Play the ‘food swap’ game to find healthy alternatives to local favorites

salad whole grain muffin picHave you ever heard this before: “If you just lose weight you won’t have diabetes?” It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Well, I’m finding it’s a lot of hard work. Yet, so worth the fight. But it’s not as simple as losing a “few pounds.” It requires you to rethink how you eat — and what you eat.

Since giving birth to my son five months ago, I’ve lost 50 pounds and gone from a body mass index of 36 to 28. According to the chart at my doctor’s office, I’m no longer obese I’m now overweight and twenty pounds away from the normal weight range. But, I still have occasional blood sugar spikes and I’m using my glucose monitor regularly.

I’ve asked my endocrinologist what’s the magic weight loss amount before I see fewer blood sugar spikes on my monitor and I can have a bite of cheesecake or something sweet here and there. He tells me, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.” I’m thrilled my bad cholesterol is lower than it has been in a really long time and I can finally fit in my old jeans again but I’m still a little depressed that a sliver of pumpkin pie will spike my blood sugar and I’ll have to jog in front of the TV late at night to get it back down again.

fish broccoli quinoaIt’s tough to avoid your favorite foods. Just ask anyone with diabetes or who is on a strict diet. Especially here in the islands, we have local comfort food that’s at every family gathering or lunch with friends. Arare, shave ice, white rice musubi. These are all standard fare here — and dishes to steer clear of if you’re watching your calorie, sugar or carbohydrate intake.

The good news is that rethinking how you eat means finding new alternatives for old standards. I’ve put together a “swap out” list for some of my favorites, and I’d love to hear some of your suggestions.

The nutritional data for these foods and other Hawaii favorites can be found here.

If you love this local food …

Try this instead …

Or better yet, try this …

Shave ice

Calories: 220

Carbohydrate: 54 grams

You can ask for less syrup or some shave ice shops will serve a cone with a sugar substitute. Make your own by taking any unsweetened juice, add sugar or sweetener to taste, and pour the mixture into ice cube trays. Freeze for a few hours. Run the cubes through a snow-cone maker. You could also use a frozen banana instead of ice and run that through the snow cone machine and top with nuts.
Arare – 1 cup

Calories: 220

Protein: 4 grams

Carbohydrate: 52 grams

Total Fiber: 4 grams

Total Fat: 0 grams

 

Senbei wafer – 1 large

Calories: 46

Protein: 0 grams

Carbohydrate: 11 grams

Total Fiber: 0 grams

Total Fat: 0 grams

 

Cuttlefish, Dried – 1 package

Calories: 55

Protein: 9 grams

Carbohydrate: 11 grams

Total Fiber: 0 grams

Total Fat: 0 grams

Beef stew – 1 cup

Calories: 271

Protein: 30 grams

Carbohydrate: 18 grams

Total Fiber: 0 grams

Total Fat: 8 grams

Beef tomato – 1 cup

Calories: 211

Protein: 23 grams

Carbohydrate: 11 grams

Total Fiber: 0 grams

Total Fat: 8 grams

Kim Chee stew – 1 cup

Calories: 95

Protein: 11 grams

Carbohydrate: 5 grams

Total Fiber: 1 grams

Total Fat: 4 grams

Beer – 12 oz.

Calories: 155

Protein: 2 grams

Carbohydrate: 13 grams

Light beer – 12 oz.

Calories: 104

Protein: 1 grams

Carbohydrate: 6 grams

Any alcoholic drink is usually high in carbohydrates. I’ll only drink something that is not mixed like a shot or a light variety. There are “skinny” versions of cocktails, but they may include sweeteners.
Chicken katsu – 1 cup

Calories: 430

Protein: 28 grams

Carbohydrate: 20 grams

Total Fiber: 1 grams

Total Fat: 26 grams

Chicken teriyaki – 1 boneless thigh

Calories: 160

Protein: 16 grams

Carbohydrate: 2 grams

Total Fiber: 0 grams

Total Fat: 10 grams

Grill your own chicken. If you want to control your sugar or salt intake look at the nutritional information on the seasoning you add.
Kung Pao Chicken – 1 cup

Calories: 484

Protein: 23 grams

Carbohydrate: 11 grams

Total Fiber: 2 grams

Total Fat: 39 grams

Chicken tofu with vegetables, stir-fried – 1 cup

Calories: 256

Protein: 17 grams

Carbohydrate: 15 grams

Total Fiber: 1 gram

Total Fat: 14 grams

 

Make your own stir fry at home. Choose your own mix of veggies and sauce to control your added sugar or salt intake.
Banana lumpia – 1 serving (215g)

Calories: 514

Protein: 7 grams

Carbohydrate: 109 grams

Total Fiber: 6 grams

Total Fat: 8 grams

Bread, Banana, with nuts – 1 slice (1/10 of loaf)

Calories: 224

Protein: 4 grams

Carbohydrate: 30 grams

Total Fiber: 2 grams

Total Fat: 11 grams

Make your own frozen banana ice cream (3 medium bananas)

Calories: 158

Protein: 2 grams

Carbohydrate: 40 grams

Total Fiber: 5 grams

Total Fat: 1 gram

Shrimp tempura – 1 piece

Calories: 65

Protein: 4 grams

Carbohydrate: 3 grams

Total Fiber: 0 grams

Total Fat: 4 grams

Ahi and shrimp poke

Calories: 110

Protein: 14 grams

Carbohydrate: 4 grams

Total Fiber: 0 grams

Total Fat: 4 grams

Grilled shrimp kabobs – 16 oz.

Calories: 140

Protein: 20 grams

Carbohydrate: 12 grams

Total Fiber: 2 grams

Total Fat: 2 grams

Zenzai soup – 1 cup

Calories: 465

Protein: 10 grams

Carbohydrate: 107 grams

Total Fiber: 8 grams

Total Fat: 1 gram

Baked mochi – 1 piece (40g)

Calories: 112

Protein: 2 grams

Carbohydrate: 16 grams

Total Fiber: 1 gram

Total Fat: 5 grams

Mochi ice cream – 1 piece

Calories: 67

Protein: 1 gram

Carbohydrate: 9 grams

Total Fiber: 0 grams

Total Fat: 3 grams

Oxtail soup – 1 cup

Calories: 458

Protein: 21 grams

Carbohydrate: 4 grams

Total Fiber: 2 grams

Total Fat: 40 grams

Korean dumpling soup – 1 cup

Calories: 142

Protein: 7 grams

Carbohydrate: 18 grams

Total Fiber: 1 gram

Total Fat: 4 grams

Make your own homemade veggie soup with low-sodium broth and cabbage and add a protein source. Spice it up with garlic and hot sauce if it’s too bland. Again, soups and stews can be high in salt.
Lau Lau, Pork – 1 cup

Calories: 413

Protein: 40 grams

Carbohydrate: 3 grams

Total Fiber: 2 grams

Total Fat: 26 grams

Squid Luau – 1 cup

Calories: 224

Protein: 25 grams

Carbohydrate: 7 grams

Total Fiber: 2 grams

Total Fat: 11 grams

Make your own Vegan Lau Lau – per roll

Calories: 91

Protein: 2 grams

Carbohydrate: 15 grams

Total Fiber: 3 grams

Total Fat: 3 grams

3 comments

  • Great healthy alternatives! I especially love the vegan lau lau idea — so trying that.

    Like

    • Sorry, I like real laulau. Vegan laulau isn’t! You can make your own laulau – pork or chicken. Then you control how much of everything goes into it. (And you can make them a smaller size.)

      Isn’t squid luau more like soup than laulau?

      If you go vegetarian, stick with fresh veggies. Break the American habit of shopping once a week; adopt the French habit of buying fresh each day. When I’ve done that, I’ve had much less need to “kick up” the flavor. Most American processed food is drowned in salt because they’re desperately trying to cover up the fact that the processing removed almost all the flavor …

      Another alternative to shave ice is fruit or berry sorbet. If you learn to make your own, you control how much sugar (if any) goes into it.

      Like

  • I have a friend who’s diabetic and uses insulin. One time we were talking about having diabetes and drinking alcohol. And she said that drinking beer was the best for diabetics who wanted a drink. Something about little or much less blood sugar spike with beer because of the nutrients in it, compared to wine or liquor.

    If you want an alcoholic beverage with some nutritional value, red wine. One advantage of wine: you can pour as little or as much as you want. Unlike a beer – once you open the can/bottle, you can’t just cap it and put it in the refrigerator for later!

    Like

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