What you eat can be a useful tool in managing blood sugars, especially if you’re a type 2 diabetic or prediabetic. But you don’t have to give up your favorite foods or totally uproot your routine to stay on track. It can be tricky to determine what foods you should be eating and which portion sizes are helpful for managing your blood sugar—all while trying to get dinner on the table, which is where our favorite selection of diabetes-friendly cookbooks comes in handy.
What is a “diabetes diet,” anyway?
When you think of a diabetes diet, you might first envision low-sugar and low-carb foods. But the truth is, every person is going to have a different blood sugar response to foods, and the nutritional needs for people change based on their age, weight, activity levels, and blood sugar fluctuations, explains Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., founder of Nutrition Starring YOU and author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook.
Though there’s no one-size-fits-all diabetic diet, a common prescription for those with diabetes is to use carb counting to minimize blood sugar fluctuations, says Vandana Sheth, R.D., dietitian, and author of My Indian Table: Quick & Tasty Vegetarian Recipes. “All foods can be enjoyed by someone with diabetes. The key is to watch portions and pair foods appropriately to minimize big swings in blood sugar,” she says.
Using diet to manage type 2 diabetes or prediabetes can help prevent medical complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, or blindness, says Deena Adimoolam, M.D., endocrinologist and obesity specialist.
In these cases, the overall diet will often be low in carbs, and focused on incorporating more protein and non-starchy vegetables into meals, explains Dr. Adimoolam. “When one does eat carbs, focus on choosing less simple sugars (like cakes and cookies), and choose more complex sugars instead (like whole grain bread and brown rice),” she says. “It’s also important to read nutrition labels and identify hidden simple sugar in foods, like dextrose and high fructose corn syrup.”
When cooking at home, a typical “diabetes-friendly” plate consists of a healthy fat, half the plate full of non-starchy vegetables, a quarter-to-two-thirds full of lean protein, and the rest filled with a high-fiber carbohydrate, explains Sheth.
But, every body is different, and it’s important to work with your doctor or nutritionist to discuss your health goals and a diet plan that works best for you, notes Dr. Adimoolam.
What makes a cookbook diabetes-specific?
Every publisher has different guidelines for calling a cookbook diabetes-specific. Some are published by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and are often reviewed by an ADA member to ensure they align with the Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes and other policies held by the ADA. All diabetes-specific cookbooks should be seen as guidelines and are not meant to be used as a prescription for any disease or condition, according to disclaimers of ADA published books.
Most low-glycemic diabetes-friendly cookbooks will focus on heart-healthy foods, lower amounts of sodium, and saturated fats, quality carbohydrates, and lean proteins, Harris-Pincus says. This is different from a low-carb or low-sugar cookbook that may not account for keeping calories, fats, and sodium moderate, which are all essential for a healthy diet. Additionally, most diabetes cookbooks will include nutrition facts on recipes.
“Given that everyone has different medical needs, cooking skills, time constraints, access to food, and socioeconomic status, each person needs to go through and find things that fit their lifestyle and their family,” she says. “A lot of these books are designed to be just generally friendly for anyone who would be eating the recipe. They’re not extreme, they’re not no-carb, and they’re not flavorless.”
With the help of your doctor and registered dietitian, these cookbooks will help you manage blood sugars, become a master in the kitchen, cooking up flavorful, healthy meals every night of the week.
Diabetic Cookbook and Meal Plan for the Newly Diagnosed
This best-selling cookbook from dietitian Lori Zanini,R.D., C.D.E., is an excellent resource for those who don’t know where to begin with their diabetes management. The four-week meal plan takes you step-by-step to learn how to navigate food and lifestyle changes. Plus, recipes like spice-rubbed crispy roast chicken will have you coming back for more, long after the four weeks are up.
The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook: The Whole Food Approach to Great Taste and Healthy Eating
For those looking to cut down on artificial ingredients, Dietitian Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., C.D.N., brings flavor, freshness, and whole foods in this ADA published book. You’ll find recipes for Thai-style halibut with mango relish, peppermint brownies, California chicken burger sliders, and so much more.
Harris-Pincus notes that though there’s nothing inherently wrong with using artificial sweeteners, this is a great option for those who want to focus on more natural sugars (like coconut sugar) while managing their diabetes. And, natural ingredients do not mean you can stop taking prescribed insulin. Love Newgent’s cookbook as much as we do? Check out others in her repertoire, like The Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook: Flavorful, Fuss-Free Recipes for Everyday Meal Planning.
The Create-Your-Plate Diabetes Cookbook: A Plate Method Approach to Simple, Complete Meals
Dietitian Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., created an incredibly visual tool for those struggling to cook and manage their diabetes. The ADA published book includes delicious recipes, like avocado toast with turkey bacon, roasted salmon with chimichurri sauce, and more with step-by-step guides to help keep portions in check.
“It’s a great visual aid, and a lot of the pictures are presented in a [plate format],” Harris-Pincus says of the cookbook. “It’s good for beginners, and helps you picture your plate and take mental energy away from measuring and weighing.”
The Southern Comfort Food Diabetes Cookbook: Over 100 Recipes for a Healthy Life
Dietitian Maya Feller, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., brings diabetes cooking down South and transforms classic comfort foods with better-for-you ingredients–all while maintaining the nostalgic flavors you crave. You’ll find recipes for fried chicken, mac and cheese, and more using alternatives designed to keep the ADA guidelines in mind. “It’s a great option and opportunity for people looking for southern comfort food,” Harris-Pincus says of the cookbook.
Indian Cuisine Diabetes Cookbook: Savory Spices and Bold Flavors of South Asia
Bring the flavors and smells of your favorite South Asian cuisine right to your kitchen with Mary Abraham Fridel’s cookbook. The book, published by the ADA, includes classic recipes like chicken and vegetable curries, Indian flatbreads, shorbas and dals, and more to bring you authentic Indian flavors and fiber-rich ingredients.
Cooking for Latinos with Diabetes (Cocinando para Latinos con Diabetes), 3rd Edition
You don’t have to give up your favorite Latin-inspired recipes just because you’re managing your diabetes, with this ADA published book. Dietitian Olga V. Fusté, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., brings classic Latin dishes like arrom imperial, ensalada pulpo, fainá, and more to the table with modified ingredients to fit into your diabetes meal plan. Plus, each recipe is in both English and Spanish for anyone to enjoy.
The Easy Diabetes Cookbook: Simple, Delicious Recipes to Help You Balance Your Blood Sugars
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes herself, dietitian Mary Ellen Phipps, R.D., brings quick, easy, and delicious food for the entire family. With recipes like cheesy quinoa-crusted spinach frittata, beef and broccoli stir-fry, and even artichoke and basil pizza, you can still have your family favorites and manage your blood sugar without missing a thing.
Tex-Mex Diabetes Cooking: More Than 140 Authentic Southwestern Favorites
Food consultant, blogger, and writer Kelley Cleary Coffeen, Ph.D., offers inspired, bold Tex-Mex flavors straight from the Southwest to your plate. Focusing on fresh, local vegetables, fruits, beans, cheeses, lean meats, fish, and poultry, this irresistible book will quickly become a staple. Dine on smoked cheddar cheese and green chile tamales, stacked saucy enchiladas with fresh greens, seared sirloin tacos with guacamole, and so much more from this ADA published cookbook.
The Essential Diabetes Instant Pot Cookbook: Healthy, Foolproof Recipes for Your Electric Pressure Cooker
If you’re a fan of Instant Pot cooking, then Instant Pot queen, cookbook author, and blogger Coco Morante has a book for you. With five Instant-Pot-themed cookbooks, she brings manageable recipes to your kitchen, all reviewed by endocrinologist Dr. Jessica Castle, M.D. You’ll find decadent recipes like grain-free apple cinnamon cake, coddled huevos rancheros, chocolate-chocolate chip bundt cake, and more on each colorful page.
Healthy at Last: A Plant-Based Approach to Preventing and Reversing Diabetes and Other Chronic Illnesses
The Brooklyn Borough president and Democratic nominee for New York City mayor Eric Adams takes on one of the most threatening chronic diseases in the African American community with his book. Adams was diagnosed with diabetes himself, and after switching his diet to plant-based he was able to drop pounds, lower his cholesterol, manage his diabetes, and restore his vision. This guide to managing diabetes with real-life stories and science, is accompanied by an exploration of soul food and recipes from celebrities.
Diabetes Slow Cooker Cookbook: Recipes for Balanced Meals and Healthy Living
Member of the American Diabetes Association’s Virginia Advocacy Council Shelby Kinnaird, M.S., and dietitian Simone Harounian R.D.N., C.D.C.E.S., bring diabetes-friendly cooking to those who can’t be bothered to cook. The book is packed with recipes you can pop directly into your slow cooker, with guidance to create balanced meals that are incredibly flavorful like cheesy garlic cauliflower mash, creole chicken meatloaf, and Manhattan-style clam chowder.
The 30 Minute Diabetes Cookbook: Eat to Beat Diabetes with 100 Easy Low-carb Recipes
Restaurant and cookery school owners Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi share their first-hand experience managing Giancarlo’s type 2 diabetes, along with general practitioner and diabetes specialist David Unwin, M.D., and clinical nutritionist Jenny Phillips, M.B.A. Each recipe can be made in just 30 minutes or less, and features stunning photos for recipes that taste even better than they look.
The 30-Minute Prediabetes Cookbook: 100 Easy Recipes to Improve and Manage Your Health through Diet
Dietitian and chef Ranelle Kirchner, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., takes her knowledge as a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator and combines it with her culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu to bring fantastic meals to your regular rotation. Each recipe comes together in 30-minutes or less and includes dishes like turkey pastrami and pimento cheese sandwiches, carrot cake oatmeal, herbed buttermilk chicken, and more.
Latin Comfort Foods Made Healthy/Clásicos Latinos a lo Saludable: More than 100 Diabetes-Friendly Latin Favorites
Telemundo star and cooking personality Chef Ingrid Hoffman brings a fully bilingual cookbook to your shelf–packed with diabetes-friendly, Latin-inspired dishes. With a focus on proteins, whole grains, and fresh vegetables, this ADA-published book features salsa verde drowned eggs, empanadas de hojaldre rellenas de maíz y queso, and so much more.
Meal Prep Diabetes Cookbook: 4 Weeks of Easy Meal Plans
For the meal planners out there, dietitian Kathy Brikett, R.D.N., L.N., offers recipes you can mix and match with pre-prepped ingredients for ease. Dine on teriyaki chicken stir fry, Ranch chicken wraps with sweet potatoes, and more with this beginner, meal-prep book.
The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook: 200 Healthy Recipes to Help Reverse and Manage Pre-Diabetes
The thought behind Harris-Pincus’ second cookbook is healthy recipes that not only help manage pre-diabetes, but require minimal kitchen skills, crush cravings, are practical for busy people, and take 30-minutes or less. You’ll find recipes for chocolate doughnuts with vanilla glaze, spicy Thai peanut noodles, seared sirloin steaks with garlicky greens, and so much more the whole family will enjoy.
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