World Diabetes Day #WDD is November 14 this year. Why the need to raise awareness? Diabetes rates in America continue to climb, from 26 to 29 million people in the past five years, with 1 in 4 having no idea that they are walking around with dangerously high blood sugar levels. A lot of sugar constantly in the blood can lead to vision loss, nerve damage, increased risk for cardiovascular diseases (heart attack, stroke, etc.), foot damage, and skin problems. If the diabetes is untreated for too long, it can become too late to reverse these complications.
Another 86 million, or 1 in 3 Americans has pre-diabetes, a condition not yet type 2 diabetes with slightly higher blood sugars than normal, but that places one at extreme risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the next few years if lifestyle changes are not made.
Treating diabetes is a huge burden on healthcare expenses, not only due to the medications and increased physician visits needed to treat the disease, but from the vast complications of other diseases that often result from poorly controlled type 2 diabetes including kidney disease and heart disease.
The good news is that up to 70% of type 2 diabetes cases can be prevented or delayed by adopting healthier lifestyles. Move more. Eat better. Choose higher quality foods.
My mission as a dietitian and diabetes educator is to help people to understand what is a diabetic-friendly diet. Many who are newly diagnosed immediately cut out sugar, but also sadly cut out all carbohydrates, even those from health-promoting fresh fruits and whole grains. They are understandably miserable trying to eat this way!
A diabetic diet follows a balanced plate model of mostly nonstarchy vegetables (pretty much any vegetables that are not potatoes, corn, peas, winter squashes, plantains), and smaller portions of lean protein and a high-fiber starch (whole grains, potatoes with skins, beans). A little healthy fat is important too. Portions matter of course, but eating some of each of these types of foods at every meal will keep you satisfied and energized.
Below is an awesome carb-controlled recipe for meatless bolognese over spaghetti squash. If you love pasta, try this stringy squash at least once. It has only 40 calories and 10 grams of carb per cup—so go ahead and indulge in two cups! It’s naturally buttery and a little sweet even without any seasonings or oil. The easiest quickest way to cook it is in the microwave: check out this how-to video.
This Quinoa Lentil Bolognese with Spaghetti Squash recipe is inspired by simplyquinoa.com. To be honest, I was completely lazy and omitted about half the ingredients. I kept the canned tomatoes, cooked quinoa and lentils, and carrots (but just boiled until soft rather than sautéing). I added garlic/onion powder, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper. That’s it. I’m sure the original recipe likely tasted a lot better than mine, but it was still a complete hit for me and one I’ll make again and again. It’s full of fiber and protein to slow digestion and prevent blood sugar spikes so you feel full quickly and satisfied for several hours. I left the spaghetti squash simple with only some Italian seasoning. It’s the perfect base for the flavorful hearty sauce. Enjoy!