are some recipes based on low Gi foods:

Lentil soup

Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a large saucepan and fry a large, chopped onion until browned. Add 2 large crushed cloves of garlic and 500g red lentils and stir. Pour over 2 litres of vegetables or chicken stock and bring to the boil, removing any scum.

Stir in 1 tsp each of ground cumin and coriander and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Simmer for about 1 hour or until the lentils have softened. Before serving, stir in the juice of a lemon and a small bunch of chopped flat leaf parsley.

Makes 6 servings. Nutritional information: 3 totals or 305 calories, 3g of fat and 51g of carbs per serving.

Bean and chorizo pasta

Soak 150g dried kidney beans overnight or for around 8 hours (before going to work, for example). Drain and bring to the boil; simmer for about 40 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Heat a non-stick pan and add 100g chopped chorizo sausage. Cook gently until the oil is released and the sausage starts to brown. Drain off the excess oil and set the sausage aside on a plate covered with kitchen paper.

Return the pan to the heat and gently cook a medium chopped onion and a crushed clove of garlic until slightly softened. Add a 400g tin of tomatoes, ½ a tsp of sugar and season well with black pepper. At this stage, you can add dried herbs such as basil, oregano, sage or mixed herbs, or you can add fresh herbs towards the end of cooking.

Bring the tomato sauce to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, adding 200g frozen peas and the kidney beans 5 or 6 from the end of the cooking time. Add fresh herbs, if using. Meantime, cook 200g pasta and serve with the tomato chorizo sauce.

Makes 6 servings. Nutritional information: 3 totals or 280 calories, 5g of fat and 47g of carbs per serving.

Fruit and oat crumble

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Rub 50g polyunsaturated margarine into a mixture of 100g each of plain and wholemeal flour. Stir in 50g sugar and 100g porridge oats. Wash and core 3 large apples and 3 pears. Slice these and arrange in an ovenproof dish, along with 6 chopped dried apricots. Spoon over the crumble mixture and bake in the preheated oven for 20 - 25 minutes until golden.

Makes 6 servings. Nutritional information: 4 totals or 350 calories, 11g of fat and 59g of carbs per serving.

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