(THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - As a dietitian, Goo Chui Hoong finds herself constantly trying to incorporate both nutritional value and tasty appeal in the recipes that she devises – after all, a healthy diet only works if it is sustainable.
"It's important for everyone to eat well – but particularly so for those who have conditions like diabetes," she said. So the dishes she comes up with must be appealing enough that people will keep incorporating them into their everyday meals.
With the numbers of diabetics in Malaysia rising significantly – the Health Ministry’s National Health and Morbidity Survey 2014 estimates about 3.5 million diabetics nationwide – the time to eat healthily was yesterday, but just start today anyway if you haven’t already.
The two biggest enemies of diabetics are sugar and carbs (which turn into sugar in the body) in the diet which need to be drastically reduced if not totally omitted.
For those who love fried rice, Goo suggests a simple and healthful substitution instead of giving it up altogether – fibre-rich cauliflower instead of carbo-loaded white rice.
Goo uses palm oil to fry the cauliflower rice. "For one thing, palm oil has a neutral sort of unsaturated fat that doesn’t increase your blood cholesterol levels," she said. "I prefer to use palm oil for frying because it has a high smoke point – and so can withstand high frying temperatures without breaking down and releasing carcinogenic compounds. It’s a very stable oil."
She also shares a recipe for lean white fish like garoupa or red snapper with mango salsa. "Snapper is low in fat, and when pan-fried or grilled with a bit of palm oil, the skin will crisp up nicely," said Goo.
Finally, diabetics don't have to give up on dessert entirely. Goo's recipe for avocado chocolate truffles is low in sugar and carbohydrates, but tastes great anyway!
"The avocado is so creamy that you don’t have to use any actual cream in the recipe, and its flavour so mild that the chocolate comes to the fore," she said. "Cream is a concern because it contains saturated fats, which can increase your cholesterol levels – and most diabetics also tend to have high cholesterol levels."
"Palm oil is one of the few oils that can increase your HDL, or 'good' cholesterol," said Goo. "Nonetheless, even when using a 'good' type of oil, use it sparingly. For someone on a 2,000-calorie diet, no more than two to three tablespoons of oil for the whole meal.
"Diabetics should look at using fresh ingredients, herbs and spices, which excite the senses and the palate, so that you never feel your food is dull. It sounds cliched to say eating well is all about moderation – but it really is!"
CHOCOLATE AVOCADO TRUFFLES
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Makes 18 small pieces
80g dark chocolate chips
½ ripe avocado
cocoa powder for dusting
Place the dark chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl and place the bowl over a pot of simmering water so that the chocolate melts.
Scoop out the avocado flesh and mash it until it is smooth.
Mix the avocado and chocolate together, making sure it is well-blended. Pour the mixture onto a small tray and place in the freezer overnight.
Dip a knife in boiling water, then use to cut the frozen mixture into small squares.
Place the truffle squares on a plate and sieve the cocoa powder over them to coat well. Turn over and sieve more cocoa to coat the truffles completely.
Serve straight away or store in an airtight container in the freezer until needed.
Note: These healthy truffles contain half the calories and half the fat content per serve of a same-size regular chocolate truffle. Regular truffles are made with heavy cream instead of avocado. The type of fats in avocado are mainly healthy unsaturated fats, unlike those in heavy cream, which are mainly saturated fats.
PAN-FRIED FISH WITH MANGO SALSA
Preparation time: 20 minutes | Cooking time: 3 minutes
For mango salsa:
¼ cup (40g) mango, peeled and cubed
¼ (45g) tomato, peeled and cubed
5g fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 tbsp lime juice or to taste
1 tsp sugar
2 small pieces (240g total) garoupa or red snapper fillets
⅛ tsp salt
pepper, to taste
1 tbsp palm oil
To make the mango salsa
In a bowl, mix the mango and tomato cubes, mint leaves, lime juice and sugar. Set aside.
To prepare the fish
Pinbone the fish fillets and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy-based non-stick (preferably stone) frying pan over medium heat.
Place the fish fillets in the pan, skin side down, for 2 minutes or until the bottom half of the flesh becomes opaque. Using a spatula, carefully flip the fillet over and cook for another minute, or until desired level of doneness.
Place the fillet on a dinner plate and top with mango salsa. Garnish as desired.
Note: Pan-frying or grilling – as opposed to deep-frying – your fish can help you make a significant difference in the quality of your nutrient intake. You can halve both your calorie intake and your carbohydrate intake by choosing pan-fried or grilled fish instead of battered and deep-fried. This recipe has only 1/5 of the fat content of battered fish.
PINEAPPLE FRIED CAULIFLOWER RICE
Preparation time: 40 minutes | Cooking time: 10 minutes
1 large head (500g) cauliflower
1 tbsp palm oil
⅛ tsp salt
1 (200g) skinless chicken breast fillet
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp meat curry powder
2 tbsp palm oil
2 (20g) shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
¼ cup (35g) roasted cashew nuts, unsalted
1 cup (165g) cubed pineapple
1 cup (140g) frozen baby peas, soaked in boiling water for 1 minute
¼ cup (40g) raisins
1 egg, beaten
fresh coriander or spring onion, for garnishing
To make cauliflower rice
Trim the cauliflower to remove any brown patches. Break into smaller sections, then grate to form fine crumbs. You can also do this in a food processor. You should get about 4 cups of cauliflower “rice”.
Heat the oil in a non-stick deep frying pan over medium high heat. Add in the cauliflower rice and season with salt. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the cauliflower has softened. Set aside to cool.
To prepare the meat
Cut the chicken fillet into 1cm cubes. Marinate the chicken in the fish sauce and curry powder, tossing to coat well.
To fry the cauliflower rice
Heat the oil in a non-stick deep frying pan over medium high heat. Add in the shallots and garlic, and fry till golden brown. Stir in the chicken cubes along with any marinade, and fry till the meat is opaque. Add the cauliflower rice, nuts, pineapple, peas and raisins.
Make a well in the centre and stir in the egg. Toss everything together.
Serve warm, garnished with coriander or spring onion.
Note: By substituting cauliflower rice for white rice, you save approximately 160kcal per serve! This substitution halves the carbohydrate content, and doubles the fibre content per serve.