Diabetic cooking.

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Snack ideas

Snacks play a very important role in the daily life of a person with diabetes, particularly those with type 1 diabetes and insulin-requiring type 2 diabetes. For these people between-meal and bedtime snacks are essential to keep blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible and to help prevent low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Wherever you go you should always carry a supply of snacks to eat in case of low blood sugar — we keep snacks in our purse or briefcase, in the glove compartment of our car, in our office desk drawer, and in the sports bag that we carry to the exercise gym.

We’ve provided 37 snack recipes in our James Beard Cookbook Award-Winning Joslin Diabetes Gourmet Cookbook (Bantam Books) which you can purchase in our bookstore or borrow from most any library. The recipes run the gamut from Bruschetta to Stuffed Bread Slices, Zesty Corn Chips, Quick Passaladière, Dilled Potato-Cheese Soup, and Soft Pretzels. We also offer creative ways to combine “free foods” for when you are especially hungry and don’t want to use your carbo exchanges.

Here’s a list of snacks that can be purchased at most supermarkets calculated to supply 12 to 15 grams of carbohydrate or 1 carbohydrate (1 bread/starch) exchange:

1 small apple
8 animal crackers
4 medium fresh apricots or 7 dried halves
1/2 of a banana rolled with 2 tablespoons Grape Nuts cereal
1 cup cubed cantaloupe
12 Bing cherries
2 chocolate mousse bars (Weight Watchers)
1/2 cup chow mein noodles
3 dried dates
2 small dried figs
2 sugar-free fudgesickles
3 gingersnaps
36 Goldfish (adds 1 fat exchange)
3 graham crackers (2 1/2-inch square)
1/2 low-fat granola bar
15 grapes
5 kumquats
3 Lorna Doones (adds 1 fat exchange)
12 loquats
5 slices melba toast
1 small nectarine
1 cup skim milk
3 thin sliced Norwegian Kavli flatbread (2 thick sliced)
1 small orange
1 small peach
3 peanut butter sandwich crackers (adds 1 fat exchange)
1 small pear
16 Mr. Phipps Tater Crisps (adds 1 fat exchange)
2 small plums
24 oyster crackers
3 cups popcorn (popped by hot air, or low-fat microwave)
3 dried pitted prunes
15 fat-free potato or tortilla chips
3/4 ounce pretzels
2 tablespoons raisins
2 rice cakes (4″ diameter)
7 Ritz crackers (adds 1 fat exchange)
6 saltine crackers
2 Stella d’Oro Sesame Breadsticks (adds 1 fat exchange)
1 tangerine
15 Teddy Grahams (adds 1 fat exchange)
5 reduced-fat Triscuits
6 Vanilla Wafers (adds 1 fat exchange)
6 Waverly Wafers (adds 1 fat exchange)
12 Original Wheat Thins (adds 1 fat exchange)
13 Reduced-fat Wheat Thins (adds 1/2 fat exchange)
1 cup nonfat fruit-flavored yogurt (sweetened with sugar substitute)
1/2 cup of either I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt or TCBY frozen yogurt or Baskin Robbins, Sugar-Free Ice Cream
Microwave cooking

 The Good Health Microwave Cookbook (Bantam Books), Carl Jerome says “by its very nature the microwave encourages its user to prepare healthful food. It cooks without the need of added fat…the microwave enhances flavors, in large part, because it cooks foods without the need for added water — which drains food of its flavor — thus minimizing the need for salt.”

We agree! The microwave cooks fresh vegetables wonderfully (and makes frozen vegetables seem almost fresh). It cooks cereals, grains, beans, and peas perfectly. Fish cooked in the microwave is marvelous, and the microwave does an excellent job with poultry and game. Fruit is better when cooked in the microwave than on top of the stove or in the oven.

“The microwave is basically a giant steamer, ” says Lori Longbotham, author of Better by Microwave (Dutton Books). That’s probably why most people don’t care for microwave baked potatoes. The potato is cooked in about 7 minutes, but it’s actually been steamed and lacks the crunchy outside skin that makes a baked potato so wonderful. So, microwave the potatoes while you’re preheating the regular oven to 450°F (230°C). Finish the potatoes in the hot oven so they can develop a crisp skin.

Have you ever tried cooking artichokes in the microwave? Four artichokes, arranged in a shallow dish and sealed airtight with a double covering of plastic wrap, cook perfectly in less than 15 minutes, in about a quarter of the top-of-the-stove cooking time and without all the fuss. Fat spears of asparagus cook in 5 minutes, retaining their emerald green color and fresh-picked flavor. Brussels sprouts do an amazing thing when you cook them in a microwave. The leaves actually separate as the sprouts cook in about 7 minutes to a delicate flavor and leafy texture. A small head of cauliflower, cored and cut into flowerets, cooks in just 6 minutes with its natural, delicate cabbage flavor and flowery aroma intensified.

No need to husk your fresh corn before cooking, just arrange the corn still in its husks like spokes of a wheel on the floor of the microwave oven with the small ends in the center. Four ears of corn will take 10 minutes on HIGH. Using an oven mitt, remove the corn from the oven and carefully pull off the husks and silks (they will separate easily from the corn). Be careful as the corn will be cooked all the way through the cob. As the Persians do, dip the cooked corn on the cob briefly in a pot of lightly salted water and offer wedges of fresh lime to squeeze on the corn just before eating. You won’t miss the butter!

Food cooks (and reheats) better in round dishes in a microwave.  

Salt attracts microwaves. Add it after the cooking, not before.

Not all china, glass, plastic, and paper dishes are microwave-safe as we specify for in all of our recipes. To determine if a particular dish is usable, we like the test suggested in Microwave Cooking Handbook by the International Microwave Power Institute of Clifton, Virginia:

“Place a glass measuring cup with 1/2 cup water in the microwave oven. Set the dish to be tested near the measuring cup, but not touching. Microwave on HIGH (100 percent) power for one minute. If the dish is cool or slightly warm to the touch, the dish is acceptable for microwave cooking. The water (in the measuring cup) should be quite warm or hot. If the dish is hot, do not use it in a microwave.”

Cooking with a Microwave   One of the main reasons that we like microwave cooking is that we can cook delicious meals with little or no fat. A 4-ounce (120 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast half cooks to juicy perfection in 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Before cooking, rinse the chicken, blot with paper towels, sprinkle the chicken lightly with mixed Italian herbs and wrap in microwave-safe plastic wrap.

At the same time, you can cook a mix of thinly sliced onion and a few julienne strips of red and green bell peppers plus a quartered small red potato in 5 minutes. Add about 5 minutes for the pre-microwaving preparation time, and you have dinner done in 10 minutes — all on the same plate, if you like. (If cooking on one plate, start the vegetables and potato first and add the chicken after 2 1/2 minutes. Instant portion control with no tempting leftovers and only a plate, a chopping board, a sharp knife, and eating utensils to wash! Exchanges equal 4 very lean meat, 1 carbohydrate (1 bread/starch), and 1 vegetable.

Another time, you can do an instant “taco” salad dinner that makes 4 servings. First, crumble 1 pound (480 g) ground turkey in a microwave-safe colander set over a casserole dish. Microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes. Discard fat drippings and wipe out the casserole. Turn the cooked turkey into the casserole and stir in 1/2 cup (80 g) chopped onion, 1 cup (130 g) chopped zucchini, 1/2 tablespoon (7.5 ml) Mexican seasoning (if not available at your market, you can substitute 1 1/4 teaspoons (6.25 ml) chili powder and a 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) ground cumin), 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon (1.25) freshly ground pepper, and 1/2 cup (120 ml) purchased taco sauce. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Spread 4 cups (224 g) shredded iceberg lettuce on a platter. Spoon hot turkey-vegetable mixture over the lettuce and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons (21 g) low-fat sharp cheddar cheese. Exchanges per serving will equal 3 very lean meat and 1 vegetable. 

Microwave Tips

  1. Keep in mind, that as in any type of cooking, top quality ingredients will always produce superior results. Make sure you shop carefully, choosing the best and freshest ingredients available and that you can afford.
  2. Since there is little evaporation in microwave cooking, food cooks in very little water — only a tablespoon or two is needed for vegetables.
  3. Food continues to cook after the microwave turns off whether it’s left in the oven or removed. Let the cooked food stand for about 1/3 of the original cooking time before serving.
  4. Rotate the dish midway during the cooking time if your oven doesn’t have a turntable. Even if it does, stir the food and rearrange it, turning large food items over. This helps the food to cook evenly.
  5. Arrange food so that the thinnest part of the food (i.e. chicken breast, fish fillets) is in the center and the thickest part toward the outside. Fold under the thin edges of fish fillets and other tapered food to cook more evenly.
  6. Salt on the surface of food attracts microwaves, drying out the surface. If using, either stir it in or better yet (we’re all watching our salt, anyway), sprinkle with a salt substitute after cooking.
  7. The recipes were tested on HIGH or full power at 650 to 700 watts in a carousel microwave using microwave-safe containers. Since microwave ovens vary significantly by manufacturer and model, you’ll need to determine the power of your own oven from the manufacturer’s instruction manual. If your microwave is less or more powerful (the newer models are 800 to 900 watts), add or deduct 15 seconds per minute per 100 watts of power difference. Watch the dish carefully, and be sure to rotate the dish occasionally while cooking, if your oven does not have a carousel.
  8. Not all china, glass, plastic, and paper products are microwave-safe as we specify for in all of our recipes. Only use paper plates and towels and plastic wraps and bags that say microwave-safe. Never use a brown paper bag or newspaper in a microwave. It may catch on fire. To determine if a particular dish is usable, we like the test suggested in Microwave Cooking Handbook by the International Microwave Power Institute of Clifton, Virginia:
    “Place a glass measuring cup with 1/2 cup water in the microwave oven. Set the dish to be tested near the measuring cup, but not touching. Microwave on HIGH (100 percent) power for one minute. If the dish is cool or slightly warm to the touch, the dish is acceptable for microwave cooking. The water (in the measuring cup) should be quite warm or hot. If the dish is hot, do not use it in a microwave.”
  9. Never operate an empty microwave oven.
  10. A microwave oven must be kept clean for best efficiency. If something splatters, clean the microwave before using. Refer to your owner’s operation manual as to how to best clean your microwave.
  11. When reheating something liquid such as soup, stir before, during, and after reheating.
  12. Be careful to not overcook. Check food at the minimum time, then cook more if necessary. You can always add more cooking time, but like a food processor, once you pass the optimum time, you can’t take the time away.

now it’s time to share some quick cooking tips.

  1. If you like the firmer skin of an oven-baked potato, shorten the baking time by piercing the potato with a fork and microwaving them for 10 minutes before finishing them off in the oven.
  2. If you’re baking a whole chicken, shorten the baking time by asking your butcher to butterfly the chicken for you.
  3. Turkey will roast more quickly if it’s not stuffed. Bake the stuffing alongside in a casserole during the last hour, adding a little more low-fat, low-sodium stock or broth to keep the stuffing moist.
  4. If wanting browned onions or other root vegetables, don’t add any salt until after they are nicely browned and caramelized. Salt slows down the caramelization process.
  5. Buy legumes such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, and split peas when you know that you’ll be needing them soon – the longer the storage time, the longer the cooking time.
  6. If you like to bake pizza at home, invest in a pizza stone and preheat it in the oven before you start the pizza baking. It takes less time to bake on a hot stone.
  7. Like to make soup? Buy frozen stocks from your supermarket or professional-quality stock made from concentrated pastes that are diabetic-friendly – very low-sodium or low-sodium — from our diabetic supply store. Heat up the stock, adding small pieces of meat, poultry, vegetables, grains, pasta, etc. Add fresh or dried herbs and you have soup in minutes instead of hours.
  8. Freeze any leftover soup in individual microwavable plastic containers. Pop into the microwave to reheat.
  9. Always bring meat or poultry to room temperature before cooking (please, don’t leave it on the counter for hours – it only takes a few minutes). It’ll bake, grill, or cook on the stove top quicker and more evenly.
  10. When making mashed potatoes or turnips, the smaller the pieces, the quicker they’ll cook.
  11. Like hash browns with your Saturday or Sunday morning egg substitute or egg white omelet? Buy frozen hash browns at the supermarket or microwave a baking potato (following your oven’s instructions) and dice. Cook the hash browns in a hot cast iron skillet that has been lightly spritzed with refrigerated butter-flavored cooking spray. You’ll have delicious fat-free hash browns in minutes.
  12. When removing fat from hot stock, soup, or sauce, pop it into the freezer if there’s time, or lay a piece of paper towel on the surface. When you remove the paper towel, much of the fat will be gone. Repeat as needed.
  13. Make use of your microwave to quick cook vegetables, reheat foods, make sauces, and poach chicken and fish. Read the guide to your microwave so you have the times and instructions for its use firmly in your mind.
  14. Beans and grains cook more quickly in a microwave and keep their distinctive characteristics and proper consistency (not all mushy). Consult your oven pamphlet for exact times for your microwave oven.
  15. To quickly toast nuts and seeds without your constant attention, place 1/4 cup of nuts or seeds in a microwave dish and add 1 teaspoon of margarine. Microwave on HIGH for about 5 minutes, stirring once after 2 minutes. While the nuts or seeds are toasting, you can be doing something else.
  16. Bake meat loafs, casseroles, soufflés, etc. in individual dishes to cut down on the baking time.
  17. If baking a low-sugar or sugar-free cake, bake the batter in muffin cups instead of a cake pan to cut down on the baking time.
  18. When sautéing mushrooms, don’t crowd the skillet. They need room so the liquid they give off will evaporate quickly so they can brown.
  19. When making a dish, double or triple the recipe, freezing the extra batches in one or two microwavable plastic containers. Your next meal(s) will be ready in minutes.
  20. Make use of the defrost feature of your microwave oven to quickly thaw chicken or meat before you start cooking.
  21. Do you own a pressure cooker – a three-pound pot roast will cook in under an hour in a pressure cooker.
  22. Bonnie makes use of her bamboo steamers to prepare an entire meal in minutes. Layer the ingredients according to their cooking time, the foods that take more time at the bottom of the stack and the ones that take the least time on the top.
  23. When steaming vegetables, a wet kitchen towel between the pot and the lid will keep the steam in the pot, reducing the cooking time.
  24. Use a large skillet when reducing liquids before making a sauce. The larger the surface area, the quicker the time it takes for the liquid to evaporate.
  25. Finally, read through the recipe and make sure you have all of the ingredients pre-prepped and assembled BEFORE you start cooking. A lot of precious time can be wasted hunting through the pantry, cupboard, or fridge for missing ingredients.



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