Wednesday, November 16, 2016


"Being happy never goes out of style."  
                                                                                               --Lilly Pulitzer

November is National Diabetes Month.  Twenty-nine million Americans have diabetes, or about 1 in 11 people.  This is a great opportunity to talk about the foods we should be eating more of, whether we have diabetes or not.   

Diabetes is a disease where blood sugar levels are above normal. It is caused by eating too much sugar and simple carbohyrates like white bread and processed foods containing added sugars. Stress, lack of exercise, and lack of sleep can also cause one’s blood sugar to rise. When the pancreas does not make enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or the body does not use the insulin it makes (type 2 diabetes), then sugars stay in the blood instead of being released via insulin into cells where it is needed for fuel.  When blood sugar levels remain elevated, one is at risk for complications from diabetes:  loss of vision, amputations, neuropathy in the hands and feet, kidney disease, heart attacks and strokes.

Having diabetes is a delicate dance of balance.  Learning how to enjoy fiber-rich vegetables, legumes, and whole grains is a big part of learning how to balance foods so you can achieve good daily blood sugar readings and great A1C results, if you have diabetes.  A big part of the balance equation to controlling and preventing diabetes involves exercise: walking 30 minutes or more every day is a great goal.  Exercise is the key to insulin working correctly.  

Image result for lentils

Living a balanced life is why November is the perfect month for making my favorite fall soups, such as lentil soup* and veggie chili. When I teach classes for adults with diabetes this time of year, I always love to share my favorite pumpkin, butternut, spaghetti, and acorn squash recipes.  These delicious, nutrient-dense foods are full of dietary fiber, beta-carotene, and potassium.  They fill you up and keep you filled up without raising your blood sugar.  And did I say they are absolutely delicious?! 

Let’s talk about squash:  one cup of cubed butternut squash has more than 6 grams of dietary fiber (about 1/4 of what women need daily and about 1/5 of what men need daily) and only 76 calories. These squash are powerhouses filled with antioxidants and are also a great stress antidote.    Below are two of my favorite fall recipes.  Hope you enjoy them and are inspired by them to create your own fall favorites!

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection
                            FALL LENTIL SOUP

In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil:
  • ¼ cup lentils (I like to use a combination of several kinds of lentils)
  • 1 cup water

Then cover, turn down to simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes. 

In another medium pan, saute for 5 minutes:
  • ½ cup sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Make a hole in the middle of the vegetables, and add:
  • 1 more Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh turmeric, finely grated (use gloves or else you’ll have orange fingers!) (If you can't find fresh turmeric, use 1 teaspoon dried turmeric.)

Stir for 2-3 minutes until mixed.

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 Tablespoon white miso (available at most health food stores)
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving soup)
  • 1 cup cubed butternut squash or pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2” piece of Parmesan rind (remove before serving soup)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon celery seed

Cover and cook on low for ½ hour. 

When the lentils are cooked, puree about ¾ of them (I use a blender stick because it is convenient and easy to clean up).   Add all the lentils, pureed and the remaining ¼ lentils to the soup pot.  Cook for a few more minutes, then serve.  
Add Bragg Liquid Aminos to flavor as needed.  

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection

                   BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

Peel, deseed and cut into cubes a medium butternut squash.

Heat a medium pan with about 1 Tablespoon olive oil and add a sweet onion, thinly sliced.  Cook over medium heat until browned and carmelized.

Place squash, onions, 1 large can of Italian plum San Marzo tomatoes, 4-6 cups of vegetable or low sodium chicken stock, and 1 apple, cubed, together with a 2” piece of parmesan rind and a bay leaf into a crock pot.  Cover, turn on low, and let cook for 6 hours. 

Remove bay leaf and parmesan rind.  Blend soup with an immersion blender.  Salt to taste.  Add ½ cup or so of heavy whipping cream. 

Serve with lightly toasted organic pumpkin seeds and sour dough croutons.  This simple soup is loaded with flavor and fiber to keep your blood sugar steady.

Diabetes can be prevented.  Lose a few pounds, exercise every day, eat lots of foods filled with dietary fiber such as lentils and winter squash.  Got it? 

In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

*Check out my WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS article published on April 6, 2016: "The Year of the Pulses" for more information about lentils.