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Incorporating Italian Food in Your Diabetic Meal Plan

It’s entirely likely that the American concept of Italian food is colored by the Americanization of Italian food. Nevertheless, when you eat Italian in America it’s carbohydrates and fat you need to manage.

The carbohydrates often come from bread and pasta, and the bread may be already waiting for you before you’re seated. The bread at an Italian restaurant is exactly like the tortilla chips at a Mexican establishment — an excellent opportunity to eat your way through two or three carb choices before you realize what you’re doing.

A glass or two of wine can add additional calories, and another carb choice to your running tally.

Pasta is a dense carbohydrate food, with one carb choice coming from a 1/3-cup portion. And, like the Asian takeout rice bucket, most Italian restaurants include pasta in an unmeasurable serving size that could be called a pile. A pile of pasta is not compatible with effective blood glucose control.

Finally, Italian restaurants often offer creamy sauces like Alfredo, made with butter and cheese, and extremely high in fat. Plus, Italian food is known for its assortment of cured meats — prosciutto, mortadella, pancetta, soppressata, and more. These meats are cured with salt, and are often high in saturated fat as well. These should be avoided, or eaten in extreme moderation.

Like any ethnic cuisine, Italian food also offers healthy selections for diabetes management. Fish dishes and vegetables cooked lightly in olive oil are wonderful; tomatoes play a featured role in many Italian dishes. If you’re eating out, check the nutrition information before you go. And, if you’re preparing Italian food at home, find recipes that are low fat, low sodium, and with a carbohydrate content that fits into your meal plan.

The same advice goes for all of your eating adventures. Every culture has its share of foods and flavors that will fit perfectly into your meal plan. It’s up to you to find the ones that fit. Bon appétit.

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