Friday, February 10, 2006

Beyond Jelly Sandwiches

I used to eat out all the time.

When I was in my 20s, and living alone, and meeting friends for dinner frequently, I ate a lot of sushi. And Thai. And Vietnamese. I also went through a phase where I'd eat a lot of Fruity Booty before going to bed. God, that stuff was good.

I always tried to count carbs and take the right amount of insulin. Far too often, though, my blood sugar would shoot up in the middle of the night. And far too often, even while on the pump, I'd have to bolus at 2 am and lie in bed awake until my sugar went down and I could fall back to sleep.

One weekend, though, when I didn't have any plans and didn't want to order take out, again, from the few local restaurants in my neighborhood, I checked out the fridge situation:

Bread, miraculously unmoldly.
Grape jelly, artifically sweetened.
Not much else.

I ended up eating jelly sandwiches for dinner and realized something had to change.

Cooking Light became my savior.

I'd heard about the magazine through some diabetic friends, who had raved about the recipes. I bought a copy and became a convert. And a cook.

I explored my local supermarket far more frequently. I learned about spices, about herbs, and about foods that weren't ready-made. (I'd rarely bought raw chicken breasts before Cooking Light. Or fresh basil.)

Now the magazine comes straight to my door every month, and usually it makes my mouth water. Vietnamese clam chowder with cilantro and lemongrass--fantastic. Pork with capers and wine sauce--super delicious. A cranberry cheesecake that was labor-intensive but didn't make my blood sugar skyrocket--a treasure.

The key thing, I've learned from cooking over the past few years, is that these recipes have detailed, specific nutritional information about carbs and fiber and fats. With those, I know exactly what I'm eating and precisely how much to bolus. This is because I follow recipes to the letter. Need an eighth of a teaspoon of something? A few shakes won't do--I measure it out. My two sets of measuring cups and two sets of measuring spoons all get used when I cook.

While I still enjoy Cooking Light, and will be receiving it in the mail for the next two years, I recently went to the library to check out other cooking magazines.

The ones with the most scrumptious photos, and the most unbelievable-looking foods, are the ones without the nutritional information included.

Gourmet, Food & Wine and Bon Appetit all look delicious, if not complicated, but without the carb and fat counts, I don't think it's worth the effort. I wonder if they don't include nutritional information because it would be obvious just how high-fat and high-carb these meals would be.

And if I want delicious food that I doesn't include the nutritional information for, I can always go out to eat. (Something I still do quite frequently).

But the magazines Eating Well, Everyday Food, and to a smaller extent, Cook's Illustrated, intrigued me because they either had the nutritional information included, or had a delicious asparagus recipe (from Cook's Illustrated) that I knew wouldn't send my sugars sky-high.

And while the library had some sort of "Diabetic Recipes" magazine on the shelves, the photos didn't make anything look all that appetizing, and the articles about "eating well when you're diabetic" were pretty elementary. So I skipped that one altogether.

With the carb, fiber and fat counts available for any recipe, a food becomes diabetic-friendly no matter what magazine it comes from.


art-sweet said...

The weightwatchers cookbooks also include this information and (the more recent ones especially)have surprisingly tasty recipes. You can get free recipes from their website as well. Also, if you go to advanced search on epicurious, and check the SELF magazine option under source, you'll get lots of searchable recipes with nutrition info! My mom still has a copy of some hideous cookbook called sugarfree cooking on her shelf - don't think it's been cracked since I was 12 or 13...

Andrea said...

Wow, I'm quite impressed :)- I wish I was so inspired to cook. It would be nice to be able to prepare such tasty meals for myself. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate it. No, it's just that I'm really too damn lazy, lol.

Question: How do you keep all the ingredients on hand when you prepare your meals? I know sometimes the recipe asks for some really funky things.

Enjoy your cooking :)

Lyrehca said...

Hey Andrea--Believe me, I don't cook nearly as often as I'd like. It's more like a weekend project for me, so I often go out on detailed grocery store trips to find fresh cilantro (not so hard to find) or fresh galangal (more of a challenge) and then spend the rest of the day cooking. The fresh stuff doesn't keep well, but stuff like bottled ginger or fish sauce stays in the pantry for a long time. And thanks, art-sweet, for the Weight Watchers tips. I'll check those cookbooks out.


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