It’s your friendly neighborhood registered dietitian nutritionist and diabetes extraordinaire back at it again with some tasty tips and nutritious meals in honor of National Grilling Month!
I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do is be stuck in my kitchen cooking meals when there’s sun and fun outside to be had (not to mention the heat that the appliances can put off!).
And that’s where grilling comes in!
Grilling is not only a good excuse to get outside and hang out with friends and family, but it can also be a great way to conveniently and quickly make a balanced meal.
Picking your perfect plate will be a common theme in all of these blog posts as you’ll come to see, but balancing your plate with protein, non-starchy veggies and carbs can be something you can use even when grilling and chilling.
You won’t always have these items on your plate—and that’s okay. When you do have all of these items present, it can aid in keeping your blood sugar balanced and more stable than when you do not.
Let’s take a look at how to adapt plate planning to grilling with these healthy tips below.
When you think of grilling, you usually think of a nice juicy hamburger, brisket, tri-tip, sausage, shrimp, or some form of animal-based protein (sincerest apologies for making your mouth water while reading this post!).
Any form of meat can typically be thrown on the grill to take the flavor up a few notches as the Maillard reaction, a fancy term for a chemical reaction that takes place between amino acids and sugars that causes that delicious browning and seared crust, occurs.
Check out the tips below to avoid having a grilling miss-steak!
Fat Content and Blood Sugars (Yes, you read that correctly!)
As people living with diabetes, we mostly focus on the carbohydrates for blood sugar management. However, as you master carbohydrates and start to feel more comfortable with your relationship with food and diabetes, dietary fats and proteins can also be taken into consideration when looking at how food impacts your glucose levels.
I know, I know…Some of you are probably re-reading that statement and wondering…what? How is that possible? But never fear, your friendly T1 registered dietitian is here!
You may have heard that foods like pizza and ice cream can be notoriously difficult to manage when living with diabetes, or you may have tried to eat low carb with high fat and still have struggled with blood sugar management…but why?
When we consume a balance of the macronutrients protein, carbs, and fat, the carbohydrates are digested quickly while the proteins and fat are digested at a much slower rate, which can help to promote blood sugar stabilization for hours after the meal was consumed.
However, when the balance gets skewed and we have a higher amount of fat or protein in the meal, this can cause a delay in digestion of the meal in its entirety and can cause a secondary spike in blood sugar HOURS after consuming the meal once the fat and protein have been digested. An example would be when you woke up with a higher level the morning after a pizza night.
While there are tools that you can use to help you handle these meals better (extended bolus, choosing thinner crust, the addition of more non-starchy vegetables, etc.), one way you can help prevent these spikes from occurring is by trimming the fat off and choosing a leaner protein such as shrimp, mahi mahi, pork tenderloin, chicken, or turkey breast or round steak.
Still feeling foggy when it comes to fats and protein? Use the food tracker feature in the Glooko app to determine the fat and protein foods for whatever meats you decide to fire up!
PREP, SEASONING AND MARINADES
Grilling is one of the quickest methods of cooking and can be fairly simple when it comes to the prep. You can opt to buy pre-prepped items at the grocery store or even make your own at home.
It’s in the Sauce
When you’re choosing a BBQ sauce, rub, or marinade, try to be mindful of the amount of added sugars and sodium. Store bought sauces and marinades tend to really be a great tool to speed up the cooking process, but can be loaded with added sugars and lots of sodium which can make it more difficult to control blood sugars and cause increases in blood sugar levels. When reading the nutrition label on the item or looking at the item in the Glooko app, a daily value of 5% or lower means that it is low in sodium and/or added sugar and 20% means that it is high in sodium or added sugar.
Making your own sauce, rub, or marinade at home is better because you control the ingredients! Aim for adding less sugar than you typically would and put more emphasis on other seasonings like garlic, paprika, onion, garlic powder, mustard, worcestershire sauce, cayenne and chili powder as they will have little impact on blood sugar levels and don’t add much sodium.
You can even season and marinade your proteins and veggies ahead of time to save on prep. Some of my clients have used grilling as a method to batch cook their proteins during the week for convenient grab-and-go meal prep.
VEGETABLES AND CARBOHYDRATES
Another huge benefit of grilling is cutting down on the amount of tools needed to make a meal (Have I ever mentioned that I hate doing dishes?). If you have a big enough cooking space, you can cook your veggies at the same time as your animal-based proteins.
While food like potatoes and corn are vegetables, they contain a higher amount of carbohydrates than their non-starchy counterparts, so I will address them next.
Non-starchy vegetables, including onions, peppers, mushrooms, cauliflower, zucchini squash, tomatoes, romaine (yes, romaine-grilled caesars are BEYOND) and carrots, can help you maintain your blood sugar goals while turning up the flavor on your taste buds (Thanks, Maillard reaction!). The taste of these grilled veggies are COMPLETELY different than when they are raw, or even steamed and can be an exciting way to try something new when it comes to your meals.
Not only that, non-starchy vegetables are way lower in carbohydrates and have more fiber than their starchy counterparts which helps to keep spikes at bay and allows you more time to play! Aim to fill ¼ to ½ of your plate with these vegetables, or make a skewer that combines your favorite veggies and meat.
Need help getting started? Try my recipe below for grilled cabbage!
There is no need to omit carbohydrates when it comes to a balanced diet, but you do want to be mindful of the amount you’re consuming as they will impact blood sugars the most. Carbohydrates that are commonly found when grilling can be in food items like potatoes (white and sweet), corn, pineapple, watermelon, peaches, toast and pizza.
When consuming these, make sure you’re being mindful of the amount and the balance between the other items on your plate (i.e grilled tri-tip with roasted potatoes, 1 ¼ of corn on the cob and ½ plate of salad versus a 16 oz. T-bone steak with a huge baked potato and full sized corn on the cob with lots of butter).
Vegan and Vegetarian
Yes, you can grill AND perfect your plate at the same time just like your carnivorous friends! You can choose a vegetarian meat alternative, tofu or veggie skewers with your favorite plant-based meat alternative, and still enjoy the same benefits mentioned above.
Make sure you’re also being mindful of added sugars and sodium as sometimes the store-bought items can have a significant amount. Try to keep things balanced by pairing plant based-proteins, like beans and plant-based meat alternatives, and carbs, like potatoes, pineapple and corn, with non-starchy veggies, like mushrooms, onions and peppers.
By using these basics for healthy grilling, you’ll be the grill master of this summer. You can practice balancing the items on your plate to help promote blood sugar stabilization, experiment with “eating the rainbow,” and take your meals to a new and exciting place by playing around with different items, flavors and cooking methods.
And don’t forget to track your food using the voice capture feature in the Glooko app when you’re manning the grill!
Make sure you tag @Glooko or myself (@BalancedWithBridgetWood) on Instagram, and use the hashtags, #BetterTogether and #BalancedWithBridgetWood, in all your recipe creations on social media. We’d love to see what you come up with…and maybe get an invite to the next cookout?
Bridget Wood, RD, LD, CDCES
Download a Recipe for Easy-to-Make Grilled Cabbage (PDF)