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Review: Spices and Seasons

Spices and Seasons by Rinku Bhattacharya

During my junior year of college, I lived in a 12-unit apartment building off-campus. The guys who rented the apartment immediately below mine grew up in India. The most amazing aromas of curry and cumin and turmeric greeted me whenever I entered our building. My house smells like that now as I’ve been trying a bunch of recipes from Rinku Bhattacharya’s new book Spices & Seasons. It’s bringing back a lot of great memories.

My diet has changed rather dramatically recently, ever since I did Dr. Mark Hyman’s 10-Day Detox. I received my copy of Spices and Seasons while I was in the middle of the detox and I was afraid to glance through it because I assumed there would be a ton of recipes I couldn’t eat. When the detox ended and I finally looked through the book, I evaluated recipes by their lack of (1) sugar, (2) grains, (3) dairy and (4) legumes. I happily flagged more than a dozen recipes that fit into my new eating plan.

The CompostMaster and I have been trying so many recipes from this book, everything from the Essential Indian Chopped Salad to Salmon in a Tomato, Thyme and Ginger Sauce. Everything so far has been well-seasoned and mouth-watering, although I’ve made some minor modifications along the way. (The CompostMaster hates cilantro, for example, and there’s a lot of cilantro in the dishes.) Rinku’s Citrusy Roasted Beets with Toasted Spices are on tonight’s menu. I’ll be featuring a recipe from the book later this week.

Here are a few notes about the book in general:

  • Rinku takes the intimidation factor out of Indian cooking. Her recipes and techniques are practical and simple.
  • Rinku writes beautifully. You’ll read about her grandmother’s kitchen, how to create an essential spice kit and getting children to make healthy dining choices among other things.
  • For the most part, the recipes make use of ingredients that are easy to find in U.S. grocery stores.
  • Rinku is very conscious of today’s special dietary needs and even includes gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan indexes in the back of the book to complement the full-blown recipe index.
  • The photographs in the book are bright and so colorful. Every single recipe has a full-page photo beside it.
  • There isn’t any nutritional information provided, but the ingredients are sustainable and fresh and most recipes would fit into a diabetic-friendly diet.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed cooking from Spices & Seasons. If learning to prepare simple Indian food intrigues you, check out Rinku’s blog, Cooking in Westchester and go grab yourself a copy of her book.

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of Spices & Seasons by Rinku Bhattacharya. All opinions are my own.

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I Survived Dr. Hyman's 10-Day Detox

Some readers of this blog, the CompostMaster and I recently took on the challenge presented in The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet by Mark Hyman, MD. Dr. Hyman is one of the physicians featured in the recent movie Fed Up.

We carefully reviewed the diet, which was recommended to us by our doctor, before we committed to follow it. Neither of us wanted to try anything too crazy. For example, I wanted to make sure it included real food and wasn’t primarily liquid-based. So, even though the word “detox” is in the title, it isn’t a “cleanse.” It’s primarily about getting off sugar, caffeine, alcohol, grains and dairy.
Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet by Mark Hyman, MD

Our Goals

So why did we decide to detox?

For me, it was all about my blood glucose, specifically my fasting numbers. I’ve been suffering from the dawn effect for quite a while and nothing seemed to consistently bring my fasting numbers down. After more than a decade of following the American Diabetes Association’s dietary guidelines, I found they just didn’t work for me anymore. I didn’t want to add another medication unless absolutely necessary so I tried giving up wheat and going vegan. While that regimen may work perfectly well for some, it didn’t work for me since most vegan sources of protein also contain carbohydrates. My post-meal BG numbers were controlled, but my fasting numbers were not. I decided the diet recommended in the detox was going to be my last attempt at controlling my BG with diet and metformin only.

For the CompostMaster, although he’s amazingly healthy, he has been having trouble losing weight, specifically around his middle. After reading the book, we became convinced the detox would work for both of us.

Our Results

In just 10 days, the CompostMaster and I accomplished the following:

  • We both kicked caffeine, tea for me and coffee for him.
  • He lost 8 pounds and I lost 5.
  • My fasting blood glucose dropped more than 60 points between Day 1 and Day 10. (Yes, it was embarrassingly high at the start.)
  • I lost two full inches off my waistline.

Things You Should Know

If you are considering the detox, here are a few things you might want to know so you can plan accordingly:

  • The process will be much easier if you have a support group. I set up a private Facebook group so that we could all share our successes and frustrations. If you’d like to start the detox at any time, please request to join the Facebook group and those of us who have been through it will be happy to answer questions and support you through the process.
  • Your diet will primarily consist of poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, non-starchy vegetables, lots of greens, avocados, coconut & olive oil, nuts and seeds. You’ll get to eat a little bit of fruit in your morning smoothie and a dinner choice or two features beef.
  • You will spend a lot of time cooking, chopping and preparing food.
  • If you aren’t normally at home during the day (e.g. you work in an office), I recommend you start the detox on a Saturday. You may not feel great the first couple of days (especially if you are trying to kick caffeine) and your body needs time to adjust to all of the changes.
  • You will think about poop more often than you ever have in your life.
  • There will be times that you are in a bad mood, feel exhausted and/or have a headache. Know that these symptoms are temporary and that, in just a few days, the pain totally will be worth it because you will feel so alive and energetic.
  • Make sure to eat your snacks. I skipped my afternoon snack one day and really, really, really wanted to go out to dinner that night because I was so hungry I didn’t want to take the time to cook. Fortunately, the CompostMaster offered to make dinner. (Yes, I’m a lucky girl to have this kind of support at home.)
  • The recipes in the book were not written by someone who cooks often! The instructions might tell you to pour dressing on a salad and then go cook a piece of chicken. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like soggy greens! Read the recipes carefully and see if the steps make sense or if you need to make some adjustments.
  • If you don’t like the recipe choices for a given day (there’s always a basic one and an adventurous one), you can eat vegetables plus your choice of protein instead. The meals are very flexible.

So, are we glad we did the detox? Absolutely!

How will we eat going forward? Our plan is to stick to the guidelines for a couple of months, then start adding in some of the “forbidden” foods to see how they affect us. We feel so good at the moment and we’ve had such success we don’t want to change anything!

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Spinach Salad with Macerated Blueberries and Nectarines

Spinach Salad with Macerated Blueberries and Nectarines

For Father’s Day we decided to all meet at Mom & Dad’s lake house and bring lunch to them instead of going out to a restaurant. The CompostMaster did a most excellent job of grilling Angoori Shrimp (Glazed Shrimp & Grape Kebobs), Asian-flavored chicken kebabs (declared by Nephew #1 to be “the best chicken I’ve ever tasted”), zucchini and pineapple. In addition, we had a pasta salad, Spinach Salad with Macerated Blueberries and Nectarines (recipe below) and, Dad’s favorite, pineapple upside down cake. I guess we’re a fruity family.

This salad travels well. Basically, you can mix up the dressing and add the fruit ahead of time. Then, just before you’re ready to eat, add the spinach and nuts. In fact, I often macerate the fruit, store it in the refrigerator and then we have an instant, no-fuss salad quickly ready for lunch or dinner.

As with the Garden Fresh Vegetable Soup, the recipe below is a specific example of a more general technique. To make a green salad with macerated fruit and nuts:

  • Mix up the dressing with any type of balsamic or wine-based vinegar you have. This is a great time to experiment with those vinegars you picked up at the specialty shop. Fruity vinegars work very well.
  • Add 1-1/2 pounds of whatever fruit is in season. Blueberries have just arrived at the farmers’ markets here in North Carolina, so I used them (and, boy, were they good). Try apples and pears in the fall or oranges and mangoes in the winter. You can also use frozen fruit in a pinch.
  • Mix in some salad greens.
  • Add your favorite nuts. Walnuts, almonds and pecans all work well.

If you come up with a particularly good combination of vinegar, fruit, greens and nuts, I’d love to hear about it.

Spinach Salad with Macerated Blueberries and Nectarines

Adapted from VB6 by Mark Bittman

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I used blackberry ginger)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, cut in half lengthwise and then thinly sliced
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound fresh blueberries
3/4 pound fresh nectarines, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
10 cups baby spinach
1 cup slivered almonds

In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, shallot, salt and pepper. Add blueberries and nectarines plus any juice that accumulated while you were chopping the nectarines. Toss to coat and let sit for at least 10 minutes.

Add spinach and almonds and toss until leaves are evenly coated with dressing. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings
Per serving: 223 calories, 15g fat (2g sat), 0mg cholesterol, 360mg sodium, 20g carb, 5g fiber, 12g sugar, 6g protein

Nutritional Analysis: If you want to reduce the amount of Fat in this salad, use fewer almonds. If you want to cut back on the amount of Sodium, use less of the added salt.

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