Advertisement
Ad revenue keeps our community free for you

Yes, You Can Still Eat Your Cultural Foods with Type 2 Diabetes

Diet and Nutrition

March 22, 2023

Content created for the Bezzy community and sponsored by our partners. Learn More

Photography by Andrew Cebulka/Stocksy United

Photography by Andrew Cebulka/Stocksy United

by Corinna Cornejo

•••••

Medically Reviewed by:

Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, LD

•••••

•••••

by Corinna Cornejo

•••••

Medically Reviewed by:

Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, LD

•••••

•••••

Foods from our culture often shape how we see ourselves. With a few tests and adjustments, you can still enjoy the dishes you grew up eating without negatively affecting your glucose levels.

Soon after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I was shown what a healthy dinner was supposed to look like.

I remember the plate containing a small, naked piece of chicken breast with some chopped vegetables that looked like they had been boiled to within an inch of their lives and a salad that was mostly lettuce. No salsa. No seasoning. No sabor. It made me feel sad.

If this is what I had to eat to get my glucose levels in check, my foodie life was going to be very bland and unsatisfying. And it was going to be difficult to stick with the plan.

Join the free T2D community!
Connect with thousands of members and find support through daily live chats, curated resources, and one-to-one messaging.

Food provides more than just macro and micronutrients

The food we eat provides more than just nourishment to our bodies — it nourishes our very souls.

We all have strong emotions tied to the cultural foods we grew up eating. Not only do we have strong memories, but foods from our culture often shape how we see ourselves.

Don’t believe me? Think about the foods you crave, especially when you’re in bed with a cold or feeling down in the dumps. Are they the things your mother or grandmother fed you?

Ask yourself, what has to be on the table for it to be Christmas dinner? Or Passover Seder? Or Eid al-Fitr? Or Diwali? Or a lucky Lunar New Year?

What foods make you automatically feel like it’s a celebration? Or like you’ve come home to a warm hug?

The food we eat provides more than just nourishment to our bodies — it nourishes our very souls.

Those are the foods that nourish your soul and reflect who you are. Often, these are foods that come from your cultural background and aren’t part of the standard American diet. They are individual to you and your people.

These foods may also be less likely to show up in the meal plans or food lists you get from a dietitian or find online. They may be vilified as starchy or greasy. Some are even labeled unhealthy and banished from what we’re told we must eat to stay healthy. But I disagree.

And thankfully, dietitians now come from a variety of backgrounds and can help you individualize your diet and needs. You can also look for a dietitian of a similar culture or one that promotes inclusivity.

Advertisement
Ad revenue keeps our community free for you

Test how your cultural food affects your glucose levels

I don’t accept that our cultural foods are automatically worse than that grilled salmon and asparagus pictured in the healthy diet brochure.

Each body is different. Not all of us respond to the same food in the same way. And I’m not willing to simply accept that certain types of foods are good or bad and, therefore, should be embraced or eliminated.

The only way to know the impact any food or meal has on our glucose levels is to test it out.

You can do this by testing in pairs. The process is straightforward:

  1. Check your glucose levels before eating and before taking any medication for a meal.
  2. Eat the meal.
  3. Check your glucose levels again 2 hours later to see how your glucose levels have changed.
  4. Note the change and compare it with your personal targets. If you’re unsure about your glucose targets, talk with your healthcare professional to get guidance.

Testing in pairs gives you a read on the immediate impact the meal has on your glucose reading. From this information, you can decide when and whether you want to have this food or meal.

Tips for choosing your meals

You can decide when and how you eat your cultural foods by strategizing adjustments to that food and your food choices. Deciding what to eat and when doesn’t have to be a yes-or-no decision. You have other options.

Consciously select your portions

You can choose to eat less or more of something. Eating less carbohydrate-dense foods, like rice, reduces the number of carbohydrates your body has to digest and process. Making this choice can help keep your glucose levels in your target range.

Understand the ingredients used

Just how much sugar, honey, or cornstarch is in that sauce? Does the recipe call for jasmine rice or brown rice?

Knowing the ingredients and how they affect your glucose levels will help you anticipate the immediate impact the dish will have on your glucose levels. This empowers you to make an informed decision about which foods to eat.

Identify if a dish is a ‘sometimes’ treat

This approach can be really helpful when a celebration centers on the food you want to eat less often. Save that rich, starchy dish for the holidays. Make that sweet pastry a birthday treat. Then really savor it by keeping it for special occasions.

Look for substitutes

Substituting ingredients or similar dishes that keep your glucose levels in range of your targets is an effective strategy for keeping familiar dishes available. For example, try switching out whole-wheat flour for almond flour, which is lower in carbs.

Advertisement
Ad revenue keeps our community free for you

Ultimately, the choice is yours

Thankfully, I’ve seen some improvements in the dietary recommendations for diabetes over the last decade. More and more healthcare professionals are embracing the role cultural food can play in diabetes management. And there’s less vilification of foods.

But it can still be difficult to find relevant information for specific cultures. For instance, Mexican cuisine is distinct from Puerto Rican, Dominican, or Colombian cuisines. Not all of the same suggested adjustments will apply.

For now, you still have to experiment on your own and seek out what works best for you. Ultimately, the choice of what you do or don’t eat lies with you.

Medically reviewed on March 22, 2023

2 Sources


Join the free T2D community!
Connect with thousands of members and find support through daily live chats, curated resources, and one-to-one messaging.

Like the story? React below:


Have thoughts or suggestions about this article? Email us at article-feedback@bezzy.com.

About the author

Corinna Cornejo

Corinna Cornejo is a patient-centered health and healthcare content writer, diabetes patient advocate, and Latina. Diagnosed in 2009, Corinna blogs about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness while living with type 2 diabetes at Type 2 Musings.

Related stories