Flavor punch your diabetes meal plan with herbs and spices! These tiny flavor enhancers add interest and deliciousness without adding salt or fat. I love sharing flavor-boosting tips with my patients and clients, some of whom find that healthful eating may be bland and boring – until they start digging into the spice cabinet, that is! (Remember to check with your diabetes care team before making changes to your meal plan.)
Sweet basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, purple basil and more. There are more than a dozen varieties of basil with sweet and spicy notes of mint, clove and anise.
Love it: Basil is a natural companion to tomatoes. Enjoy it also in salads, pasta dishes, chicken, shellfish, Thai food and soups. (Learn more about cooking with fresh herbs.)
This common spice is available as ground bark or quills, which are strips of dried bark rolled together to form cinnamon sticks.
Love it: Cinnamon’s sweet flavor is well suited to a variety of foods, especially whole grains and raw and cooked fruits. Sprinkle some on oatmeal, dry cereal, yogurt, cottage cheese, peanut butter toast, diced apples and grilled bananas. Think international and use it in savory dishes as is common in Middle Eastern and Moroccan cuisines. Add cinnamon to chicken and barley stew, lamb dishes and grain-based salads. If you have a leftover dish of whole grains in the fridge, toss in veggies, fruit and a shake of cinnamon. (Read my storage tips for making your fresh food last longer.)
Common in Indian cooking, this fragrant blend of spices typically contains coriander, fenugreek, turmeric, peppers and other spices.
Love it: Curry pairs well with lentils, beans, potatoes, eggs and whole grains as well as beef, chicken and lamb. Add curry powder to simmering rice or to sautéed vegetables. Then stuff those vegetables into hollowed out peppers for baking or mix them with a whole grain like farro or brown rice for a hearty side dish. Add tofu for a vegetarian meal. (Learn more about meatless meal plans for diabetes.)
Chop or grate fresh ginger rhizomes (the underground stem) as needed, storing the rest in your freezer or refrigerator. Dried ginger powder is more pungent, so you should use less.
Love it: Ginger is common in cuisines throughout Asia where it seasons fish, beef, poultry, vegetables, soups, sauces and a variety of other foods. Use it in spicy dishes such as kimchi and sweet dishes like stewed fruits. Brighten the flavor of steamed carrots and winter squashes with a touch of ginger. (Read tips to make sushi diabetes-friendlier.)
Even though oregano is a member of the mint family, it has a robust peppery taste.
Love it: Oregano is common in much of the world. Italian night? Sprinkle oregano on vegetables before roasting, and add it to pasta sauce. Feeling Greek? Top a salad of lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and onions with dried oregano. In Mexico, oregano is a key ingredient in bean dishes and salsas. And throughout Latin America, oregano spices up stews, soups and vegetables. Enjoy it on roasted or baked beef, fish and chicken too.
These small needle-like leaves have a very strong peppery flavor and a hint of pine.
Love it: Because of its intense flavor, use just a little and add it early in the cooking process. Rosemary is common in Mediterranean cooking and pairs well with lamb, beef, shrimp, grilled fish, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, oranges and egg dishes.
This bright yellow spice is a member of the ginger family and offers earthy and citrus flavors. It owes its bright color to the compound curcumin.
Love it: Reach for turmeric when you’re in the mood for Indian, Moroccan or Thai food. Use turmeric in curries, lentil and bean stews, fish, chicken, roasted cauliflower, rice and other whole grains.
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE*, FAND is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week, and the upcoming The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition, as well as contributing editor at Environmental Nutrition. She has written for many publications including EatingWell, Diabetic Living, Her Sports + Fitness, and LifeScript. Weisenberger 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.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience