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Jul 17, 2008 07:22 AM

Adapting recipes to be low-cholesterol and diabetic friendly?

Long story, but I'm been thinking about assembling for a friend (as a gift) a book of "favorite" recipes that have been adapted to be low-cholesterol and diabetic friendly. But, I have no idea how to do that. Does anyone have some specific pointers and/or "rules of thumb" on how to do that, particularly with baked goods?

I'm assuming to make something more diabetic-friendly you could:

~reduce the amount of sugar
~substitute splenda for the sugar
~use agave nectar
~cut back on the refined, white flours (are there other flours that work well as a substitute, say, soy flour?)
~cut back on the fats
~substitute apple sauce and prune juice for the fats

I'm assuming to make something more low-cholesterol you could:
~reduce the amount of egg yolks
~reduce the amount of fats

The first recipe I want to try to adapt would be the ELVIS CAKE: Which calls for the cake: for all-purpose flour; white sugar; butter or shortening; milk; baking powder; salt; vanilla extract; 3 eggs; 2 mashed banana; banana extract; mini chocolate chips. For the frosting, it calls for Frosting
2 sticks of butter; 1 cup of smooth peanut butter; 4 cups of powdered sugar; milk.

Is this crazy to even try? How would you adapt it? Could I use soy or some other flours instead of part of the flour? Splenda for some of the sugar? Applesauce in lieu of the shortening? More egg whites in lieu of the eggs?

I think the frosting would be impossible. I thought I could try to use PB2 "peanut butter" powder which has 25% of the fat of peanut butter but I'm not sure what else might make it spreadable and creamy the way butter would. Silken tofu?

And the second recipe I want to try to adapt would be my STEAMED BANANA CAKE: which calls for bananas, rice flour, tapioca flour, sugar, salt, coconut milk, and coconut.

I think, again, I could maybe use splenda or agave nectar for some of the sugar. But, is tapioca flour problematic for diabetics? Are the coconut milk and coconut problematic for those watching their cholesterol?

Or, is this just a crazy, impossible project?

I also thought I'd include recipes for AnneInMpls' OATMEAL-YOGURT PANCAKES:

although, I wonder if there's anything I can do to cut back the butter.

Any other recipes I ought to think about? Any general rules of thumb I need to know? Any other resources to point me to?

I know I'm all over the map here, but I've just got all of these ideas and questions colliding in my head.

Thank you!


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  1. Hi TDQ,

    What a great idea. I'll let other experts weigh in but I have two nephews (age 12 and 15) with Type II diabetes. 90% of all diabetics have Type II. In Type II, the pancreas produces the required insulin but somehow the body does not utilize it effectively. Contrary to popular belief it is not so much sugar intake that has to be closely monitored but carbs, fats and proteins (to a lesser degree somewhat.) My nephews eat regular foods with the family. They are on no special diet and they enjoy all the foods they ate before the diagnosis. They just have to monitor their blood glucose levels all the time i.e. before and after meals it seems. And with these new fancy and very non-invasive medical devices, they do their own self-monitoring!

    1 Reply
    1. re: scoopG

      Thank you, scoopG.

      I've been doing a little googling and here are some substitution guides I found that might be helpful for others stumbling across this thread. I am definitely still interested in more input from all of you, though:

      Mayo Clinic:

      Cooking Light:

      Eating Well


    2. TDQ:
      I applaud you for looking at how to make some recipes 'healthier' I'd be interested in the recipes and would gladly try the recipes, as another tester.

      As a very controlled Type 2 diabetic, managed by exercise and keeping an eye on what I eat--but not obsessing about it, I'm always interested in healthier foods. Since my blood sugars are in such good control, I don't worry about adapting recipes. I really try to keep my portion small ( and not eat too many portions )

      My experience with cooksbooks for diabetics is pretty dismal ( The Forbiddened Foods Diabetic Cookbook --can be gotten from American Diabetes Association ) from a satisfaction standpoint. I'd really rather manage my portion control than have something that was substandard.
      I don't use splenda. I've tried stevia, I have some agave ( sp?) syrup, but haven't gotten into using it, either. When I bake I often reduce the sugar, just because I don't need all of that sugar, and the product usually tastes just fine. For example, when I make Banana Bread, I reduce the sugar by half.

      That said, not everyone has well controlled diabetes.
      And it is always laudable to reduce sugar and fats anyone's health.

      So that's my perspective on recipe adaptation. Let me know if you'd like me to test your adaptations. I'm local to you: I'd be willing to meet and share a couple of cookbooks I have for your reference.

      1 Reply
      1. re: type2runner

        Thank you, type2runner, for your thoughts on this. I've kind of gone a different direction with my recipe collection... Instead of adapting recipes, I've been more focused on just searching out healthier recipes to include. To your point about cutting sugar in half in most of your recipes, funnily enough, that was one of the recommendations in one of the links I found.

        How do you like stevia? I haven't used it in about 10 years, but, confess, I didn't love it. I prefer the agave but, like you, haven't done much with it. I have used Splenda on occasion and sometimes have been happy with the results, sometimes not.

        Funny, you're the second Twin Cities 'hound to suggest a cookbook-focused meeting. karykat suggested one, too. Perhaps we should tack a cookbook-meeting onto one of our chowdowns? I'll put my email address in my profile. Drop me a note if you're interested in exploring this idea.

        I need to go for my morning walk now, but, later on, I'll come back and post a link re: agave nectar you might find interesting. Here it is:

        Also, I've been dying to try Heidi Swanson's black bean brownie recipe


      2. I've asked this question before since my father had developed diabetes. The basic answer I got was to balance carbs with proteins, and to keep the carbs complex and fiber-rich; a healthier diet for all, diabetic or not. I am not a nutritionist, so correct me if I am wrong here, but my response to that goes as: with anything pastry I am a big proponent of protein-rich and heart healthy nuts. Pecans, walnuts, almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts all topping my list (I read somewhere that macadamia nuts have the least amount of good fats, not sure where peanuts fit in).
        As for the Elvis Cake, at least the icing has protein-rich peanut butter in it, and nut oils are good cholesterol so no worries there. I see the rest of the cake as an impossibility, since the texture and taste all depends on the lightness of the flour and full fat taste of the butter and yolks (providing the protein balance for diabetics, but bad for cholesterol).
        How about a whole wheat and semolina banana bread with canola oil and dark chocolate chips with that peanut butter icing... trying some peanut oil in place of the butter in the icing will make the icing runnier but it might work still. You could call it the Elvis-lite Cake.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Ida Red

          What a fantastic suggestion, Ida Red, for the Elvis cake. I think I shall try that!


          1. re: Ida Red

            Thats not _exactly_ how I understood my Diabetic Ed team. Re: balancing carbs and protein.
            Biggest point should be for the diabetic and supporting family members to visit with a dietician to learn what's best _for that individual_

            I continue to use, as a guide ( for me/my weight) 3 carb choices for each meal, and a couple carb choices for a snack ( during the day or evening). Balance implies to me equal portions, which I don't do. Something like 1 ounce for breakfast ( an egg), 2 for lunch and 3 for dinner. Exercise (length and intensity) changes that.

            Also, I look to sports nutrition for guidance, and they promote a 65% carb. Cannot remember the balance of protein and fats. Sorry. But you get the picture that its not equal servings.

            Agreed that complex carbs are good. Nuts are good, but again, portion control is key. I can down a can of peanuts in very little time. Not so good for the number of calories, since I have a bit of a focus on losing weight.

            1. re: type2runner

              So, what you are saying is that the carb/protein balance greatly depends on the individual? Is that what you mean?

              1. re: Ida Red

                First rec would be to talk to a dietician.
                I think the porportion of carbs to protein would depend on the individual's blood sugar issues/meds ( too high, when, what meds and what those meds do) and the individuals' goals ( weight loos or not) and the individual's exercise. I'm a big proponent of exercise to manage blood sugars. Hope that helps.

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