I recently attended the Taking Control of Your Diabetes® conference in Raleigh, NC. TCOYD is a non-profit group that strives to educate and motivate people with diabetes and their loved ones to take a more active role in managing their health care. This delicious Fennel Kale Slaw was served for lunch at the conference.
I love TCOYD’s philosophy. Education, access to medical professionals who care for people with diabetes and aggressive management are all good things.
However, I found the attitudes of some speakers at the conference to be at odds with my own personal philosophy of diabetes management.
I prefer to handle my diabetes first with food, then with exercise, then with medications. If insulin ever becomes necessary, of course, I’ll add that to my regimen. But I believe that any successful diabetes management strategy starts with food. Some of the speakers seemed to think it’s okay to stick with a diet based on processed foods and artificial sweeteners as long as you take several medications too. That may be the best treatment option for folks who aren’t willing to make dietary changes, but it isn’t the best approach for me. I was disappointed there weren’t any speakers at the conference advocating a more integrative strategy for diabetes care.
During the last 15 years, different ways of eating have worked at different times in my treatment. At first, I followed the American Diabetes Association guidelines and used the exchange system. This worked beautifully and allowed me to lose 35 pounds. My A1C numbers moved to the prediabetes range. I ate lean protein, low-fat foods, and greatly reduced the amount of sugar in my diet. I still ate a lot of restaurant meals and processed foods, however.
I started taking metformin when diet alone wasn’t working and eventually added glipizide too. I didn’t like that glipizide occasionally caused my blood sugar to drop too low, so I investigated whether I could make additional changes to my diet that would eliminate the need for it. I was also diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease around this time. I moved to eliminate wheat from my diet and tried to embrace a vegan approach.
These two changes essentially made my fatty liver get back to normal; however, I suspect because I was substituting grains and legumes for meat, my A1C went up. Way up. Most plant-based protein sources also contain carbs. This isn’t true of animal-based proteins.
Now, I’m off glipizide and my diet is composed primarily of organic vegetables, meats, fruit, oils (olive and coconut), nuts, and seeds. I occasionally have non-wheat grains such as rice and quinoa and dairy products such as local goat cheese, but for the most part I’m off grains and dairy. If I go out to dinner, I may splurge and have brown rice or corn tortillas, but I still try to avoid wheat. My blood glucose numbers aren’t exactly where I want them to be yet, but they are finally moving in the right direction. The jury’s still out on how adding meat back into my diet has affected my liver.
Diabetes treatment is a lifelong, ever-changing process that can be very frustrating at times. Once you think you have it all figured out, something changes and you have to readjust. I personally would rather eat whole, organic foods that I cook myself than rely on a bunch of pills that may have unintended side effects. As always, your mileage may vary.
Now, back to that fennel kale slaw. The carrots lend sweetness, the fennel is crunchy, the kale is earthy and the citrus juice (I used key lime) is tart. This slaw combines great flavors and textures and is vegan to boot. Folks at my table for lunch who were terrified of kale and had never eaten fennel loved this dish.
Fennel Kale Slaw
- 2 small carrots shredded (about 2 ounces)
- 1/4 bulb fennel thinly sliced (about 2 ounces)
- 2 large stalks kale stems removed and leaves finely chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon or key lime juice
- 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
- freshly ground pepper
- In a large bowl, toss together the carrots, fennel, and kale.
- In a small bowl, whisk juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Add dressing to salad and toss.