Food for Thought

A week or so after a friend of mine fell, broke her heel in several places, and was confined to bed, her mind was on more than pain and inactivity. “My mother always made me potato soup when I was sick,” she told me one day.


I could relate. Potato soup is one of my comfort foods, too. There was nothing to do but make a batch of potato soup for her. Recently, she returned the favor. Even more recently, I made my own pot of potato soup. My blood glucose doesn’t like it, but sometimes I need to return to my childhood and my grandparents’ house.

When I wanted to thank my husband for all he’s been doing for me and couldn’t think of the right words, I made stuffed grape leaves — a favorite of his I don’t often make. His mother always made him a fish dish he’s particularly fond of when he went home to visit. (I know how to make it, but he doesn’t often get it here because it requires whole fish — difficult to find where I live.)

Lunch on the first day of Rosh Hashanah is egg salad and challah. It’s the one day of the year I allow myself to eat as much as I want.

Is Thanksgiving a time to remember the early settlers getting together with the Native Americans for a feast of thanks, or are turkey and pumpkin pie the main things on your mind? Which do you prepare for more on Super Bowl Sunday: the game or the food? Does the Indy 500 equal fried chicken and beer, as it does to me?

In fact, is there any event or holiday you can think of that doesn’t involve food?

Food is more than nourishment. Some foods remind us of our childhoods or of a place we visited. It’s often a central part of family gatherings and of outings with friends.

Because food is such an integral part of our lives, I have a theory as to why many people resist going for diabetes self-management education: They’re afraid somebody is going to mess with their food. That would also go along with failing to tell the doctor you believe you have diabetes and/or denying that you have it.

It’s easy to ignore Type 2 diabetes. Unless you were diagnosed after a diabetic complication presented itself, there’s not much that’s going to happen for awhile. However, diabetes isn’t going to be ignoring you. While you’re in denial, your blood glucose levels are rising and your chances of getting complications are increasing. But, hey: Diabetes only affects the parts of your body that receive blood.

I was one of those who ignored diabetes. Why? I just knew “they” were going to take away my favorite foods.

Much to my (very pleasant) surprise, nothing was taken away from me. Instead, I was taught how to incorporate my faves into my meal plans and snacks in a way that let me maintain control over my glucose levels.

It was a far cry from my diagnosis in the 1980’s, when I was handed a piece of paper with a “diabetic diet” on it and told: “Here. Follow this. Don’t eat any sugar.” Period. This time around, a dietitian asked me what foods I like, when I usually ate, what some typical meals were, etc., and we worked out a meal plan based on my likes and dislikes instead of what some faceless people somewhere far, far away thought I should be doing.

If you don’t have somebody like that, I advise finding one. It made a huge difference in my attitude and in my diabetes control. Could it make a difference to you, too?

Learn more about the health and medical experts who who provide you with the cutting-edge resources, tools, news, and more on Diabetes Self-Management.
About Our Experts >>

  • April

    I really enjoyed this article. There are a lot of myths still out there about diabetes and what you can and cant have. My father passed away this year of a heart attach. He had type 2 diabetes. When talking with my aunt I discovered she was under the impression you couldn’t have any sugar period. I explained to her that wasn’t true. I really enjoyed the class my Dr sent me to when I was diagnosed and recommend anyone who finds out they are diabetic go to a class.

  • linda

    We can have anything in moderation. But that rule is soooo difficult at times.

  • Beth

    Great insight, Jan! Of course, most people don’t want anyone to mess with their food.

    I want to add something else, especially since it’s almost Ramadan, and the Jewish High Holy Days are also near. Besides being able to incorporate favorite foods into good diabetes meal plans, fasting can be safe and easy for people with diabetes. Like everything else with diabetes, it requires a bit of knowledge and some planning to fit your own situation.

    I do realize that all the major religions allow exceptions to fasting for people who have health reasons not to fast. However, most people with diabetes who feel that fasting is an important part of their religious observances can do so.

    Here is a link to an article in a major professional journal about fasting during Ramadan:

    Of course, fasting during the Jewish High Holy Days or the christian Holy Week would be similar.

  • connie dyer

    I read your piece about soy. What happens if you comedown with estrogen based breast cancer. Doesn’t soy help your body produce estrogen? I take Arimidex and folic acid to keep the estrogen from being eaten cancer cell so as not to get breast cancer back again. I try not to eat anything with soy in it right now. Is there a soy that would help me or should I stay away from soy. My oncologist said I should not take soy supplements or eat soy.

  • sita

    I also struggle with food. Being multi cultural, food is the center of our lives. Someone comes to my door, “how are you? have you eaten?” We had a 5 foot farmers table in my kitchen, and there was always a group of people eating. Now with the two of us, portion control is a big issue. I am still handing out food to my children and neighbors because I cooked too much. lol.
    Fear for me is my biggest controller. The thought of not being able to wear my shoes scares me. smile!!
    Moderation and education are your best friends.

  • misskitty3

    RICE IS MY COMFORT FOOD. While I was hospitalized for DKA, a diabetic nurse told me I could only have 1/3 cup rice. She might as well said me no rice at all.!!!!!
    Coffee & a donut are another comfort food. Now I have to ration them. At least it’s not a “Never” food; I have trouble w/ “never-ever” dictates.