No sugar? No problem.
Chef Sam Talbot is all about low sugar, high flavor in his dishes, whether it’s frozen Coconut Yogurt with Cinnamon or king crab legs. Every meal has to be just right, which can be tough when you need to limit your sugar intake.
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As the executive chef in Manhattan restaurant Imperial No. 9 and a Top Chef semi-finalist, Talbot is known for his focus on creative dishes made with fresh and healthy ingredients (read more about Talbot’s food).
But a medical diagnosis means that Talbot can’t eat the way other famous chefs do. At age 12, Talbot was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, a condition where the pancreas doesn’t provide the body with insulin, so too much sugar stays in the blood. It meant a lifetime of watching the sugar count in every meal and dish. (Step one: Avoid these 12 Foods Your Dentist Wouldn’t Eat.)
For Talbot, though, the diagnosis became a challenge to create flavorful dishes despite his medical limitations.
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“I happen to be a chef who happens to have diabetes,” says Talbot. “But by no means do I have any limits or any boundaries when it comes to food.” His new book, The Sweet Life: Diabetes Without Boundaries, is all about taking a dish you love, like clam chowder, and making it healthier—without sacrificing flavor.
(His secret: Using rice flour and almond milk instead of cream.)
Even if you don’t have diabetes, the strategies Talbot has learned can help you lose that fat around your middle. How? It’s all about blood sugar. When your blood sugar spikes, your body releases insulin, a hormone that tells your body to start storing fat, explains Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D., of the University of Connecticut.
Here are Sam Talbot’s four favorite tricks to cutting down on sugar without cutting down on flavor—and click here for 8 ways to control your blood sugar.
Use Truvia: Ditch the refined sugar and substitute a natural sweetener like Truvia, a zero-calorie sweetener made from Stevia leaves. For diabetics it keeps sugar levels even, but for other guys it’s a good way to cut calories from a meal. One packet has the sweetness of about 2 teaspoons of sugar. Tip: If you can find fresh Stevia leaves, they’re a great alternative to the packaged kind.
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Spice It Up: When you’re making a traditionally sweet dish like pumpkin pie, you can lower the sugar factor by substituting savory spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, or allspice. Not only is it better for you, the combination of the spices make the dish taste richer.
Try Fruit Puree: Fruit purees are good substitutes in desserts, marinades, dressings, or sauces. The natural sugars in fruit can add a sweet punch to any dish without messing with the texture too much. Many fruits like strawberries, pears, peaches are high in fiber, which slows the absorption rate of sugar into the bloodstream.
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Add Honeycomb: A lesser-known substitute, Honeycomb adds sweetness with a bit of crunch without spiking blood sugar levels as much as sugar. It’s made from the nectar gathered by honeybees and can be used as a topping or sweetener in a dish.
That said, sugar is only as big a bogeyman as we make it out to be. Read up on the truth about sugar to learn a few facts about the sweet stuff that’s hiding in our favorite meals.