Eating for diabetes

Posted on 25 July 2013

Abigail Donnelly, editor of Eat Out and food editor of Woolworths Taste magazine, has enjoyed a 14-year career in food. She was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes nine years ago while pregnant with her first son. She shares her tips on how to manage her condition while still cooking and eating well.

How has diabetes affected your life?
The diagnosis was a shock, as food is my career, but it did teach me to be mindful of what I eat. I only find it tricky when judging the annual Eat Out awards, but luckily the portions I have to taste are small. I’m careful with wine, which is high in sugar and, because stress can raise sugar levels, I try to manage my emotional wellbeing, too.

How can cooking be healthy, but still delicious?
A diabetic’s diet doesn’t have to be boring. Play with ingredients and make it fun! Add chilli for an extra bit of zing. Lemon juice and ginger also add excitement to meals. I always stock tins of mussels or oily fish like mackerel, which is high in omega 3, for easy take-to-work lunches. Pulses, like mung beans, chickpeas and lentils can be prepared in so many different ways and have a low glycaemic index (GI), which helps prevent undesirable spikes and dips in your sugar levels.

What’s a healthy sweet treat?
I love fruit and, for an extra sweet treat, use natural honey in my yoghurt. I also enjoy the odd bit of 70% dark chocolate rather than artificial sweeteners.

What advice can you give for dining out as a diabetic?
When ordering pizza, stick to toppings like goat’s milk cheese, buffalo mozzarella or feta – soft white cheeses are healthier. If you’re a pasta fan, check that it’s made with durum wheat and choose a tomato-based sauce rather than a creamy one. Opt for grilled fish rather than fried and if you can’t resist a take-away, go for grilled chicken. I love hummus and tzatziki at Greek restaurants and still get to enjoy curry – I just order butter chicken rather than lamb rogan josh.

Last thoughts…
‘Ever since I was diagnosed with diabetes while I was pregnant, I’ve had to learn to become more aware of everything I eat. I shop more carefully and take time to read the labels on products so that I know exactly what contains sugar and what doesn’t. I never thought I’d be the type to read the labels on foodstuffs, but I’ve been horrified to learn how many things I used to buy at the supermarket are packed with hidden sugars. I’m also trying to eat more raw food – my latest is cauliflower ‘cous cous’ and grated raw butternut. I’m also grinding my own flours, which makes a huge difference to my diet – it’s lower in gluten and has a lower GI.’


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Published in Diabetes

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