Healthy cooking for special diets doesn’t need to be a chore. The key is to remember important issues for each diet, and to creatively change your recipes to meet those needs.
Vegetarian cooking isn’t difficult. The goal here is to remember that varying degrees of exclusion of animal products from someone’s diet sometimes makes it difficult to lay hands on certain proteins. Most plants, legumes, and grains contain at least some amino acids that make the complete proteins found in animal products. Mixing and matching foods is a great way to be sure that vegetarians get all amino acids. Your job is made easier by the fact that most vegetarians are not vegans, which means that many include some variant of animal products into their diets.
These proteins are excellent supplements to a vegetarian dish of their favor. Textured vegetable protein (TVP), and soy proteins such as those found in tofu and Boca also make vegetarian cooking much easier. Most of these proteins don’t have much flavor of their own, so they’ll blend in nicely with whatever dish you’re cooking. When it comes to vegetables and grains, just remember the basics: the more colorful the vegetable, the more nutrients it has, and whole grains make better nutrition than their bleached counterparts. Legumes are excellent resources, but be sure to cook them well as legumes are often difficult to digest for most people.
Many of the same rules for vegetarian cooking also apply for diabetic cooking. Instead of animal products and protein, the issue here is sugar. When most people think of sugar, they think of candy and other sweets. However, there are other foods that contain those simple sugars that often overload the system of diabetics. So, the goal for preparing diabetic dishes is to avoid the temptation to use these sugars in excess. Try using whole grains instead of bleached ones such as white bread and pastas.
Feel free to serve dessert, but try using a sugar substitute and stick to whole grain flour. Sugar substitutes are a must for consideration when serving drinks such as sweet tea and soda. Fruit is a possibility, but don’t expect your diabetic guest to eat a whole bowl full. Even so, keep some sugary snacks and juices on hand for blood sugar emergencies when blood sugar has dipped well below healthy levels.
Light cooking recipes presents the least hassle because most westerners are beginning to appreciate its benefits as a means of disease prevention. The trick to light cooking is simple. Stay away from heavy meats such as meat with a lot of fat on it or red meat. Try substituting meat with TVP or tofu when you can get away with it. Lightly fry foods in cooking spray rather than butter or oil, and use foods that will offer the best nutrition possible.
The goal of healthy cooking for special diets is to fill the belly with enriching foods that promote good health. Of equal importance is to find creative ways to meet dietary needs without much fuss.