Book Review: Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy, 4th Edition

Episode three of the “Healthy Diet News and Reviews Podcast.” Today, I’m going to review the book, Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy, 4th Edition .

It’s a non-fiction educational training book. It’s written by Hope Warshaw and she’s an MMSC, RD, CDE, BC, ADM.

The overview of the book is that it is about diabetes, nutrition, and healthy eating. It has different sections of foods by group and then it has a section called, “Putting Healthy Eating Into Action.”

In the “Diabetes Nutrition and Healthy Eating” section, it talks about a review of the issues related to diabetes. First of all, she talks about knowing your ABCs. That is A is for A1C, which is blood glucose control. B is for blood pressure and C is for cholesterol.  Your blood glucose, your A1C, should be less than seven percent. Your blood pressure should be less than 130/80 and your LDL cholesterol should be less than 100 mg/dl. Those are all to help you be healthy, because of the complications and issues that can arise for most everyone who has diabetes.  Not having your blood sugar under control causes you to have higher cholesterol, blood triglycerides out of control, and your blood pressure can be affected by not eating properly. She’s trying to emphasis that diabetes is a whole body issue. It’s not just about carbohydrates.

Ms. Warshaw also talks about the dietary guidelines in this section.

1.  Mainly, that the 2010 edition says that we should eat a variety of foods within the basic food groups while you stay within your calorie needs.
2. You should control the amount of calories you eat to stay at a healthy body weight.

3.  You should try to increase the amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low fat milk and milk products you eat each day.
4.  Choose fats wisely for good health.

5.  Choose carbohydrates wisely for good health.

She talks about using extra virgin olive and how extremely healthy that is for you. Almost more healthy than any other food item that you could eat.

I think that’s what it means by choose good fats wisely, don’t eat your saturated fats in excess. Watch out for all of the different types of fats that you can get, including the trans fatty acids.

Then, to choose your carbohydrates wisely means you should eat more whole grains. You should eat more things with fiber in them. Because, not only will they make you feel full, they’ll just contribute to your overall health. They have extra vitamins and nutrients in them.

6.   Choose and prepare foods with little salt. The healthy diet menus for you program has a cholesterol program and a diabetes program. In both of those, I try to control the amount of salt that is added to the foods.

Just knowing that overall, you should watch the total salt intake. Salt can affect your blood pressure and your weight, and your health overall.

If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation. Keep food safe to eat. Washing your fruits and vegetables and washing your hands between eating.

Then to be physically active every day. So making it a point to walk up stairs, walk out from the parking lot. Spend 20 or 30 minutes walking around your block. Getting some exercise.

Also, review of the issues related to diabetes is just that it’s healthy eating that you need to do with the diabetes. That there’s no such thing as a diabetic diet. That you really should try to follow a whole food’s approach and try to make everything you eat healthy.

Not looking at foods as special for you, but more as foods that you’re going to eat everyday for the rest of your life. Change your behavior slowly but surely. When you’re a diabetic and you get newly diagnosed, you may be motivated to change 100 things.

Really, the easiest way to keep a habit is to just practice it for at least 30 days. And then, at the end of that time, it’ll be a part of your routine. You will find it much easier to maintain that habit.

Instead of trying to do five or six at once and do them badly, you should probably take five or six months and do one a month. Then build on it and you’ll see more success.

I found it kind of interesting that in reviewing the issues for diabetics, she talked about different dietary supplements. I hear a lot as a dietitian about taking chromium to help with your blood sugar and cinnamon.

She reviews that antioxidants are good things to have in your body. You get them mostly by eating healthier foods.

She highlights that you really don’t have to worry about taking extra amounts of antioxidants. That as long as you’re eating healthier, you’re eating more green vegetables and fruits, and then you should find yourself getting plenty. Green, orange, yellow, all those different colors of fruits you’ll get plenty of antioxidants.

She talks about alpha lipoic acid. That’s an antioxidant normally made in the liver and that some studies have shown that helps to lessen the pain of diabetes’s nerve disease, neuropathy. Also helps blood glucose be better used by muscles.

Chromium is found in trace amounts in our food. Generally not recommended to be used for diabetics to take extra but just that you get the amount that’s in your food.

She talked about cinnamon and cinnamon the spice. There’s no significant benefit to taking extra cinnamon or taking cinnamon supplements.

Then some different things like garlic. Garlic is proven to help with blood cholesterol as long as you’re taking the correct supplements. A supplement that’s been evaluated to be actually garlic.

Omega-3 fatty acids are important. That’s why you get more of them in your extra virgin olive oil.

Vitamin D is another nutrient that I’ve heard quite a bit about lately. That it’s a fat soluble vitamin that you really need it. When your body goes outside and you don’t have sunscreen on, in about 15 minutes on your face and the back of your hands to get the amount of vitamin D that you need. Your body can make it.

I’ve heard a lot about vitamin D deficiency lately and that a lot of people have developed that because of all of the sunscreen we wear and where we live. So I think you want to probably look into that if you feel some fatigue and tiredness.

It helps you to absorb calcium and phosphorus which is helpful to your bones. It can be pretty important.

So you should just pay attention to the news and pay attention to what is coming out about calcium and vitamin D. It’s added in milk, but if you don’t drink a lot of milk then, you may find yourself asking your doctor about getting tested to see if you’re deficient.

Finally, in this section about diabetes and healthy eating, she talks about blood pressure and how much salt you need and how diabetes and high blood pressure go together. I think it’s important to pay attention to that.

Some of the quick tips she had in here for reducing the sodium in your processed foods. By choosing foods that are not as processed, eating out less, natural cheeses, looking at fast food and frozen food meals that are listed to be less than 600 – 800 mg of sodium per serving. Making your own salad dressings with healthy oils instead of using a restaurant prepared or a ready-prepared one from the grocery store.

Don’t use salt in your cooking, take your salt off of the table. All those things can help reduce your sodium intake.

She also talks about that you need to eat more potassium. Potassium does help with your blood pressure control, as well. You get that from your healthy vegetables, eating more low-fat dairy foods. The calcium helps with blood pressure; it also helps with the vitamin D because you’re getting vitamin D in those foods.

Be physically active just about every day. Lose a few pounds. Don’t smoke, and if you do smoke, quit. Then, diagnose and treat sleep apnea.

A lot of people with diabetes tend to be overweight. So that happens more often that people who are overweight that they might have sleep apnea. It’s important to diagnose it and treat it.

Okay, now, onto the “Foods by Group” section that she talked about. She went out through different food groups. Starches, vegetables, fruits, milk and yogurt, meats, fats, and combo foods. Then she separated out sugars and alcohol.

One of the highlights of starches is that, first of all, most people don’t know really well what a starch is. But, you need to pay attention to eating whole grain starches. If I can say that again, whole grain starches.

Which means that it has the original germ and endosperm and all the other stuff together. It has not been processed and taken out the extra nutrients that Mother Nature put in there for us.

Get whole grain pasta. Eat the skin on apples. Eat the skin on… well, apples are not a whole grain, but eat the skin on your potatoes. Try to incorporate more whole grain foods. Use whole grain flour. Use breads that are whole grain, not just wheat. Make sure it says whole grain.

How many starch servings. She talks about the different amounts for different diabetic diets.

The vegetables group, discussing the vegetable’s group. It’s really important to eat those raw and uncooked vegetables, when you can. Like, crunching on some cucumbers with just a little bit of vinegar maybe on them. Eating the carrots raw, just lightly steaming.

Maybe some broccoli or some zucchini. Put it in a little olive oil and cooking it up in a pan to soften up some of those winter squash and butternut squash. Mixing that in with maybe some whole grain pasta. Making yourself a nice little dish that could be filling but, also healthy, because it has more of the whole grains in it.

When you’re thinking about other vegetables like salads, lettuce salads, you just have to be very cautious about the amount of dressing that you put on them. So make yourself a gorgeous salad with whole greens, mixed greens, carrots, cucumbers, and radishes.

Then, put on a homemade dressing of olive oil and vinegar or something mixed up just lightly at home or even a light dressing. That’ll make it tasty and give you some moisture to it. But, not over do it. Salad dressing is one of the biggest contributors to the amount of fat that you eat.

Fruits, how much fruit you should eat. Whole fruit is excellent for you. Drinking fruit juice is not going to help a whole lot.

Fruit juice just has the sugar in it and it doesn’t have the fiber that you get from eating the skins on apples or the oranges that have the pulp in them. Different fruits have different nutrients and vitamins in them. The more you eat of the whole fruits, the better. Just be careful about how much juice you drink.

A good way to eat some more fruit is maybe to add some berries or strawberries, raspberries, or something like that to your whole grain cereal in the morning, like Fiber One. Adding some raisins when you put in your hot cereal. Using some of the pre-cut fruit that’s available at the grocery store like the apples that are already cutup in little baggies that you can take with you.

Fruit is an easy thing to bring with you. Bananas you can, once they kind of get brown, you can freeze them and make yourself a little banana smoothie maybe the next day.

And that makes a delicious snack. Of course you’ve got to count those carbs, but it’s definitely a way to… A lot of people say, ” Oh, bananas get brown and they go bad.” Just freeze them if they get brown. And then bring them out of the freezer and mix them up into a smoothie or something. And that helps you save those and not feel so bad about you’re wasting them.

On the subject of milk and yogurt, you really have to pay attention to the amount of fat that’s in milk, and you should drink skim milk. You should eat light yogurt. You should not eat regular, full fat yogurt. They have some Greek yogurts out that are very good.

You can use yogurt on a lot of things. I personally don’t like to drink milk so I put yogurt on my cereal. So I have a bowl of little mini wheats and yogurt in the morning. It gives me a milk serving, gives me a whole grain and it helps me to feel full longer.

So milk is definitely very important for your needs. It has calcium. It has vitamin D. Finding the right milk products, but pay attention to how much calcium and energy is in a cheese, for example. Cheese can help you to feel full longer but it doesn’t necessarily contribute a lot of calcium and good healthy eating to you.

Meats, fats, and combo foods: you really have to look about how much meat you’re eating. In America we eat a lot more meat than we really have to. We think, oh, we need to get protein, when really what we need to be focusing on is those whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

So the amount of meat that you should eat in a day, definitely you should talk to your dietician. But really it’s just about a three ounce portion that you should eat at each meal and maybe only one meal a day that you absolutely have to have…You don’t even have to have it once a day, but if you feel like you have to have meat, that you would have to eat it.

It’s a much smaller amount if you divide it your plate into a half and then divide that half into quarters. You really could probably put a starch in a quarter of the plate, a meat in a quarter of the plate, and make the rest of that plate a green, or orange, or very colorful vegetable and you would be very healthy.

And feel full longer because you’re getting fiber and more grains, more vitamins and minerals with those vegetables that you’re getting more of.

A little bit about fats and oils. You really should try to focus on eating less saturated fat, less trans-fat, more of the liquid oils, the mono-unsaturated. And then almost every food we eat is a combo food. So it’s interesting to talk about combo foods because I think most everything you eat is a combo food.

It’s very hard once you start eating out or going outside of your normal foods in diabetics that you have to start calculating and trying to figure out. And really, that’s the process of determining a combo food, determining how much of it is carb, how much of it is fat, how much of it is protein and trying to…

And that’s the best thing about carb counting is you don’t have to say, ” Oh, I got two fruit/vegetables, two fruit servings in here and one grain/vegetable. One grain serving, I’m sorry. So putting it into action really, sugars and alcohol. I mean, you have to watch the amount of sugar that you eat. It has to fit into your amount that you’re allowed for the day.

And alcohol has to be used in moderation. It’s not something that you have to stay away from, but you also have to be aware of the fact that it is calories and it can contribute to poor eating choices when you’re drinking. So nothing against it, but you just have to watch.

So talking about changing your eating behaviors, putting healthy eating into action. I talked a little bit at the beginning of the podcast about needing to change your behavior slowly. Pick one thing at a time, make it a 30 day plan to try to make that habit change, just force yourself to get through it.

So if it’s measuring the amount of fruit that you’re going to eat. Or it’s just trying to make sure that you get two servings of vegetables or fruits a day, really should try to get five.

So if you say I’m going to get two fruits and three vegetables a day for the next month. At the end of that month, when you’ve done that planning at the grocery store and figured out how you’re going to do it, then you go on to the next thing. OK. Now I’m going to take my blood sugar three times a day, or take my blood sugar four times a day, so that you pick different habits, do them for a period of time.

But don’t try to do everything at once because that’s just very hard to make it work. Next she talks about planning and it being the key. And I think that is very true that as you move forward, writing out a weekly menu plan, planning which recipes you’re going to use, quick-fix recipes that you can use.

That’s why I like the Healthy Diet Menus for You program because it really does give you those quick-fix recipes and it also gives you a plan. So you start out with that plan and that’s the best way to change your habits is having a plan.

Otherwise you’re going to get somewhere and you’re going to feel like, ” Oh, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m going to have to go outside of the box for this one.”

And you’re not ready for that. It doesn’t make you feel successful. So watching out for your portions and then amounts that you’re eating and making strategies for certain situations like holiday parties which we just got through with.

Or how you’re going to handle all the candy in the office. Or if somebody always brings in a donut, how you’re going to handle that, how you’re going to work that into your diet.

My typical three words I use to describe the book, I would say it is simple, it is useful, and it’s for a beginner. I think it’s a very simple book. It’s easy to read. She gives you some good ideas. It’s useful because it talks about portion sizes. It gives an overall view of diabetes and how it affects people, but it’s definitely for a beginner.

It’s a good place to start, says made easy. It is made easy but it’s not something that you’re going to find easy. It doesn’t give you recipes and stuff like that. You’re still going to have to take the information and then find a way to use it.

Okay, now I wanted to talk a little bit about what I think of the author’s opinion. I think that the basics are important and she definitely provides that information. It’s very good information, especially for a newly diagnosed diabetic.

This would be a good book to recommend to your new diabetics to read and kind of give them an overall view of what they’re doing. But she still uses the food groups and that was probably the most disappointing to me and it almost made me think .

I wouldn’t recommend it to somebody because it’s not carb counting and I really think the world has gone to carb counting and I’m a little concerned as to why this book that is endorsed by the American Diabetes Association still doing food groups, still saying you should get this many servings of fruits, this many servings of vegetables.

I think it’s important to talk to people about healthy eating and an overall well-planned diet but to force them into… Maybe she feels like that’s the best way for a beginner to learn is to force them into you have to get so many milk, so many fruit, so many vegetables.

I think it’s hard to convert to real life. Most food are combination foods. Most foods are going to be rice and meat and gravy or your lettuce salad is going to have croutons on it and it’s also going to have some meat in it.

Most of them are combination foods and I think that’s the hardest for people to understand and, since it’s a basic book, I can forgive her that a little bit, but really, moving forward, looking at combination foods is one of the hardest things for people to understand.

Serving sizes and portion are a priority for diabetic control and she emphasizes that a lot in the book and that’s very important. As a diabetic, you have to measure that food initially so you know what a half a cup looks like.

So you know what a third of a cup looks like, so you know what is the right portion for your foods and so just some of that basic training learning that you can do is very helpful. I think that some of the issues brought up by this book. It provides good information about how to control calories and to decide what calorie level to eat.

She goes through and she gives you information about how to control your calories through portion sizes and then if you are this size person or if you’re a woman age this to this you can calculate your calories, in general, based on this.

It’s a useful plan and it’s useful to use a plan and to use recipes that are easy to fix, but I think people get really bored, really quick with eating chicken breast, rice and fruit separate. They like those combo dishes. They like the casseroles.

We’ve got to find ways, as dietitians, to think of how real life will be, how they’re going to experience a restaurant — it doesn’t talk a whole lot about restaurant eating — how they’re going to experience family dinners, how they’re going to experience their own dinners.

So it’s very important to give them the additional tools. Maybe she sees that as a second step, but I think almost initially real life hits them in the face and says, “Hey, you’re going to have combo foods. That’s how it is.”

Food labels are more of a key, I think, than food groups. As we move forward, food labels are on almost every food that we buy and that’s excellent. I appreciate that quite a bit. The information about saturated fats, trans-saturated fats, trans fatty acids or whatever and mono-unsaturated fat.

How much fiber is in food. We need to really teach people about reading food labels and we need to talk about how carb counting is done. I don’t think… Food labels don’t say how many vegetables and how many starch servings are in food. They just say the amount of carb, fiber, protein and fat and that’s how we need to teach them because that is real life.

I think she put the planning at the back of the book and I feel like it should be in the beginning. You should really talk about how to plan from the beginning of the book so then, when you’re going forward through the book you’re thinking,

OK, I already know I need to plan. I need to think about these things and can implement them through the information that she gives about the different food groups.

It would be interesting to have a person take an inventory of the current foods that they eat and what are our current foods in our culture to kind of have a good idea of that and to highlight for that what that person might find challenging. How to use their current foods, how to put those into a diabetic meal plan.

And then, finally, she should provide a good way to evaluate recipes and foods and I don’t know that that was really clear in the book. I thought that evaluating recipes is extremely important to decide what percent fat, what kind of fats it has in it.

How much carb it has in it, how to change food recipes, like, whole grains into them, putting in different whole grains pasta that you might put in there instead of the regular, whole wheat flour instead of enriched flour. So I think she could have done a little bit more with that and focused on some of those healthy eating concerns as well.

Overall, I thought it was a good book. I did, again, get this one from the library. That’s my modus operandi. I got it from the library. I checked it out and I’m going to find a few charts in there that are pretty helpful, that I think people can use over and over again.

In general, I’d say it’s a very good beginner book, but it does have some pretty significant drawbacks when you think about how do people live in real life. I think it is pretty important in real life to think about how people live.

They have a label in front of them that is going to be what they live by and it’s not going to be counting the food groups, so I think she really kind of missed that part of it, but initially people need to know how to use different food groups, that they can eat all different kinds of foods.

They need to understand that potatoes are no longer a vegetable and neither are peas or corn — they are now considered starches — and then what vegetables to eat. I think it’s overall a very well-written book and very good.

About Mathea

Mathea Ford, RD/LD, is the owner of Healthy Diet Menus For You, LLC. She has over 22 books on Amazon, check out her work at

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