Friday, June 1, 2012

More Mainstream Madness...

Straight off of Yahoo's home page this morning was yet another example misguided advice for diabetics entitled Diabetic Decoder: Restaurant Foods To Avoid, originally featured in Prevention. For the article the authors tabbed a chef - Sam Talbot - with a book out entitled The Sweet Life: Diabetes without Boundaries. "Since I'm a chef myself, I know the tricks," he says.


For someone touting a book 'without boundaries', he sure seems to have a lot of them through the course of the article. 21 to be exact. Though as you'll see many of them are just repetitive renditions of the same ol' fat and carbs are bad for you nonsense. Tell me, if we eliminate 2/3's of all maconutrients - what ARE we supposed to eat?!


Below are his 21 menu item tips followed by my response in red.

Au Gratin: Anything au gratin is usually a big problem. This usually means it’s loaded with cheese and cream. Why? What's so bad about cheese and cream that it should be avoided?

Battered: This means that it’s been dredged in flour, eggs, butter, and then fried. No good. Again, nothing worth avoiding in eggs or butter. The only reason fried food from restaurants is a poor choice is more because of what they have chosen to fry in since the 1950's - toxic vegetable oil and shortening. For more on this topic, click here.

Basted: This usually conjures up images of a piece of meat swimming in a mopping sauce, made with high fructose corn syrup and molasses. Pretty accurate, good tip.

BBQ: Barbecue sauce is super high in sugar and usually piled on in hefty helpings. Ditto. Though a true BBQ connoissuer knows that real BBQ doesn't require sauce!

Creamed: Thick, buttery sauces cancel out any of the nutritional benefits of veggies. Again, what's this guy's deal with butter? And he calls himself a chef?

Stuffed: Anything stuffed usually means breadcrumbs were involved, which equals that this dish is high in carbs and bad for your glycemic index. Oh no - carbs! Again, if we are supposed to avoid fat, and now carbs, what exactly is left for us to eat?!?!

Cream-based soups: These pack in fat right at the beginning of the meal. Choose a vegetable-broth-based soup instead. If it doesn’t specify, ask your server. Fat-phobia example #4080(bonus points for catching the hip-hop reference). Snore.

Ranch or bleu cheese dressing: Stay away from thick creamy dressings. When I’m out to eat, I opt for oil and vinegar with some fresh lemon. Every restaurant will have that on hand. Probably good advice since most commerical dressing contain HFCS, transfats, canola, or vegetable oil.

Croutons: Hold the croutons to cut back on refined carbs. More carb-nazi work.

Fat-Free or Gluten Free: These are bad news for diabetics. To cut back on fat and wheat, these products will add more sugar for fat-free products and more fat for gluten-free products. This could be expanded to avoid foods labeled "-free" anything. Yeah, free of everything that would be considered food and loaded with chemicals and additives.

Flash-fried , Wok-fried, Skillet-fried: These preceding words mean nothing. Fried equals fried. Already covered, the issue is more with WHAT is it fried IN.

Tempura: Might as well be Japanese for “unhealthy.” This is just another term for fried and breaded. Ditto.

Fried Rice: If you are going to indulge in this standard Asian fare, ask the server to swap the white rice for brown rice. Why? There is nothing special about brown rice as compared to white rice. For more on this, click here.

Pasta: As a whole, a lot of starchy food is not good for someone with diabetes, and most restaurants will give you close to 5 servings of pasta on just one plate. Ask for a small side portion, and make sure it’s whole grain. I guess I'll give him somewhat of a pass here since he qualified his statement with "As a whole..". Nothing wrong with starches but intake should be somewhat congruent with one's activity intensity level, which is my experience is woefully inadequate for the majority of people. But just as with the rice example, there isn't anything special about whole grain pasta over the regular stuff, stop kidding yourself.

Soy Sauce: I don’t like to overload my body with tons of sodium found in soy sauce. As a substitute I use Bragg’s. Agreed. Though some more authentic restaurants have much less processed versions.

Duck Sauce: Stay away from this syrupy sauce. Ok. He's picking up steam here, no qualms here.

Cocktails: These fancy mixed drinks are sugar sinkholes. Ditto.

Liquor: Go for transparency. Clear liquor, like vodka or gin, is better in terms of calories. Avoid brown alcohol, dessert wines, cordials, or juice-mixed cocktails. Ditto.

Soft Drinks: It’s better to stay away from soda completely, even the diet kind. Nice. Way to finish strong!

Dessert: When your sweet tooth is calling, ask the restaurant if they can fix a fresh fruit plate, even if it’s not on the menu. Some of my favorite fruits for diabetics are apples, oranges, pears, fresh peaches, and strawberries. It’s awesome with a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese. Fine. But that really takes the fun out of eating out doesn't it? Mike's Pastry in Boston anyone?!?!?

Final tally - about 1/3 of the information here is accurate and/or useful. Not bad for a batting average or even possibly 3-pt. shooting percentage, but I'd have higher standards for my health personally.

I'd say it would be more prudent to get diabetics - and everyone else - to stop eating out so much in the first place! To learn how to cook for themselves where they can control the ingredients. To relegate excursions to restaurants to what they should be - treats...and not habits! Then when you do choose to eat out you don't have to be 'that person' and can order what you want without guilt.

And what are my favorite reasons for cooking-in as opposed to eating-out?

1. My food tastes better!

2. Enjoyable to do with spouse or significant other. Who doesn't like to have fun?

3. Much cheaper!

Notice none of them have anything to do with health and/or diet.


  1. I definitely agree with your suggestions at the end, being a personal holistic chef, I really enjoy my own or someone else's home cooked meals :) This would be a fun article to go point by point with you on different thoughts but, I basically agree with most of your comments. One thing I wondered about, is the brown rice / white rice related to the white bread / wholewheat bread thing regarding the high content of phosphorous in the wholewheat bread and people that are on dialysis being better to have white bread? Thanks, Russ - look forward to talking with you! Peggy

  2. I'd be more comfortable in simply recommending someone on dialysis avoid bread period and focus on more nutrient-dense options whenever possible. I'm a broken record on this, but if something had to be 'enriched' to get nutrients into it in the first place, it's probably not all that great of choice.