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10 New Diabetic-Friendly Recipes at chicken.ca

Adding lean chicken to your meals can help you manage your appetite and blood sugar levels.

Guest Author: Nancy Guppy, RD, MHSc.

Chicken Farmers of Canada is featuring ten new diabetic-friendly recipes that are designed to inspire you to create, and enjoy, a variety of simple, colourful meals and snacks that are lower in calories, fat and sodium, moderate in carbohydrates and good sources of high-quality, lean protein. 

The diabetic-friendly recipes were designed to be as close as possible to the following criteria:

  • lower calorie (<= 400) 
  • higher protein (>= 20 g)
  • lower fat (<= 15 g)
  • carbohydrate controlled (15-30 grams)
  • higher fibre (>= 4 g) 
  • lower sugar (<=10 g)
  • lower sodium (<= 500 mg) 

A nutrient analysis of each recipe is provided to help guide you in choosing your portion size and to review the nutritional attributes of the recipe. A nutrient analysis is only a guideline as it changes depending on the portion size that you actually consume.

What do people living with diabetes need to eat and avoid?

There are different kinds of diabetes and there is no one diet for diabetes. This lifelong disease is controlled by exercise, healthy food choices, and – in many cases – medication.  

Diabetics should eat a healthy diet which allows them to maintain (or reduce to) a healthy weight. Even a small weight loss of 5-10% can improve blood sugar levels.  

Diabetics should follow the healthy diet recommended for all Canadians in the food guide. These tasty diabetic-friendly chicken recipes fit into Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide. Follow the food guide to make sure you are choosing the recommended portions of foods from all four food groups for your age and sex. 

Calories, carbohydrate (starch and sugar), protein and fats served each day can also be controlled using the “Beyond the Basics” meal planning tool from the Canadian Diabetes Association. There are a variety of dietary approaches and you should discuss which one is best for you with your registered dietitian or health care provider.

Diabetes can be easily managed with consistency and planning. 

A diabetic needs to eat close to the same times every day and pay attention to the make-up of the meal and the portion sizes eaten. Avoid skipping meals. Learning to choose appropriate portion sizes from various foods in the four food groups helps manage diabetes and is critical. 

Vegetables and fruit portions are ½ cup (125 mL) raw or cooked or 1 cup (250 mL) leafy vegetables like spinach. A single serving of grains, for instance, is ½ cup (125 mL) of cooked pasta, rice or potato or 1 slice of whole grain bread. Half of your grains should be from whole grains and many of the 10 new recipes feature a variety of whole grains. Adding more fibre to your diet from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains helps keep your blood sugars more stable.

The portion size for milk and alternatives are 1 cup (250 mL) milk or non-dairy alternative like soy or rice milk, ¾ cup (175 mL) low fat yogurt or 50 g cheese (1½ oz.). A serving of meat and alternatives is ½ cup (125 mL) cooked lean meat, poultry or fish or 2 eggs, ¾ cup (175 mL) cooked beans or 2 tablespoons (30 mL) nut butter.

Use the plate method to help balance your meals by combining adequate lean protein, whole grains/starch with colourful fruits and vegetables. 

A well balanced meal on a standard dinner plate should consist of ¼ lean protein (e.g., chicken, fish or meat), ¼ grains and starches (e.g., potato, quinoa, whole grain pasta and rice) and ½ vegetables using at least two vegetables of different colours. For a complete diabetic-friendly meal, add a serving of lower fat milk or yogurt and a portion of fruit for dessert. A balanced breakfast combines lower fat protein or milk and alternatives, grains and starches and a serving of fruit.  

Diabetics in good control may not have to avoid all added sugars and can use artificial sweeteners instead. Small amounts of sugar (e.g., white sugar, honey) can be used in the diet and are best eaten with a complete mixed meal to help reduce any spikes in blood sugar.  

Many diabetics have high blood pressure and too much sodium (salt contains sodium) in our diet can contribute to higher blood pressure. The diabetic-friendly recipes limit the use of salt and emphasize using fresh, quality ingredients including lean chicken to create colourful and natural tasting meals.

Remember to drink plenty of water and limit your fat intake. The food guide recommends that you consume no more than a total of 2-3 tablespoons (30-45 mL) of unsaturated fats and oils each day including oils used in cooking, salad dressings, margarine and mayonnaise. Avoid trans fats and saturated fats in fried foods, chips and pastries. Choose heart healthy fats and limit overall fat to help decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.  When salad dressing is part of a recipe it is home made to help reduce calories, fat and salt while creating natural freshness.

Why is chicken, as a lean protein, a good choice in these recipes for managing diabetes? 

Chicken is an excellent source of high-quality, lean protein and can be included in breakfast, lunch and dinner. Protein provides energy and plays a role in managing diabetes. Eating adequate protein at all meals slows digestion and will help you feel full longer. It also helps slow the process of carbohydrate entering the blood stream therefore moderating spikes in blood glucose. Being in control of your appetite and feeling satisfied longer can help manage your weight and reduce over eating. Eating enough protein also promotes healthy bones and preserves muscle mass as we age. Lean chicken on its own doesn’t have any carbohydrates and has little effect on your blood sugar. 

Newer research recommends spreading protein intake throughout the day and getting 25-30 grams at each meal. Adding legumes (bean, peas or lentils) to chicken dishes boosts the protein content of the meal. Rounding out a meal with a glass of low fat milk or yogurt also increases the protein content to higher levels.

To control your calorie and fat intake choose lean chicken pieces or extra-lean ground chicken. Do not eat the poultry skin and choose lower fat cooking methods (e.g., roasting or grilling). Dark meat contains more fat than white meat, but it is not as big a difference as you may think and the extra fat helps to keep it juicy during cooking. Skinless chicken legs, thighs or drumsticks are now widely available and are more economical than chicken breast.  

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