Meet Herb

Last Saturday -- the day before this column was due to be submitted -- I made an unscheduled run to the emergency room, in the middle of a gloriously sunny and warm afternoon. Of course, runs to the emergency room are always "unscheduled", but this was notable in that I almost never go and was only forced into it by a friend I was with at the time. She said 20 minutes with an unexplained cramp that was only getting worse was 15 minutes too long. Interestingly enough, though I have had these cramps before and they're usually short, this one lasted almost 90 minutes and we're still "doing tests" though we think it's a "woman thing".

Even more interestingly, one result that came almost immediately had nothing to do with my original reason for being in the emergency room. High sugar levels in my urine sample led to blood work, which produced high levels of blood sugar. Which resulted in both samples being sent for further work ups. Earlier this week, I got that part of the diagnosis: Diabetes Type 2.

To say it threw me for a loop would be to put it mildly. My world went into a tailspin. I can't speak for everyone, but I don't think that I'm alone in feeling scared when I hear that word. After letting myself wallow for a day or two, I figured that a "real woman" would take some affirmative action and not let life just happen to her. Hence this column. It was going to be about herbs, it was written and ready to submit that fateful Saturday. But I felt the need and I hope you will indulge me, to delve into this "unknown entity". Along the way, I hope someone else who has been ignoring the warning signs will stop doing so and go find out.

The first thing I did was do a web search which netted me the American Diabetes Association's website. Start at which will take you to their main page and then just hit the links. It's a great source. They also recommend books, suggest recipes, talk about healthy restaurant eating and even talk about exercise. And that's just the beginning.

Most importantly, what I learned from the site is that my life is not over. With proper diet -- ugh!! I still hate that word -- and exercise -- another fave -- this can be managed and I can lead a "normal" life. But then again, what's normal anyway???

I have a feeling that in my case it wasn't caught early enough, but if it is, they apparently have a great success rate with just diet and exercise management. Medicines are another way to help with management and there are several alternatives but I am still researching all that.

So, this month we look at some healthy eating recipes. The first recipe is from the ADA site itself. They post a Recipe of the Day as well as featuring a column on cooking, "The Webb Cooks", which appears twice a month. The others come from two books I picked up at Chapters, another great source of information. The Sunset Diabetic Cookbook, published by Sunset Publishing and Cooking for Diabetics by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson. Both are extremely informative and have some great recipes to offer.

While I usually make changes to the recipes I gather from other sources, in these cases I haven't purely because I am ignorant in the way things interact with each other and for what reasons, as far as food and this disease is concerned. But it is a learning process and I will from time to time share what I learn along the way in this very spot.

And so, on with the recipes!!

Breakfast Pita

With a 1/2 cup serving of orange juice, this pita makes a complete breakfast. For a diabetic, every meal consists of "exchanges", and in this meal we have all the exchanges for breakfast, ie. 2 starch, 1 fruit, 1 fat free milk and 1 fat.
  • 1 6-inch whole wheat pita pocket
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 tsp margarine
  • onion and green pepper chopped
  • 3/4 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

Sauté the onion and green pepper slightly in the margarine, then add the egg substitute and scramble. Fill the pita pocket with the egg and vegetable mixture and top with the shredded cheese.

  • Yields: 1 breakfast serving

Chicken with Pumpkin Seeds

This dish is quick and easily prepared which makes it great after a long day at work. Add a squeeze of lime before serving to enhance the flavour.
  • 4 bone-in chicken breast halves, skinned and trimmed of fat
  • 1/3 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 can diced green chiles
  • 1/2 cup shredded jack cheese
  • lemon or lime wedges

Rinse the chicken and pat dry; then place skinned side up in a baking pan. In a small bowl, mix the pumpkin seeds, chiles, and cheese and pat evenly on the chicken.

Bake at 450 until the meat near the bone is no longer pink, about 20 - 25 minutes. Serve with lemon or lime wedges.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes
  • Exchanges: 1/4 starch, 1/4 vegetable, 4 1/2 very lean meat protein, 1 1/4 fat

Cranberry Rice Pudding

  • 1 1/4 cups rice milk
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 oz short grain rice
  • 1/4 cup cranberries

Preheat the oven to 300. Pour the rice milk into a small saucepan and add the vanilla pod. Bring to just below boiling, then remove the pan from the heat and leave the milk and vanilla to infuse for 10 minutes. Put the rice and cranberries in a baking dish. Remove the vanilla from the milk and pour the milk over the rice and berries. Stir gently to mix. Bake for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Can be served warm or cold.

  • Yields: 4 servings

One of the main things I've learned so far is that watching my intake is the key to it all. Adjusting the way I eat and what I eat will be big parts of bringing the disease under control. And everyone seems to agree on one thing, keeping full on the things that are "free" is an easy way to ensure that the things that I should watch carefully have less chance of enticing me.

Following is a short list of foods in categories. I think I'm going to make it my first priority to memorize them:

Free Foods
These foods can be eaten whenever and in whatever quantity you like.
  • All green and leafy vegetables
  • Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, turnip, cabbage, etc)
  • Salad vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc)
  • All members of the onion family
  • Green peas and green beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Fruits such as redcurrants, cranberries and loganberries
  • Tea, coffee, water, clear soups, tomato juice (in moderation)
Good Carbohydrate / Protein Foods
These foods are good to eat but must be counted as part of the overall carbohydrate and protein allowances.
  • All beans and peas
  • Brown rice and wholemeal pasta
  • Oats, wholemeal flours, breads, unsweetened biscuits, etc
  • All root vegetables
  • All canned fruits canned in fruit juice
  • Dried fruits
  • High fibre unsweetened breakfast cereals
  • Lean meats
  • Fresh and frozen fish
  • Low-fat cheese, skimmed milk, low-fat yogurts
  • All soy products
Borderline Foods
This list reflects carbohydrate foods that are not as "good" and fatty foods which are okay to have sometimes in specified quantities, but are not good to overdo.
  • White flour, bread, pastry, pasta and rice
  • Corn flour, arrowroot, semolina
  • Unsweetened breakfast cereals
  • Any fried potato products such as chips
  • Full-fat cheese, milk or yogurt
  • Salty meats and fish products
  • Fatty meats including sausages
  • Fruit juices
  • Reduced sugar jams and other spreads
  • Alcohol
Bad Foods
These foods are to be avoided whenever possible, and if eaten, only in very small quantities.
  • Sugar
  • Sweets such as candies and chocolate
  • Full sugar chewing gum
  • Full sugar jams and other spreads
  • Sweet biscuits, cakes and buns made with white flour and sugar
  • Desserts made with refined flours and sugars
  • Fruit canned in syrup
  • Ice cream and other frozen treats
  • Sweetened juices, sodas and colas
  • Sweetened breakfast cereals

Lots to think about this month. Hopefully I've helped someone out there as well as helping myself. Let me know what you think.

Next month we're back on track talking about herbs and spices.

Here's hoping for some spice in your life too!!