Karen Graham wrote Canada's Diabetes Meals for Good Health (Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2012) to help people with diabetes.
Graham, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, has had 30 years of experience as a nutrition counsellor specializing in helping people lose weight and in preventing and treating diabetes.
One of the big challenges many people face, when diagnosed with diabetes, is planning meals. After a lifetime of eating what they want, when they want to eat it, people are told that they must be careful to choose the right type of foods in appropriate amounts and eat them at regular mealtimes.
I think Graham wrote this book to make it easier for people learn a new way of eating after being diagnosed with diabetes.
This book is more about meal planning than cooking. The focus is on making it easy for people to select meals to meet their personal needs, especially with regard to energy (calorie) consumption.
Care was taken to minimize the amount of fat in meals, and manage carbohydrate and fibre intakes.
Many people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are advised to lose some weight. Graham has provided tools for those who have trouble picturing how to eat for weight loss.
Although some are good at keeping track of every calorie consumed, many people are not prepared to do so. For those people, Graham has planned a number of meals to mix and match. Readers will find 15 breakfast meals, 15 lunch meals, 40 dinner meals and plenty of snacks.
She presents larger and smaller versions of the breakfast, lunch and dinner meals, each with a standard number of calories. For example, large dinners have 730 calories, and small ones have 550 calories. There is information about how to easily combine the meals and snacks for the desired total daily calories.
Diabetic food choices are listed for each meal, large and small, as well as carbohydrate and fibre counts. Beside each recipe, there is a nutrition panel listing the amounts of major nutrients, similar to the panel that is found on packaged foods.
Graham provides context with a write-up about each meal, including facts about foods that some readers may be unfamiliar with, such as plantains, notes about preparation, information about safe food handing and advice about selecting ingredients.
The reader can see, in detail, what the meals look like, as there is a full-size photograph of each large meal, with an inset showing the smaller version on the same page.
The meals are displayed well to look attractive and tempting. This provides a model for serving the food with care, and is a helpful feature for people who fear that they will have to eat bland and unappealing food for the rest of their lives.
It must be challenging to choose menus for such a book, because people with diabetes are a heterogeneous group with a wide range of tastes, cooking skills and resources.
Graham has selected meals representing some of the diversity in Canadian culture, by including, for example meals based on tacos, perogies and roti, in addition to beef stew and pork chop casserole.
She also meets people half way when it comes to cooking skills. Some of the meals, such as the sandwich lunches, require no cooking, and others rely on prepared foods such as frozen waffles.
As someone who prefers to use mainly whole foods, I would be more inclined to make something like the meatless sun burgers than the recipes that include ingredients such as light instant pudding mix or canned soups.
Recognizing, too, that people may not be prepared to give up fast food and packaged foods after learning that they have diabetes, Graham shows how to incorporate boxed macaroni and cheese into a lunchtime menu and how to select a meal of fast food once in awhile.
This book's strength lies in the amount of research that has been done, and the clear presentation of information, making it possible for the reader who wants lots of guidance to follow along and prepare diabetes-friendly meals.
Here is a recipe from one of the breakfast menus. It comes with a note that while the dish is delicious and satisfying, it's also high in fat, and should be served as an occasional treat.
From Graham, Karen:
Diabetes Meals for Good Health, second edition, Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2012
2 mL (½ tsp) margarine or butter, to grease the casserole
75 mL (1/3 cup) dry bread crumbs
2 slices raw bacon, fat partly trimmed off, chopped, OR 2 slices turkey bacon
125 mL (½ cup) skim milk
pinch black pepper
175 mL (¾ cup) sweet red pepper or broccoli (or a combination), chopped into small pieces
125 mL (½ cup) light shredded cheese
Grease the sides and bottom of a 15 cm (6 inch) casserole dish with margarine or butter. Spread the bread crumbs on the bottom of the casserole dish.
In a bowl, combine eggs, chopped bacon, milk, pepper and vegetables. Pour on top of the bread crumbs. Top with the shredded cheese. Bake in oven on the middle rack at 200 C (400 F) for 25 minutes. Once cooked, remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Gently remove slices with an egg turner. Makes 2 large or 3 small servings.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.