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Diabetes-Friendly Italian Food


You can still enjoy a taste of Italy when you have diabetes. Here’s how

By Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RDN


While the typical meal at a red-sauce joint might seem like a carbfest, with a few tweaks, you can still mambo with some cibo Italiano if you have diabetes. “The key is to choose which carbohydrates you want to enjoy during your meal, and then make sure you have plenty of vegetables and some protein to balance them out,” says Kerri-Ann Jennings, a Burlington, VT-based registered dietitian.


Choose Caprese Salad Instead of Bruschetta


No food combo is more Italian than olive oil, tomatoes and basil. Instead of enjoying this trio on a hefty helping of toasted bread, also known as bruschetta, opt for a Caprese salad, which pairs tomatoes and basil with mozzarella slices. The bold flavors will still satisfy you, while saving more than 20 g of carbs per serving (that’s if you eat four pieces). Plus, those four slices of mozzarella cheese have 50% of the recommended daily value of calcium and protein, which can help keep blood-sugar levels balanced. 


Choose Chicken a la Vodka Instead of Penne a la Vodka

Chicken a la Vodka

While cream-based vodka sauce isn’t the most nutritious choice (you’re better off going with strictly tomato marinara sauce or even garlic and oil), the bigger problem with the penne dish is the overabundance of carb-heavy pasta. “Chicken in vodka sauce is a better way to go, because you’re replacing a heap of carbohydrates with protein-rich chicken,” says Jennings.


Choose Shrimp Scampi Instead of Chicken Parmigiana

Shrimp Scampi

Steer clear of anything with the name “parmigiana” — the preparation means your entrée will be breaded, fried and doused in tomato sauce and cheese. “Shrimp scampi, or shrimp cooked in a garlicky, brothy sauce, is a better choice,” says Jennings. “Stick to no more than a 1-cup serving of pasta and order some sautéed rapini (broccoli rabe) on the side.” Or even better, skip the pasta altogether.

Hungry for more? Try these diabetes-friendly Chinese and Mexican dishes!


Published on May 24, 2016. 


Rachel is a New York City-area nutrition writer, educator and counselor.

Reviewed by Mima Geere, MD, MS on January 15, 2015.
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