I’m Shelby Kinnaird and I have always loved food. I grew up surrounded by terrific Southern cooks in Richmond, Virginia. Members of my family never met a bread product, dessert or fried food we didn’t like. White flour? Always. Refined sugar? Check. Vegetable shortening in the deep fryer? You bet.

In 1999, I found out I have type 2 diabetes. What? No more dessert? Watch the fat? Count carbohydrates? This didn’t sound like it was going to be much fun. I met with a certified diabetes educator (CDE) and learned to manage my diet via food exchanges. I started taking walks every day after work. I dropped 30 pounds and felt great. For several years, I managed my diabetes without drugs by simply paying attention.

Then, life happened. I went back to school, got divorced and moved to another state. Eventually, I changed careers, became self-employed, got remarried and moved to yet another state. During all of this upheaval, managing my diabetes did not remain my top priority. I didn’t monitor my glucose levels. I slowly gained weight. I started taking metformin. I rarely found time to exercise.

I don’t have to tell you, it all caught up with me. My A1C went through the roof, even though I was on metformin. When my doctor told me my kidneys were not as healthy as they should be, I knew it was time to start paying attention again.

There had to be a way to eat delicious food that was also healthy and diabetic-friendly. I started reading about new foods and experimenting in the kitchen. I liked the way I was eating so much more than cooking from “diabetic cookbooks” that favor artificial ingredients and try to make healthier versions of old stand-bys that never quite measure up. My philosophy of eating evolved into using fresh, local foods whenever possible, incorporating lean proteins, healthy fats and non-starchy vegetables. I also eat a lot more hearty dishes that happen to be vegetarian.

My diet isn’t perfect. I still need french fries once in a while. But, I’ve found that if I track what I eat, keep my daily calorie intake at about 1400 and monitor my blood glucose and weight, I do okay. I’m hoping that by sharing my philosophy of eating and some of my recipes, I’ll be able to help you do okay too.