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Feb 18, 2001 02:37 PM

Kashrut & Diabetes

  • m

I am looking for resources to help me with Kosher Diabetic meal planning. Except for purely vegetarian cooking, I am having a hard time planning appropriate meals that include the all of the types of food my husband is supposed to have. Todah rabah~ Maia

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  1. Maia, many of us are familiar with kashrut, but could you give us some of the specific dietary requirements your husband has because of his diabetes? That would help us help you.

    1. I don't have any specific resources to point you to, but I'm diabetic and I do keep kosher, so here's my experience.
      Meat meals -- lunch and dinner - are not usually a problem -- I try to have some type of protein, plus one or two servings of carbohydrate, vegetables and a fruit serving right after the meal.
      With dairy meals, I would say the dificulty is finding the right balance of protein to carbohydrate. I would consider hard boiled eggs or egg whites, egg white or egg substitue omlettes with some low fat cheese or non-fat cheese (and maybe some tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms). Soy protein shakes can be a good way to work in some extra protein. Skim milk also has more protein than low-fat or whole milk. There are some new cereals on the market that are higher in protein, these might be a good idea, too.
      Feel free to email me with specific questions. I would say be sure to try to work in some fresh vegetables at every opportunity, it's a good way to get some low calorie and low carbohydrate, high fiber nutritious foods into the diet -- especially at a time when so much else is being restricted.
      Be careful with processed "diet" or "sugar-free" foods, they may add whey and other milk products to make them taste better, even if they are something you might ordinarily eat with a meat meal.

      1. r
        Rabbi Hirsch Meisels

        Just got across to this link Cookbook gives diabetics a hand keeping kosher

        Rabbi Hirsch Meisels
        Jewish Friends With Diabetes

        1. It is very easy to keep kosher and provide meals suitable for a diabetic. I was diagnosed with adult onset diabetes some years ago and have found that a very healthy meal is both kosher and suitable for my needs. Modern diabetes management emphasizes counting grams of carbohydrates, which include fruits as well as breads, pastas, starchy veggies, and sweets. "Exchanges" are a matter of habit for long-time diabetics and food sellers but they are not useful. And ignore the "sugar free" cookies that are full of starch. Even if you can find them with a heksher, you don't want them.

          In terms of meal planning, much depends on the meds/insulin regimin, or if you control by diet and exercise alone. Forget about those comfy all-starch meals like pizza and garlic bread, mac'n'cheese, or risotto as a main dish. Forget about huge plates of cholent, too. Proteins may be limited to control weight, so you don't want to fill up on a 16-oz steak, either.

          Consider a basic dinner of a reasonable amount of protein, such as fish or chicken, one or two cooked veggies, a salad, and small portions of carbs. That might be a little rice, potato, or a small amount of pasta. Or, depending on where you live and what fruit's available, it might be something like fresh strawberries.

          Working backwards, lunch is easy if you make it yourself. Find what you like best, either dairy or meat. Limit the carbs--if you like meat, instead of a thick sandwich, try turkey or chicken on a salad. Have some fruit for carbs. If you are at home, a small spoonful of sorbet is fine!

          Breakfast needs to be carefully measured. I can't have raisins and cereal and orange juice at the same time anymore. Figure out what works for you.

          The hard part is getting to know your own (your husband's !) body. Test your blood after every meal for a while to know what is tolerated and what sends blood sugar skyrocketing.

          I find that the one challenge with kashrut and diabetes was spacing out milk and meat meals when I am supposed to eat small meals frequently. What I do now is eat my fruits as mini-meals or snacks in between breakfast/lunch and lunch/dinner. That's a nice pareve transition and lets me keep my carbs spaced throughout the day.

          In terms of "all the foods" your husband is supposed to eat they are the same as what we should all eat. Limit the fats, keep protein reasonable, count the carbs, and fill up on those raw and cooked veggies. I love to cook, and I love to eat. I find it easiest to eat healthy if I use the freshest food available. That includes chicken and fish. Frozen just doesn't cut it.

          I have trouble in shul on Shabbat, as I can't go that long without eating and then the kiddush is often a high carb meal. I don't hesitate to take a break in the kitchen and find some pretzels mid-morning, and if I over-indulge in bagels (a whole bagel is too much for me!) then a walk home is the answer.

          In fact, for those occasions when "cheating" can't be resisted, some serious exercise is really the answer. When we go to NY and get to a kosher pizzeria, I simply set a fast pace walking down the street afterwards for about 30 minutes. By the time I test my blood the numbers aren't nearly as scary as if I just sat around.

          Good luck!