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Cooking Up Budget-Friendly, Diabetes-Friendly Meals

Blogger Christine Tolhurst shares tips

Laura Kolodjeski of Sanofi US DiabetesLaura Kolodjeski

I love reading people’s blogs! I am often inspired by how much of themselves bloggers are willing to share, from tried-and-true cooking tips to intimate looks into the challenges of daily life with diabetes. One blog I’ve enjoyed reading recently is Christine Tolhurst’s Saved by Grace, where she posts tips on recipe substitutions, diabetes-friendly meal planning, grocery shopping on a budget and more. I’m pleased to share her story with you today.

In 2009, Christine was surprised and dismayed by a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. “I kind of grew up around diabetes,” she said. “My mother has type 2, my maternal aunt had type 1, and my maternal grandfather, grandmother and another aunt had type 2. But all the people that had been diagnosed in my family were over the age of 50, so it just wasn’t something that I had even thought to explore in my 20s. I had lost my aunt to complications associated with type 1 diabetes several years prior to my diagnosis, so immediately I started panicking. When I was first diagnosed, I remember falling into my husband’s arms and just crying and he reassured and comforted me.”

Christine Tolhurst
Christine Tolhurst

After initiating various lifestyle changes in diet and exercise, Christine lost some motivation. “I went through a period of time where I was in complete denial,” she said. “I went for a good year where I just thought, I’m going to pretend I don’t have diabetes and eat and do whatever I want. I think what really did me in was that I kept telling myself, ‘You can’t have this, you can’t have that.’ It made me feel so restricted. It got to a point where I was just so tired of counting calories and everything that I had to do. I just thought, I’m not going to do it anymore. But then about a year ago, I got back on the wagon.”

While home recuperating from a medical procedure in 2011, Christine decided to start blogging, in part to share her experience living with type 2 diabetes. “When I was looking for information after my diagnosis, there were no blogs that I could find on type 2 diabetes,” she said. “A lot of diabetes websites had great information, but they didn’t have that kind of personal touch. I wanted to focus on diabetes on my blog for that very reason, so newly-diagnosed people can come find information from a personable source. Blogging started out as a hobby and now, it’s grown into a career. It’s been pretty inspiring to me that I’ve been able to do that, and now I can stay home and work.”

With a background in culinary school, Christine also frequently shares recipes that feature healthy food substitutions. “Going to culinary school was a good thing for coming up with new recipes,” she said. “I learned how to modify recipes. I do a lot with cauliflower. It’s so bland, I believe you may use it in just about anything. I do half cauliflower and half mashed potatoes when I make my mashed potatoes. It’s a matter of tricking myself into thinking I’m eating more mashed potatoes than I really am. I also do a cauliflower pizza crust. It actually tastes like really thin crust pizza. My family doesn’t mind it at all.”

In an effort to debunk the idea that eating healthy is expensive, Christine frequently posts frugal living tips on her blog. “To me, people seem to think eating healthier is more expensive because they don’t know how to cook,” she said. “Sure, it could be more expensive if you buy all organic convenience food, but convenience food is more expensive to me anyway. If you know how to cook from scratch, it can be much cheaper. I kind of shop outside the box and do things like farmer’s markets; to me, they’re cheap. Co-ops, they’re cheap. Buying in bulk – like seasonings – is also something that I do a lot and it’s cheaper, too. It’s just about getting creative, I think, and cutting out the convenience.”

Christine often turns to budget-friendly ingredients in her cooking. “I think beans are great,” she said. “They’re cheap, especially if you buy them dry and reconstitute them yourself. Spinach is generally pretty cheap. Berries can be cheap if you buy them in season. Cauliflower can be cheap, too. I also buy low-fat yogurt in the tub and add my own stuff to it. That’s one of my favorite snacks, actually, just plain yogurt and add agave syrup to sweeten it up a little bit.”

Meal planning is Christine’s top tip for grocery shopping on a budget. Make out a weekly meal plan and write down the ingredients for each dish, so you don’t forget items or get unnecessary items. Plan for snacks and lunches, too. “Something I always try to do is use up leftovers whenever I can,” she said. “When you make something, realize there are going to be leftovers and then already have a plan in mind for those leftovers. Say if I make spaghetti sauce on Monday, I already have a plan by Wednesday to use it in something else. Also, my slow cooker is my best friend. You can generally make pretty easy, low-cost meals in a slow cooker.”

Now, Christine makes it a point to stay positive. “I just try to take things one day at a time,” she said. “I noticed that if I reflect on negative stuff too much, it starts to wear on me after a while. So I started looking for simpler things to be joyous about. I think a lot of times we think that, in order for life to be completely joyous, it has to be full of big, exciting things all the time. I’ve tried to change my mind frame to look at simple things that are joyous, like the fact that there’s a blue sky today, the fact that my child is healthy, the fact that I had a good belly laugh today. Just little things like that keep me motivated and going.”

Christine is such a great source of ideas! Focusing on simple joyful thoughts has always helped motivate me as well. And using cauliflower as a pizza crust? Clever! What’s a simple joyful thought for you? Or what food substitutions have you made in an attempt to eat healthier? I’d love to hear in the comment section below. My thanks to Christine for sharing her story and ideas.

All the best,

Laura K.

Disclosure: Christine Tolhurst received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.

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