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Sep 29, 2013 07:46 AM

Diabetic cookbook recommendations?

I need a few great cookbooks for feeding my diabetic boyfriend who is just now coming to terms with the fact that he needs to eat like a diabetic and his 14 year old picky eater son. Both are happiest with traditional Mexican and American comfort foods and the son whines incessantly if there are vegetables and/or anything "weird."

Being new to diabetes, I'm struggling with cooking in ways that I know are healthy for him. Based on my knowledge, I'm basically doing South Beach Phase 1 but I'm running out of ideas and need a little more help. Based on this, I need cookbooks that:

-educate me a bit on food guidelines (I'd love to know the WHY behind the foods)
-provide tasty options for picky eaters
-give options that aren't too labor-intensive for 2 people with busy schedules

Any ideas? I've been reading lots of reviews of books but don't know what's actually worth buying.


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  1. Look for low carb books, the standard diabetic ones are all carbs and will spike you all to hell. Paleo minus the fruits can be useful, Protein Power books, Dana Carpenter's books.

    You can use this flyer to manage your glucose and alter meal content in an individualized way: Read around that site to find out why and how blood glucose control deteriorates and responds to diet.

    Also, Gretchen Becker's book: "The First Year, Type 2 Diabetes" has helped a lot of folks understand how to approach it.

    Be very wary of diabeties "educators" whose curriculum comes to you courtesy of grain and sugar lobbyists, not objective clinical science.

    The phrase that should guide you is "eat to your meter." Not to fit in 45 gms or carbs per meal or hundreds per day, as if one size fits all. And "it's a marathon, not a sprint." There's a big learning curve at the beginning and then you just refine it and develop a knowledge of your own particular food responses that guides you even without frequent testing.

    Some titles for you:

    10 Replies
    1. re: mcf

      This is exactly what I needed. Thank you!

      Your comment on diabetes educators made me feel better about some of my concerned. I've seen lots of recipes that just didn't fit with what I understood healthy eating for diabetics to look like. Your explanation clarifies a lot of that.

      Thank you for the suggestions!

      1. re: wandajune6

        You're welcome and one more, a beautiful book out of print for the U.S. version, but I got a copy from an amazon bookseller; The Low Carb Gourmet by Karen Barnaby. Really elevated food. Also, The Low Carb Cookbook by Fran McCullough, though her recipes are more Atkins style, so more added fat than some folks might necessarily use.

        I reversed long standing kidney and peripheral nerve damage and have maintained low normal blood glucose for 15 years with diet alone. If you use a free online software like or my fitness pal to track food and results, you can make very short work of finding your personal best macronutrient breakdown. For me, that has turned out to be 50% fat, about 1/3 to 1/2 of it saturated from grass fed meat and dairy, 35% protein, and 15% non starchy/sugary carbs.

        I developed my severe insulin resistance and diabetes while following a low fat, high carb diet, like the ones in the "diabetic" cookbooks.

        Good luck, and join the low carb thread on the special diets section of CH, too.

        1. re: mcf

          Amen to this. I too went looking for Type2 diabetes cookbooks when my H was diagnosed, and could not find one that didn't steer us toward grains that really do a number on his numbers!

          I bought the paleo cookbook "Well Fed" and use it not as a bible, but for inspiration. Most of my inspiration for recipes, though, comes from this board.

          1. re: pinehurst

            Because those "diabetes cookbooks" are really based upon the ADA cereal and sugar industry's lobbyists and not on concern for the diabetic's health. The heart, diabetes and dietary associations have completely sold out to food and drug interests.

            1. re: mcf

              Yes. Emphatically.
              I was shocked (no sarcasm..I really was surprised) when the healthy, low/no sugar whole grain cereals the diabetes-dedicated nutritionist recommended to my H (in hospital, on the day of his discharge) gave him crazy numbers (in the 200's). They may be part of a healthy diet for someone with no diabetes, but not for my H. And yes, you cannot separate his diabetic concerns from his heart concerns, prescription needs, etc.

              1. re: pinehurst

                so here's what the ADA did when they found out that starches and whole grains were about equal to table sugar in raising blood glucose: They told diabetics it was no longer necessary to avoid sugar, since it was no worse for them than grains!

                To this day, no acknowledgement that grains are as bad for diabetics as eating from a sugar bowl.

                1. re: mcf

                  I have a print out of this very fact posted in my office from Blue Cross Blue Shield that wanted to resound the ADA position to its patients. It's like telling a smoker that cigarettes don't cause lung cancer any faster than breathing straight car exhaust from a 1952 Ford, so go ahead and smoke cigarettes. Utterly unhealthy advice and certainly malpractice from a medical view.

            2. re: pinehurst

              pinehurst- I was looking at paleo cookbooks and stuff on pinterest as well but wasn't sure if that was going to do the trick. I'll definitely continue looking at them- and check out that cookbook! Thanks!

            3. re: mcf

              Those cookbooks look great. Thank you!

              He's been a diabetic for years but it was always managed pretty easily with a daily pill. Lately, he's been having more serious issues and has been forced to pay attention to his body. I'd love to be able to get him to a point where he's healthy and comfortable- and helping his son and I lose weight and get healthier at the same time would be a success to boot!

              Thanks for the insights. They definitely help!

              1. re: wandajune6

                the problem with eating carbs and managing it with drugs is that it doesn't improve the ultimate outcome or progression of DM, and often makes it faster and worse.

                Most type 2 DMs have lost half our pancreatic beta cells before diagnosis and those don't come back. So we have to lower carbs in order to prevent further damage to the pancreas, nerves, retinas, kidneys, arteries, etc.

        2. The American Diabetes Association provides tons of support and information that you may find useful, including cook books. Here is a link to their website,

          For $28/year, you can become a member, which gets you a subscription to their monthly magazine, Diabetes Forecast. There are recipe articles in every issue, often with seasonal themes, as well as other lifestyle advice.

          3 Replies
            1. re: masha

              Sorry, the ADA teaches you how to die early. They are in the pockets of Big Pharma - an industry that has little use for low carb healthy diets because they cannot make a cent on them and because they help diabetics get off of drugs if they're type 2 and use less insulin if they're type 1. I teach diabetes pathophysiology / pharmacotherapy at one of our nation's biggest universities and know what I'm talking about.

              1. re: slowcoooked

                For many years, their top donors were General Mills and Cadbury Schweppes and the sugar lobby got them to recomnend 10% of calories from sugar in their diet plan. Food companies were long ahead of drug cos. in setting ADA food policy.

                When the ADA funded a study by Gannon, Nuttall, et al that showed raising protein and cutting carbs controlled diabetes and cut med use, the ADA posted it briefly with a disclaimer (unprecedented) then buried it, took it down.

            2. +1 for Dana Carpender's books. We love them. The ADA and AMA still tout the malpractice pyramid of starches as the base for any diet. This will kill a diabetic early - period, no matter the type. The diet that makes most sense is a healthy lean meat / fish / veggie diet where any carbohydrate containing food consumed should take the body a good deal of effort to turn into glucose. In general colorful veggies that grow above ground, non white foods, nuts, cheeses, olive oil, lean meats, and low glycemic index fruits (berries) are going to fit the bill. Some fermented dairy items are mistakenly labelled higher than the actual carb count (e.g. yogurt, kefir) due to the conversion of lactose to lactic acid.

              21 Replies
              1. re: slowcoooked

                Thanks for the +1 and the warning! I actually ordered 2 of them off Amazon last night. I can't wait to see them!

                1. re: slowcoooked

                  I'm on board exceot for the lean meats and fish. I eat them, but mostly prefer ones with lots of healthy fats. Wild caught fish, grass fed beef, pastured butter and eggs...

                  1. re: mcf

                    Our budget is a little too tight to eat quite so well but we tend to eat some of my favorites: salmon, eggs, the odd chunk of really good cheese, etc. We're eating beef, chicken, etc. but we're just not in the position to buy the quality I'd like.

                    However, we're getting tons of veggies, experimenting with new types of whole grains, etc. The hardest part for me has been seasonings. I love cooking a broad range of foods and am used to buying whatever looks interesting in the ethnic grocery stores. As not everything in the fridge comes with nutritional information, I worry about adding too much sugar (for instance, my favorite hoisin doesn't give much nutritional information and the ingredients list is ripped up). Until recently, I had no idea how much sugar was in all of the prepackaged sauces.

                    The picky eater in the household is rebelling against homemade salad dressings (vs. the bottle of ranch), the whole grains (quinoa vs. white pasta), and baked chicken instead of fried but it's slowly getting better.

                    Now to figure out how to conquer the sweet tooth...!

                    1. re: wandajune6

                      Whole grains are not going to help, he's advanced DM and meds are no longer cutting it. subs for grains are a better bet, like cauli fauxtatoes, pureed rutabaga, gratins made from turnips or rutabaga or cauli... You can fry chicken, but not with starch breading; some folks use low carb bread crumbs, some use crumbed pork rinds. You don't have to avoid fats, other than trans, just starchy and sweet carbs.

                      Hoisin has a LOT of sugar, yes. you're going to find it much safer to make your own sauces, even if you start with a non sugary jar or packet of spice mix or curry paste at first as you adjust. Convenience foods usually have bulking agents and too much sugar and other carbs.

                      1. re: mcf

                        I didn't realize that. His doc is pretty crappy and told me that whole grains were ok. I've been trying to keep those to a minimum but I'll remove them even further.

                        Good call on starting with jarred stuff. So far, I've been trying to remove almost everything but it's a difficult adjustment. Thanks for the recommendations though- and I'll definitely need to try the cauli fauxtatoes. I haven't made those in years!

                        1. re: wandajune6

                          He'll have to use his meter to test, but these have so much protein that they don't budge my glucose meter, and aren't bitter or gritty like most LC pastas: Exas Explore Asian Mung bean fettucini, and their golden soybean spaghetti. Also, not as low carb, but Al Dente foods Carba Nada noodles don't spike me the way Dreamfield's does.

                          Ignore the pic, that's the black soybean pasta:

                          I use pureed rutabaga in place of mashed, too. Or cubed in braises to replace spuds. Also, florets of cauli with a little cream, garlic s and p topped with a mountain of shredded cheese and baked is a great winter dish.

                          1. re: mcf

                            We tried the mung bean fettucine. It seems like the same thing as the tofu shiratake noodles I used to buy. Not my favorite but not bad at all.

                            I have fallen in love with the pureed rutabaga. No one else in the house is a huge fan (yet) but I might actually like it more than mashed potatoes. Especially with a bit of roasted garlic.

                            Thanks again for all of the recommendations!

                            1. re: wandajune6

                              I'm in love with rutabaga, too, something I'd never had til I got married into a family that eats it. I put a good bit of butter into it and cauliflower fauxtatoes. It's really good as a bed under beef stew or pot roast, too.

                              I don't find the mung bean noodles at all like tofu shiritake, which I avoid like the plague I think they are! No rubber band texture, no smell or slime factor. I hate hate hate shiritaki. Bleah!

                          2. re: wandajune6

                            There are quite a few Indian sauces and pre made spice blends in stores that you can experiment with, just read the label ingredients and carb levels and consider the serving size.

                            Get some pre made Thai curry paste and coconut milk, fish sauce and make curries with plenty of sliced or diced chicken, fish and veggies. Serve over a bed of spaghetti squash or in a bowl as a stew.

                        2. re: wandajune6

                          As a general rule of thumb now having done this successfully as a T2DM patient for 14 years with normal A1C's all but the first six weeks of diagnosis and med free that same amount of time - I try to keep meals under 20 grams of effective carbs. This isn't very hard to do actually. And usually I eat significantly fewer than that. I started on Actos, Metformin, and a sulfonylurea and got off those fast because in combo with my low carb diet I was getting very low. My A1C went from 11.7 to 4.1 in six weeks from diagnosis. I now stay in the high 4's or so. And I cheat by having a few corn chips or a bite of desert now and then - I don't believe in killing one's life enjoyment to save a few months at the end, but a low carb lifestyle not only can normalize the DM complication risk, but provides more energy and can be no less delicious. When I go to McD's and get indulge my McMuffin craving (often) I eat one half of the muffin (11.5 effective carbs) it doesn't affect my BS. When I make burgers at home - I wrap 'em in good romaine with all the toppings.

                          1. re: slowcoooked

                            I have cheats, too, and when I do, I plan for them, and they typically involve chocolate and plenty of butter. :-) For my diabetic management, I count all carbs, and stay very low carb at each meal and snack, 20 grams total is too much to stay under 120 at one hour after eating most of the time. I take no meds, and I've been at this 15 years.

                            I ignore A1c as the unreliable measure it's proven to be (have a friend whose bg runs routinely in the 300s told she's "pre" diabetic this week due to 6.1% A1c) and go by 1 hour post meal. Usually, my bg doesn't rise much at all after meals, but I can live with 120, it comes down fast after the first hour.

                            My life's enjoyment doesn't come from eating starches, and I rank our food routine as pretty luxurious and indulgent, just not starchy.

                            15 years ago, I stopped my DM progression with no meds, and reversed very long standing kidney and nerve damage and maintained completely normal function all this time.

                            Your body, your science experiment. I have no such cravings, so not missing out on anything. The lower carb I go, the less I miss the crap.

                            1. re: mcf

                              mcf, that's amazing!

                              His doctor only had him measuring once a day - and is still ok with that- but I've been trying to have him measure before/after so we can see how the diet is changing. He's normally been high - averaging about 165 - but when he got his infection, it spiked very high. I'm having a hard time telling what's been changes due to diet vs. antibiotics right now since the major dietary changes came when he started spiking.

                              For him, the joy in food is about carbs so I'm really trying to find good substitutes. I know that I love them as well and that they're not good for me either so it's a process that's good for both of us.

                              Overall though, I'd feel successful if he just wasn't feeling crappy so often :)

                              1. re: wandajune6

                                MCF <------------------ Former Tiara Wearing Pasta Prom Queen. :-)

                                For the record, cheesecake, chocolate tortes and truffles, pancakes, muffins, can be made very low carb using alternative sweeteners, almond flour, all sorts of stuff. I very rarely do this and don't use a lot of sweeteners, but I make a ricotta pancake with egg and some added carbalose flour ( or almond meal and I add natural maple extract to sugar free maple syrup so it tastes like real stuff.

                                Remind him that joy from carbs leads to loss of limbs, sight, kidney and sexual function. That last one gets a rise, pun intended. ;-)

                                1. re: mcf

                                  I've been looking into making him a cheesecake. I'm using more sweeteners for him now than I'd like but I'm trying to ease the transition .Your idea will definitely ease it!

                                  Trust me- those reminders have definitely made a difference. Sadly, it was nastiness with his foot that lead to the really big changes. However, that scare seems to be enough to keep him well behaved - but your suggestions are definitely top of mind as well!

                                  1. re: wandajune6

                                    I make a fake ginger snap cxrust using almond flour, ground ginger, Diabetisweet brown, and melted butter for this, and I blend liquid sucralose 50% and xylitol 50% for sweetening, Splenda is way too carby:

                                2. re: wandajune6

                                  I have found kelp noodles to be a good substitute for more carby choices. They provide the "starch" without the spike, at least as far as I am concerned.

                                3. re: mcf

                                  I make a fall salad with a huge amount of baby spinach, and pork tenderloin... you can make noodles from julienned eggplant, zucchini ribbons, chili with black soybeans and plenty of meat. Carbquik bake mix can be useful, too.

                                4. re: slowcoooked

                                  Those are good ideas. He's been ok on metformin for the most part up until the last few weeks. We're now waiting on new blood work to see how the meds get adjusted.

                                  He ignored everything about his diabetes - other than his 2x daily pills - basically until he met me so we're learning all of this together. I've done low carb diets before (not always successfully...) so I'm at a better starting point but we definitely have more to learn.

                                  Thanks for the idea on the McD's- he loves those and has missed them!

                                  1. re: wandajune6

                                    When I make burgers, DH uses one of those sandwich thins, Josephs are the lowest carb, if you can find them, and I make my burger Burger King Whopper style, with no bun, or with a Joseph's Middle Eastern bakery tortilla or sandwich thin. That means mayo, unsweetened ketchup, pickes, lettuce, tomato, thin onion slices and sometimes cheese and bacon, too. Usually, I just use a knife and fork.

                                    A double burger on one low carb sandwich thin may work really well for him.

                              2. re: mcf

                                Well they taste better, but I think any meal high in saturated fats needs to be balanced with other meals with olive oil type fats. I'm not a fat snob for sure and cook with butter often, and think that the dogmatic anti-fat / anti-butter position with an acceptance of heavy starches is dead wrong and deadly. But I'm cautious for the average diabetic regarding their intake of continuous heavy saturated fat meals. It's not like the leaner proteins and meals are detrimental.

                                1. re: slowcoooked

                                  My meals have all healthy fats, usually combined, and are healthier as a result. For one thing, fat does not raise glucose or insulin, it's a diabetic's best friend. To be healthy, fats should be unpolluted by feedlot or other bad agricultural practices, though. I don't think lean is detrimental unless you're eating 30% fat total or less. That's not enough for optimizing health, I've heard academic lipids researchers opine.

                                  I use butter from pastured critters and also keep walnut and olive oils, sesame oil on hand at all times. No omega 6 heavy ones. I don't eat Atkins style with a lot of added fats due to personal preference, but by weighing and measuring my food and tracking it with software for about a decade of tweaking, I found that *for me* a diet of 50% fat, 35% protein and 15% carbs (high fiber, non starch mostly) gave me the best control, and has kept me in way below diabetic numbers, with increasingly good kidney and nerve function, no vision damage as I've aged.

                                  When it comes to fish, I prefer King salmon, sea bass, flounder, bluefish, all wild caught. I nave an aversion to most very lean fish. I like ribeye more than sirloin, but love flank steak (lean) and even grind burgers from it. I degrease my braises because I hate a heavy greasy mouth feel unless it's from fine cheeses or chocolate. :-)