In the warm summer months, often the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven and heat up the whole kitchen. Grilling may be one alternative. (You can find great outdoor grilling ideas here.) But I like to vary that with delicious, quick-fix food options that are diabetes-friendly. Talk with your healthcare team about how these summery no-cook, no-oven tips and ideas may help you eat healthier meals, while staying cool.
Salads are one of my go-to meals when looking to chill out from the heat. Not all salads are as diabetes-friendly as you might think, however. (Read more about what to watch for here.) I make salads super by starting with crisp leafy greens; so many are in season this time of year that you can choose almost anything: romaine, spinach, mixed greens, peppery arugula, even traditional crunchy iceberg – whatever you enjoy. Next, I add fresh, in-season vegetables, which often just require a rinse and chop before making them a nutritious addition to your salad bowl. Then my summertime salad secret: fruit! Fruit adds a tangy natural sweetness that can make a salad really feel like a meal. Peaches and strawberries are two of my favorites; but whatever you choose, the key is to watch serving sizes. (You can find fruit serving suggestions here.) Add a serving of nuts if you like a bit of crunch, and have room for a few more carbs in your meal plan.
Don’t forget the dressing, which is where many salads may take an unhealthy turn. Start with an unsaturated or polyunsaturated oil, such as olive, flaxseed, or sunflower oil, and then add in other flavors you like such as Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, rice wine vinegar, chopped garlic or herbs, even small amounts citrus juices such as lemon, lime, or orange, to make your own vinaigrettes.
Here’s one of my favorite easy salad ideas: I like to create my own Greek salad using fresh spinach, a small amount of feta cheese, in-season ripe tomatoes and cucumber, and serve a whole grain pita. It’s cooling and flavorful!
Beans: the new crouton!
I believe beans of all kinds – black, lima, kidney, garbanzo, and lentil, the list goes on – might be magical, just as Jack discovered with his fairytale beanstalk. The humble bean is inexpensive and versatile, while also a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Use beans as healthier “croutons,” sprinkled on salads or in casseroles and soups to boost your fiber intake and add flavor. Beans are also loaded with soluble fiber, which may help you feel full. For a Mexican dish, try greens topped with your favorite beans, fresh tomatoes, and a serving of rotisserie chicken.
Whole grain switch
Regular pasta and potato salads can be heavy on carbs and calories, and low on fiber, so I recommend switching up the grains. One of my favorites is a protein-rich grain called quinoa, which makes a tasty salad base. Although often considered a whole grain, quinoa is actually a seed that is prepared like rice. Whole-wheat couscous may be another option, as it is easy and quick to prepare while also providing nutritious whole grains that are high in fiber. Use these high-fiber options in a serving size that fits into your meal plan. And, for a really quick meal, just add a serving of low-sugar marinara sauce on top!
Store-bought rotisserie chicken can offer a quick source of no-cook lean protein, but be sure to remove the skin and stick to the white meat. Then use it to top a salad, or pair with lots of fresh veggies.
Wraps and sandwiches
My family really enjoys homemade wraps and sandwiches, even for dinner! Start with a whole grain flour tortilla or bread and read the label to be sure the calories and carbs fit into your meal plan. (Learn more here about reading labels.) I’ve found some tasty low-carb options in my local supermarket. Also, for tortillas, try using the smaller size; it will save lot of calories, and you might not even notice the difference. Next, pick your favorite spread, such as pesto, avocado, hummus, or reduced-fat cream cheese, and use about 2-3 tablespoons per wrap or sandwich. For protein, include a small serving of reduced-sodium sliced meats, skinless roast chicken, or even tuna mixed with plain yogurt or lemon juice. Just a small amount adds lots of flavor. Finally, add crunchy fresh vegetables such as sliced bell peppers, cucumber, lettuce, and tomato. Kids often love making their own sandwich, so dinner prep might be even easier.
I look forward to summer all year, just for a bowl of refreshing cold soup, which seems perfect to me at the height of the heat. Although gazpacho is traditionally made with a base of tomatoes, other variations include watermelon, cucumber, and avocado. Other in-season fruits that make perfect soup pairings are peaches and strawberries. Just throw them in your food processor or blender with nonfat plain or Greek yogurt, and, if it fits within your meal plan, a splash of orange juice, for a delightful, nutritious and easy soup that is sure to cool you off. Punch up your gazpacho or cold soup by topping with a serving of fresh crabmeat or cooked shrimp for a savory, lean protein addition.
Bon appétit and happy summer!
Holly Clegg, cookbook author and spokesperson, has helped people prepare healthier everyday meals through her best-selling trim&TERRIFIC® cookbook series, including trim&TERRIFIC™ Diabetic Cooking with the American Diabetes Association. Clegg has appeared on Fox & Friends, NBC Weekend Today, QVC, The 700 Club, and in USA Today and The Huffington Post. She also has a smartphone app, Mobile Rush-Hour Recipes, and writes at The Healthy Cooking Blog. Clegg is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience