Vegetarians in Paradise review

The Kick Diabetes Cookbook:
an action plan and recipes for defeating diabetes
By Brenda Davis, RD and Vesanto Melina, MS, RDBook Publishing Company, 2018
Paperback, $19.95

A registered dietician who is comfortable in assembling an unprocessed, plant-based healthful meal in the kitchen may be more effective in battling diabetes than an RD who simply tells you to eat a healthy diet. In The Kick Diabetes Cookbook, Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, two registered dietitians, have combined dietary knowledge and kitchen skills to assemble a book of recipes that also includes delicious foods as well as valuable information on how to battle diabetes.

The two RDs collaborated on four other books: The New Becoming Vegetarian, Becoming Vegan Express Edition, Becoming Vegan Comprehensive Edition, and Becoming Raw.

The authors begin the book by stating, “Research has clearly demonstrated that a healthy lifestyle could prevent 90 percent of type 2 diabetes, and there’s strong consensus that diet is the kingpin.”

The Kick Diabetes CookbookTo begin their program, Davis and Melina emphasize, “Bulk up on fiber.” They explain that means 40 to 60 grams daily, which can be achieved eating legumes, whole grains and generous servings of vegetables and fruits daily.

They also want people to be aware of glycemic load (GL). GL is related to glycemic index (GI), but is more appropriate “because it includes the actual amount of carbohydrate in a standard serving.” Two pages of colorful charts show the GI and GL differences for common foods. One suggestion they make to reduce glycemic impact is to use vinegar, lemon, or lime on a salad at the beginning of a meal.

Their no-nos include refined carbohydrates and artificial sweeteners, and they caution people to keep fat intake at a moderate level. They advise selecting low calorie plant foods and plant-based protein sources. Salt intake should be lower than 1500 milligrams per day while antioxidants should be increased. The chart, “30 ANTIOXIDANT-AND PHYTOCHEMICAL-RICH SUPERSTARS provides a handy reference at a glance. Readers are cautioned to get the recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals as well as hydrating themselves with eight glasses of water each day.

In Meals and Menus to Kick Diabetes, the authors suggest three levels or steps for amounts to eat in each food group. Level 1 could be the minimum; Level 2 might be considered the moderate; Level 3 could be considered the ideal. The following are Level 3 for food categories:

  • Nonstarchy Vegetables–7 or more servings per day (3 or more of leafy greens; or more each of yellow or orange, red purple or blue, white or beige vegetables)
  • Fruits–3 or more servings per day (1 of berries, 1 of citrus, 1 or more of other fruit)
  • Legumes–3 or more servings per day (at least 2 servings of whole legumes, lentils, or split peas)
  • Whole Grains and Starchy Vegetables–Eliminate refined products. Choose 1 or more colorful starchy vegetables and 1 or more intact whole grains)
  • Nuts and Seeds–2 to 3 servings per day, including 1 serving of an omega-3-rich choice plus 1 serving of a vitamin E-rich choice (almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds)
  • Herbs and Spices–3 or more servings per day

In a chapter titled Get Cooking with Whole Plant Foods, Davis and Melina cover basic cooking tools and appliances and a shopping list. They also provide advice on cooking legumes and grains and mention, “The menus and recipes in this book have been designed to provide a total of less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. This is a suitable level of intake for people with diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure.”

Brenda DavisThe largest section of the book, more than 100 pages, is divided into recipe categories, such as Breakfast; Soups; Salads; Dressings, Marinades, Gravies, and Sauces; Vegetables and Side Dishes; Main Dishes; and Sweet Treats that guide diabetics toward making healthier food choices.

Breakfast recipes contain almost a dozen high-fiber ideas for starting the day. In addition to Baked Apple-Spice Oatmeal there are recipes for Banana Walnut Pancakes, Carrot Spice Muffins complete with a mouth-watering photo on the facing page, and the familiar Golden Scrambled Tofu and Veggies, all choices packed with whole foods high in antioxidants and fiber.

Instead of bone broth, the Soups section begins with Better Broth Base, a handy, well-seasoned powder that contains numerous spices and nutritional yeast. This tasty broth mix is the base for other soups like the autumn-inspired Pumpkin-Ginger Soup, or the superstar Kale and Avocado Soup. High on the Kick Diabetes diet is the Zesty Black Bean Soup and the kale-enriched Curry in a Hurry Soup.

A Full-Meal Salad is a two-page inclusion in the Salads chapter. Here the authors suggest an 8-cup meal that includes 4 cups of mixed salad greens, 2 cups of steamed thinly sliced kale, and 2 cups chopped radicchio or thinly sliced purple cabbage. To this mix are added colorful vegetables in all shades of the rainbow. The salad maker and eater can add from lists of Plant-Protein Superstars and Starches. All of this is topped with a Nut-or Seed-Based Dressing.

Chapter 7 is a melange of Dressings, Marinades, Dips, Gravies, and Sauces. Here the reader will find Walnut Pesto that makes a tasty sauce for pasta or rice. The authors say that Heartwarming Hummus is magical with its ability to balance glucose. The savory Tahini-Zucchini Dip is a calcium-rich, hummus-like dip that makes a tasty appetizer served with a raw veggie platter.

Ratatouille is one of the unique sides in the chapter Vegetables and Side Dishes that offers a skillet of layered summer vegetables that can be served right from the pan. Accompanying the recipe are two other delights: Baked Squash Casserole and Spicy Bok Choy. Anyone searching for a unique way to present Brussels sprouts might examine Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Dill.Vesanto Melina

The cook’s feast in this volume is the Main Dishes. Anyone wanting a simple one-dish meal need go no further than the Big Easy Bowl. Sweet potato lovers looking at the picture with four Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potatoes opposite page 148, can’t help running to the kitchen and announcing, “I need to make this for dinner!” The luscious, full-page color photo facing Lentil-Quinoa Nut Loaves gives the stuffed potatoes competition for top prize.

What can a diabetic person have for dessert? The chapter Sweet Treats does not contain sugar. That may be a surprise, but as the authors explain earlier in the book, they only use dates for sweeteners. They caution against artificial sweeteners by writing, “Artificial sweeteners are not allies in the battle against diabetes. Scientific evidence suggests they don’t help to cut calories, aid weight loss, or improve blood sugar control. Instead, artificial sweeteners may negatively impact blood glucose control, desensitize your taste buds to sweetness, adversely affect the growth of helpful gut bacteria, and increase hunger and sugar cravings because your body expects calories to come with sweet flavors.”

Nevertheless, dessert lovers will find irresistible favorites in Sweet Treats like Apple Crisp, Black Bean Brownies, and Pumpkin Parfaits sweetened with dates. Tutti Frutti Ice Cream contains only whole fruits that are naturally sweet.

Compliments go to John Wincek for a sparkling cover and his book design with tasteful shades of attractive colors throughout. Every recipe has a nutritional breakdown in a lighter typeface. Division pages combine the design skills of Wincek with the captivating food styling and photography of Alan Roettinger. Roettinger’s full-page photos sprinkled throughout the book add to the volume’s appeal.

In The Kick Diabetes Cookbook Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina combine their years of experience as registered dietitians to show that diet is an important factor in combating diabetes. Not strangers to the kitchen, each has often cooked delicious plant-based meals for friends and family. This cookbook with its 100 easy-to-prepare tasty recipes should be on the kitchen shelf of every family with diabetic members. These are recipes even non-diabetics can thoroughly enjoy and reap the healthful benefits.