I begrudgingly looked at my husband the other night and said, “Although I love the fall, I am not so excited that you won’t be grilling as much and I will be back in the kitchen cooking.” The summer season is ideal for easy lean-protein and low-carb meals like grilled chicken and grilled veggies or bunless burgers and a salad. Now that the brisk fall weather has snuck up on us here in New England, so has the carb content at the dinner table.
I for one am a sucker for comfort foods at this time of year, call it habit, ritual, or just plain enjoyment of rich, warm foods, I dive right in well before the holidays hit. Here are some tips to not necessarily avoid the favorite flavors of the season, but some things to consider when it comes to blood sugar and insulin management during one of the most enjoyable seasons of the year.
*Note, I won’t get into the fat content here, but just try and be sensible and don’t overdo it, pick one night a week where you can let yourself enjoy the not-so-healthy foods and for the rest of the time enjoy a little comfort food in moderation and with some planning.
Soups: Remember, many soups can have high amounts of carbohydrates in them. If the soup contains potatoes, corn, or a rich vegetable like butternut squash, these things need to be accounted for. The average cup of butternut squash soup contains about 30 grams of carbs. (It also has fiber, which will help diminish the spike in glucose, so that’s a plus). While a cup of creamy tomato bisque will run you about 25 grams (don’t forget the crouton garnish on top)!
Root Vegetables: Potatoes and parsnips—oh my! (Turnips and carrots are root vegetables as well, but aren’t nearly as high in carbs as their potato cousins.) Delicious garlic mashed potatoes or puréed parsnips are a staple on restaurant menus during the fall. There are about 35 grams of carbohydrates in 1 cup of homemade mashed potatoes and about 27 grams of carbs in a serving of parsnips. The obvious recommendation would be to choose a lower-glycemic veggie, like asparagus, broccoli rabe, or a tomato and mozzarella salad or at least limit your portions of the heavier veggies.
The king of all comfort food, especially on a chilly fall night when you’re out to dinner with friends, is none other than a gooey dish of baked mac and cheese (maybe even lobster mac and cheese if you’re having a fancy night out) with a cracker crumb topping just crisping the top of a pile of melted fresh cheddar cheese mixed in with pasta. Ugh! A diabetic’s five-alarm fire! Thank goodness for a dual-wave or extended bolus, as this is the kind of meal you want to use that one for (high-fat and high-carb equals big glucose spike later on when your passed out from your carb coma). A plate of baked mac and cheese can be an estimated 34 grams in one serving (most restaurant portions are at least a two-serving dish for a main entrée, so double that to be about 68 grams of carbohydrates). Then there is the ever popular risotto for a comfort food dish, which could be anywhere between 30 to 50 grams of carbs, depending on the portion and type of risotto. The better choice would be to get a protein of some sort—pork, chicken, or a piece of fish—and opt for a side of baked mac and cheese or risotto if possible.
We all want to be able to have our cake and eat it too, so keep that in mind as well when choosing comfort food meals this fall. If you want that chocolate lava cake or apple crisp, pick and choose your battles and pass on the mashed potatoes; it’s not only better for your blood sugars but better for your waistline as well if you only go with one indulgence instead of many!
Happy Eating and Bolusing!
*Nutrition information derived from the USDA Food Database and SparkPeople.com and can vary
Regina Shirley, RD, LDN