Have you been struggling to find ways to enjoy your cultural foods when trying to manage your blood sugar levels? Then look no further. Here you can find some easy and helpful substitution tips for blood sugar management as a South Asian.
Having diabetes does not mean that you need to follow a specific diet. You can make small changes to your diet and feel good, maintain your blood sugar levels, and give your body the fuel it requires to maintain regular body functions.
Here are some small changes you can make to your diet:
Let’s begin with grain products and starches such as rice, pasta, roti, potatoes, and corn, since they are of course the favourite part of South Asian meals!
- You can replace refined white rice with whole grains such as brown rice, wild rice, bulgur, couscous, quinoa to pair with your dhal or curries.
- In place of roti made from all-purpose flour choose roti made with millets such as bajra (Pearl millet), jowar (sorghum), and ragi (Finger millet), amaranth, and chickpea flour.
Moving onto meats and alternatives such as chicken, fish, beans, lentils (Dhal), tofu and paneer:
- Try to choose lean cuts of meat such as chicken breasts
- Try to choose more plant-based meat options and consume animal-based meats no more than twice a week
- Paneer sold in stores is made with full fat milk which makes it high in fat. Instead make paneer at home, using low-fat milk, whenever you can. This way, you will also be avoiding food additives and salt, usually found in store-bought paneer.
When cooking curries and salads:
- Choose non-starchy vegetables such as green beans, okra, cauliflower, and eggplant, more often. Be mindful of the starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, and peas.
- Try to make curries at home from scratch rather than buying pre-made curry mixes, so you are in control of the ingredients such as salt, oils, etc.
When choosing the type of fat to cook your foods:
- Limit use of butter and ghee and choose canola oil, olive oil or safflower oil more often. (Note: olive oil should not be used for high heat cooking)
- Instead of deep-frying samosas and pakoras, have air-fried or baked samosas and pakoras.
Add milk or milk alternatives to your meals such as raita or lassi made with low-fat yogurt.
Limit sugar and sweets such as gulab jamun, kheer, jalebi, pastries, fruit juices and soft drinks. Choose fruits with lower fat yogurt or energy balls more often.
This way, you can enjoy your favourite cultural foods without sacrificing flavour, while managing blood sugar levels. However, it is important to understand that it can take time to make changes to your diet, so don’t get too overwhelmed. Instead, make improvements slowly, one step at a time.
Want blood sugar balancing snack recipes? Click here for the FREE recipe booklet!
If you’d like to take a deep dive and learn how to really knock your doctors socks off with your next blood report, be sure to check out ‘Master Diabetes as a South Asian’, a 6-week intensive course focused on lowering blood sugars. Click here for more info!
Written by student, Alina Ayub. Reviewed by Anisha Gupta, Registered Dietitian
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