A Farewell to Carbs

A 30-something navigating the world of Type 2 Diabetes while remaining fun, fashionable and fabulous.

What’s cooking: Skinnytaste shout out 03/04/2012

Filed under: cooking — Diabetic Diva @ 2:46 pm
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My schedule, both personal and professional, has never fit into what most people would consider normal. I wake up later than most people, and I often am at work for a period that spans two meal times.

Stuffed pepper soup, thanks to Skinnytaste.com

This is why I’ve had such trouble binge eating at night — I often don’t eat enough during the day and then overdo it when I finally get home and don’t have anything more to check off on my to-do list.

Since my goal for March is to stop eating after 9 p.m., it means rethinking how I approach mealtimes. As a diabetic, I need to eat small meals regularly to keep my blood sugar levels from sitting in the front seat of Coney Island’s Cyclone.

So this past week, I thought I’d make it a point to plan out breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks — and aim to eat them between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

I’ve also been feeling a little uninspired by my recipe collection. So I turned to a site that a friend raves about: Skinnytaste.

Put simply, Skinnytaste’s site is amazing. Ah-may-zing. I decided that I wanted to do a soup packed with veggies for lunch and I really, really wanted pasta for dinner. So after surfing around a little, I found Stuffed Pepper Soup and a Cajun Chicken Pasta. Both were relatively easy to make and absolutely delicious.

A few notes: The chicken pasta dishe is a smidge hgh in carbs for my eating plan, so I cut back the amount of pasta by about 2 uncooked ounces. I also premeasured the pasta and then poured the chicken-veggie-sauce mixture over top.

My version of Skinnytaste's cajun chicken pasta

The soup was out of this world after I added a little cumin and some paprika. Skinnytaste has you add the rice separately, which is nice because you know how much you’re getting. Instead of portioning that out into separate containers, I kept the soup in a large plastic container and the rice separately and then measured out a serving for each lunch.

Skinnytaste provides both the nutrition content and the Points Plus value on every recipe. Both recipes were Points bargains and the pasta was so good, I actually entered all the ingredients into a recipe calculator and made sure the nutrition information was accurate. It was, of course.

I am really looking forward to trying more of her recipes out.

 

Coming to terms 02/27/2012


I took a little break from blogging last week because I was struggling so much with staying on track. I didn’t feel like I could sit here and write about what I was doing if I wasn’t actually doing it. Besides, I felt horrible about myself for being weak enough to stop focusing on what I was eating and skipping the gym at the slightest provocation.

Most frustrating for me is that I continued to break promises I’ve made to myself. I wasn’t spending 210 minutes a week at the gym. I wasn’t writing down what I was eating. I wasn’t taking time out to enjoy my meals. I was making my regular rounds of the region’s fast food establishments. Basically, I was right back to where I had started — unhappy and unhealthy and at the end of my rope.

I am the kind of person who goes out of her way to keep promises to others. I hate breaking my word. I have kept plans with friends even when I can’t exactly afford to do so. I have stayed late at work to complete work I promised to my boss.

When it comes to keeping my word to myself, I can rationalize any bad decision. I’ll go to the gym tomorrow. I’ll eat better next week. This is the last time I will eat a triple cheeseburger from Wendy’s.

Here’s the thing: It’s never the last time. Tomorrow will never come. And I have to come to terms with the fact that I am an addict.

I’m not trying to be all dramatic here. And I don’t mean to belittle alcoholics and drug addicts. But I’m addicted to food. I’m addicted to being unhealthy.

It’s killing me, and I don’t care.

But unlike an addiction to alcohol or drugs, how do you avoid food? Even if I can walk right on past the candy aisle at the grocery store, the vending machine at work is calling to me. I buy a bag of almond M&Ms and think … I’ll just eat a couple. I can handle this.

Clearly, I cannot handle it. Even the spectre of kidney dialysis and a possible heart attack hasn’t slowed me down. It’s given me pause. It’s inspired me to eat a little better for a week or two, to make a show of hitting the gym. And then I’m right back to giving in to my addiction.

Apparently, I don’t value myself or my health enough to get serious about getting better. The worst part is that I feel lost and fat and ugly for not doing what seems to come so easily to everyone else. I feel out of control when I have a cabinet full of junk food.

So Tuesday, after another disappointing morning on the Weight Watchers scale, I decided that I need to get serious. I am stronger than food. I value myself enough to want to make the changes I need to make.

I have committed to writing everything I eat down, to sticking to my eating plans and burning some calories at the gym every day. I have committed to focusing on the promised I made myself in January and earlier this month.

It’s too soon to tell whether my work over the past week has paid off. And I can’t guarantee that I won’t head back to all the bad decisions that have gotten me here.

However, I’m trying hard to remember that I need to value myself as much as I value my work and my friends. Otherwise, I won’t be around to keep any promises to anyone.

 

What’s cooking: Red curry 02/26/2012

Filed under: cooking — Diabetic Diva @ 2:42 pm
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We’re lucky to have three really good thai restaurants in town. But no matter which we end up at, I never even look at the menu. Hey — when I find something I really like, I stick with it. I’m very loyal that way.

Eggplant, red bell pepper and basil will soon swim in red curry sauce

Red curry is the perfect mix of creamy and spicy. I love the crisp tender vegetables swimming in the sauce, the thin slivers of chicken hiding toward the bottom of the bowl, and the flavorful, earthy leaves of thai basil.

But I don’t know how many calories are in that heaping plate of curry from the thai place down the street, and I always eat way too much rice to soak up that delicious sauce. So I took to my kitchen, armed with a bottle of Trader Joe’s red curry sauce and a dream — to eat delicious thai food all week without shelling out $15 a night.

Hint: The bottled sauce I used is relatively low in calories and carbs, but if I did it all over again, I think I’d pour the quarter-cup serving of sauce warmed in the microwave over each portion of chicken, veggies and rice. That would give me a little more control on exactly how much sauce I was getting.

You’ll need:

Two boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2-3 ounces, cooked, per serving)

Small eggplant, chopped (I peel mine because I don’t like the skin)

2 small red bell peppers, chopped into large chunks

8 basil leaves

1 bag frozen green beans

1 T olive oil or coconut oil

1 jar red curry sauce

brown rice (I use Minute Rice), prepared according to directions without added fat or salt

Oh, yeah. That's what I'm talking about

Slice chicken thinly and add to large wok with a generous hit of cooking spray. Stir until browned on all sides. Remove from pan.

Add 1 T oil to wok and add eggplant and bell pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add green beans. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add cooked chicken and basil leaves to wok. Pour 1 cup of sauce over top, stir to coat.

Serve over 1/2 cup of hot rice.

Serves 4.

Nutrition information depends on the sauce used. I calculated my meal as about 10 Weight Watchers points plus per serving. To calculate exact nutrition information, plug the ingredients into http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp

 

Human Guinea Pig: Blood orange-flavored Greek yogurt 02/16/2012


An occasional feature wherein Diabetic Diva reviews products that purport to help with a healthy lifestyle. She receives no compensation or sponsorship for these reviews. Curious about a product? Leave suggestions in the comments section or e-mail diabetic.diva79@gmail.com.

My brief relationship with a nutritionist back when I was first diagnosed with diabetes left me with a few take-away points. In addition to suggesting a carbohydrate maximum for each meal and snack, she told me to try and combine a carb and a protein for each snack I had. Great advice. She also turned me on to Greek yogurt.

Now, I was raised on Yoplait Light. Greek yogurt was pretty much a mystery to me. But my nutritionist gave me some coupons for Chobani brand yogurt that made it pretty much free. So I gave it a shot.

The first few flavors I tried were … not so great. The fruit-on-the-bottom kind of weirded me out because the texture was weird. There was a tang to the Greek yogurt that Yoplait didn’t have.

But fat-free Greek yogurt is creamy. It’s substantial. It feels like you are eating something decadent. So I bid farewell to ordinary yogurt and stuck to the honey flavor for years.

I eventually branched out into lemon and pineapple (which is a 2 percent Greek yogurt, so it’s creamy like WHOA! as the cool kids were recently saying). A friend had mentioned Chobani having a cinnamon-apple flavor but I’d never seen it, so I was treating it like an urban legend.  I also tried and rejected several flavors, including mango, strawberry-banana and pomegranate.

The other day, I saw my boss eating a cup of Chobani that looked a little like the pomegranate. Because I’m nosy, I asked her what flavor it was. She told me it was blood orange and that it was delicious. I was intrigued, though I stopped short of asking her for a bite.

My new BFF, blood orange

And when I made a brief trip to the fancy grocery store to get fancy tea, I walked past a display that had blood orange Chobani front and center.

I bought two. I packed the first one in my lunch Tuesday, along with some sliced strawberries and a handful of Kashi cinnamon GoLean crunch, planning to make a parfait of sorts.

Let me tell you, readers. Blood orange Chobani is AWESOME. It’s all citrusy and sweet and creamy and oh wow. I need a moment. I might have found a new favorite treat. Together with the strawberries, it was ah-may-zing. It’s worth a separate trip to the fancy grocery store once a week, and perhaps a letter-writing campaign to the corporate headquaters of my not-so-fancy normal grocery store.

Fat-free Greek yogurt has become the dieter’s darling because it has double the protein of regular yogurt, which makes you feel more satisfied and keeps you from getting hungry so quickly.

Each 6-ounce cup of the blood orange flavor has 140 calories, 0 grams of fat, 21 grams of carbs and 14 grams of protein. It’s a little too many calories to stand in for a snack, but I usually eat one as part of my lunch or as a quickie breakfast.

Rating: Four stars (out of possible four)

Cost: $1 per cup, which carries one serving

Availability/more information: http://www.chobani.com/products/where/

 

Taking stock 01/26/2012


If you don’t have it, you can’t eat it.

That’s one of the Weight Watchers mantras. When I first heard it at a meeting last week, I took it to mean that if you didn’t have the bag of chips or the box of chocolates in the house, you wouldn’t be tempted.

I joined WW about seven years ago and had a lot of success with it. I lost 75 pounds in about a year. I gained it all back, of course, as soon as I stopped going to WW meetings. I joined again last Tuesday because I had to admit to myself that I didn’t really know what the hell I was doing in terms of how many calories I was supposed to eat or how many calories I was actually consuming. WW makes everything fairly easy by converting nutritional values into “points” and then giving everyone a points value to hit every day.

Getting back to the point of this post, I had forgotten how  much planning went into the first couple of weeks of WW. Just planning a day’s worth of eating to make sure you’re staying within your points but not eating them before noon is exhausting at first. I spent large chunks of time last week contemplating committing armed robbery at fast food restaurants, but instead of making off with the cash drawers, I’d be demanding burgers and fries. (I decided against it after realizing I’d have some horrible nickname. Leave your suggestions in the comments. Best one will win a prize as yet to be determined.)

Back to the point again! As I acclimate to life on the WW plan, I came to realize that the mantra means more than “don’t keep tempting foods around.” It also means keeping healthy foods around for easy, healthy meals and snacks.

Because I was a former weight watcher, I haven’t lost the habit of buying certain healthy foods at the store and keeping them around to build meals. Here’s a few suggestions:

PANTRY

I think I’ve mentioned my obsession with Trader Joe’s. We don’t have one in my little corner of Pennsylvania (someone get ON THAT PLEASE!) but when I visit my folks in Virginia, I always go over and stock up. I usually get two boxes of Trader Joe’s brand Whole Wheat Couscous, which I use like brown rice. It takes literally 5 minutes to make. I also pick up a couple of sauces to add zip to meat and veggies. Among my favorites are the green curry simmer sauce, satay peanut sauce and pesto sauce. None of the three are what you would consider low-cal or low-fat, but used in moderation, they all fit into my eating plan. I usually also have some jarred spaghetti sauce, one that is low-salt and has no added sugar or fat, on hand.

Additionally, I pick up a couple of BIG bags of lower-carb trail mix when it’s on sale at Target or the grocery store and then portion it out into single servings with my trusty kitchen scale. I also have mini-bags of microwave popcorn (again, read nutrition labels carefully) for night-time snacks. Quick-cooking oats, Minute brand brown rice and whole wheat pasta round out my pantry basics. All three are high in fiber, which bring down their net carb content, and are easy to cook.

A quick note: With the exception of the TJ’s items, most of the pantry staples go on sale once a month or so. I stock up when they’re on sale, or find a coupon, to bring the cost down a little. I buy the Sunday paper each week and go through the grocery store sale circulars and the glossy coupons circulars and plan my meals and “stock up trips” around what’s on sale. A little planning and the store club cards usually saves me $500+ a year.

FREEZER

I buy family packs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts when they go on sale. Then I separate them out into packs of two in freezer bags (make sure you write the date on the freezer bag!). Then I can pull out one bag for each meal. Ditto on ground beef, steak and pork — wait until they’re on sale, portion it out at home and then fill your freezer with a month’s worth of meat.

I also buy frozen veggies, usually the kind you can steam in the bag but with no added fat or sugar. In addition to using these in stir fry dinners, I also can heat some up and eat them as a snack with a little pesto or cheese. Frozen edamame (the kind still in the pod) is a delicious snack. Heat it up and shake some low-sodium soy sauce on them to add a little more flavor.

Deli flats, small pitas and low-cal, high-fiber English muffins can stand in for toast, be used as a base for mini-pizzas or sandwiches or even as a snack with some hummus. I keep them frozen and just pull one out at a time. Twenty seconds in the microwave should defrost them, and then I toast them or stick them in the oven to warm ’em up.

I also buy sugar-free popsicles — usually fudgesicles and the cherry-grape-orange ones — as a sweet treat. It’s not the same as ice cream, but it’s often a decent substitute.

Finally, I keep a couple of frozen diet meals around. I know they’re high in sodium and they don’t taste as good as a homemade meal. But if it’s really busy at work, a Lean Cuisine can help me stick to my eating plan.

FRIDGE

I usually pick up some apples and a grapefruit because they have a longer shelf-life than more delicate fruits (like peaches and strawberries). Since I’m REALLY REALLY picky about fruit  (I will not eat fruit that’s the least bit squishy or brown. I know how weird it is), staying fresh for more than a few days is a good selling point.

I also buy a bag of lettuce mix for quickie salads and a bag of spinach, which does really well as an omelette filling. Sliced mushrooms (also for omelettes), roma tomatoes and a big bag of baby carrots are also regularly occurring cast members in my produce drawer.

Finally, I keep a bottle of low-sodium soy sauce and a bottle of minced garlic in the fridge, as well as some bottled sparkling water, a couple of containers of Greek yogurt and some low-cal string cheese.

And that’s about it, in terms of what I *ALWAYS* have in the house. I replenish these as I use them, so the spaghetti sauce might need to be replaced once a month or every other month. Fruit and veggies get used up faster, as does the chicken, the string cheese and (sadly) the popsicles.

Keeping a well-stocked pantry takes away some of the difficulty of planning a meal. Because (say it with me!) you can’t eat what you don’t have.

Your turn: What’s in your pantry, fridge and freezer?

 

What’s cooking: Anything goes 01/24/2012

Filed under: cooking — Diabetic Diva @ 8:37 am
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Sunday morning, I had big plans for what I was going to cook for the week. I had Monday off from work and I was going to spend the day whipping up healthy, delicious food that I would be able to enjoy all week.

I went through my recipes, picked a couple and put together a grocery list. And then I realized — I’m BROKE. Payday is Friday and some poor financial planning on my part means there’s not a lot of extra money this week for elaborate meals.

Instead, I was reduced to planning a “whatever’s in the fridge and pantry” meal. Luckily, I’m a pretty smart shopper and stock up on certain items whenever there’s a sale and/or coupons. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts usually go on sale once a month or so. Ditto for frozen veggies.

After a brief expedition into the icy tundra of my freezer, I pulled out some chicken and some broccoli/cauliflower/carrot mix. A quick check of the fridge door uncovered some soy sauce and there was some corn starch in the back of a cabinet. I also had a couple of handfuls of cashews in a bag hiding behind the instant oatmeal. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? STIR FRY!!!!

Stir fry is a great dish for three reasons. 1. It’s fairly quick-cooking because everything’s in small chunks. 2. It’s all made in one pan, so it’s an easy cleanup. 3. There’s no wrong way to make stir fry. Add your favorite veggies, a meat or meat-substitute for protein and some sort of flavorful, low-fat sauce and you’ve got dinner.

To make my stir fry this week, I sliced defrosted chicken into thin strips (cook’s tip: slice it while it’s still slightly frozen and you’ll get really even strips) and threw it in a wok with some garlic and a couple of shots of cooking spray.

When the chicken was brown on both sides, I threw the frozen veggies and a teaspoon of olive or vegetable oil. I added a few shakes of soy sauce. I stirred it around until the chicken is cooked through. I added the cashews and stirred to mix in. Finally, I added a few pinches of corn starch and stirred it in (see why they call it stir fry??) to thicken the sauce slightly.

You can serve your stir fry over brown rice. I usually skip the rice to save on carbohydrates.

One word of caution: Don’t overcook the veggies, especially if you plan to reheat leftovers. Frozen veggies only need a few minutes to warm up, so make sure the chicken is cooked pretty well before adding them.

Nutrition facts will vary depending on the ingredients. The easiest way to figure it out is add up all the calories, fat, carbs, protein, etc. in the entire dish and then divide by the number of servings. A good rule of thumb is 2-3 oz of meat and a cup of veggies per serving.

Your turn: What’s your favorite ingredients for stir fry?

 

Smacking down snacking 01/23/2012

Filed under: snacking smart — Diabetic Diva @ 11:13 am
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I think I may have mentioned this before, but I like to snack. In front of the television, curled up with a book, hanging out with friends, driving, sitting at my desk — you name it and I see it as an opportunity for snacking. This might be why I have 75 pounds to shed.

To make matters worse, my favorite snacks are usually junk food. Every week, I buy fruits and veggies in an attempt to at least save on calories by snacking on fresh, healthy foods. And every week, I rummage through the cabinets and the fridge to find the high-carb, high-fat, no-nutritional-value-at-all snacks.

One question you may be asking is — Why buy it if you shouldn’t eat it? And the only answer I can give you is: I HAVE A PROBLEM, OK? STOP JUDGING ME!(I’m kidding. Kind of.)

So what’s a fat girl to do? Well, SparkPeople.com has a list of smart snack ideas. And I’m happy to say that some of my new go-to snacks are on the list: Pickles, hard boiled eggs and slices of lunchmeat.

But I think I’ll go one further and make this a new rule: Every time I get the urge to snack, I’ll start out with a piece of fresh fruit or some veggies and some protein instead of automatically reaching for the family size bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

Your turn: What’s your favorite healthy snack?

 

Smart snacking 01/10/2012


Right now, I’m sitting at the computer trying to make it another 45 minutes before putting something in my mouth. I really, really want chocolate or maybe a cupcake (OK, OK, I want both). I’ll probably end up having some carrot sticks and hummus, since I’m committed to this getting healthy thing.

Visions of red velvet cupcakes dancing through my head got me thinking about the whole emotionally-fraught world of  snacking. And I remembered that I found this quiz to ascertain whether you are a “smart snacker.” The quiz, from the very useful site SparkPeople.com (which some big important magazine once called “Facebook for dieters”), is interesting but not because it actually gives you useful information on whether you are, in fact, a smart snacker. I think anyone taking the quiz probably already knows the answer to that — and that the answer is not “Yes.”

What’s interesting to me about this quiz is that it is so freakin’ obvious what the RIGHT answer is and just as obvious what your ACTUAL answer is. Here’s a sample:

When you crave something sweet, what do you usually do?

0 Nothing. I don’t eat sugary foods.

0 Go for a piece of fresh fruit.

0 Chew on a piece of fruity, sugar-free gum

0 Search for candy, cookies, chocolate — anything to satisfy my sweet tooth!

Ummmm, yeah. If your answer is the first one, go away. You don’t belong here. You’re not human! (Kidding. Good for you if it’s the first answer. But I will need to cut you to see if you bleed.) The correct answer, if you want to be a smart snacker, is the second or third option. But the fourth option is pretty much my answer, up until a few days ago.

It’s hard to choose the right answer when you’re smack in the middle of a craving for cake slathered in cream-cheese frosting. Making bad food choices is a habit. It’s something I’m used to doing. And that habit has gotten me to where I am today — more than 75 pounds overweight and diabetic.

Habits can be replaced, of course. And that’s what I’m trying to do by setting two goals a month. Slowly putting in place new habits, good habits to replace the old, unhealthy ones.

Your turn: Are you a smart snacker? What are your stumbling blocks and what strategies can you put in place to change your bad habits into good ones?

 

The girl with the plan 12/31/2011

Filed under: Goals,Introduction — Diabetic Diva @ 11:49 pm
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It’s 2012 and a time for new beginnings.

A little more than two years ago, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. I was 30 years old, and the news was devastating.

It wasn’t unexpected. I was more than 100 pounds overweight, got winded climbing more than two flights of stairs and regularly unhinged my jaw to inhale entire candy stores (not really, but it felt like it).

Surprisingly, the diagnosis has done little to change my eating habits. Oh, for a few months I counted carbs and went to the gym. And then I got angry because I couldn’t eat what I wanted to eat and I stopped. Yeah … that will show the diabetes!

Ignoring the problem (and dodging my doctor) didn’t make the diabetes go away. And I’m tired of feeling out of control.

So here’s to 2012, and chances to make a fresh start. Instead of some big, fat resolution that will be impossible to keep, I’m going to set two goals per month — all of them focused on developing those healthy habits that I’ll need to make major changes in my life.

The first two goals are relatively modest:

0 Stop eating fast food. It doesn’t really taste that good, I shouldn’t be spending my money on it, and it’s not helping my blood sugar levels

0 Exercising at least 210 minutes each week. This works out to 30 minutes a day, which is completely achievable.

Along with those, I’m hoping to get some friends involved with my getting healthy journey. In addition to making exercise and eating healthy more fun, letting other people in on my goals will help to hold me accountable.

So put on your bike helmet and get ready for the ride!