When I first married Craig, I was the world's worst cook. Having previously survived college by eating ramen noodles, sandwiches and heavy snacks, I had few of the domestic skills needed to put together a decent and healthy meal. During the first few weeks of our marriage, right after our honeymoon, I was unemployed and looking for a job. I'll never forget that night I decided to prepare a romantic meal for my hubby. I started by getting out our new china. It was so beautiful, gleaming and white! I got out the silverware and the glassware, spread a beautiful tablecloth and then panicked -- our setting is lovely, but what will we eat? I'm a little ashamed to say that we had the world's most elegant meal of peanut butter and jelly!
Since that time, I've slowly been adding tools to my meal-making arsenal. I had some help and advice from my crafty sisters-in-law. I took a moment to write down recipes (and learn to cook) from my own mother who made wonderful meals for me growing up. I consulted cooking shows and books, and gradually our meals have become more sophisticated and definitely more nutritious.
When James was diagnosed, our family was already on the road toward eating better. When it became necessary to study every food label, it became a conscious mission for me. Still, I'm surprised by how, little by little, my cooking skills have improved and we are getting closer to our dining ideals!
The first phase after James' diagnosis with type 1 diabetes consisted of lots of prepackaged foods that were easy to carb-count. When talking with my diabetes-related friends, this was consistent with their experience. In the beginning, nothing is better than having a nicely labeled serving size and an easily countable portion! While we've moved beyond that phase, there are just some foods that I look back at with gratitude. I want to say "thank you" for making those first few months a little easier. Food labels, my tender mercy!
As my skills and confidence have grown, both in the kitchen in general and in measuring and estimating carb counts, our family has made some progress toward fresher, less processed foods. Some of these are still really easy to count! Luke loves quinoa, which can be easily measured in a measuring cup. James loves spinach, which is so low in carbs that we don't worry unless he REALLY goes to town! This has been gradual. So gradual that it's difficult to see daily, weekly or even monthly progress. Only when I look back on my hard work to introduce healthy dishes and encourage the kids to try them do I see progress we've made over a year or more.
Some combination foods are still a little scary to count, but I'm gaining continued experience and practice. If my children are willing to eat these healthy foods, I'm certainly going to set about trying to count them. But it wasn't always that way. In those early days of diagnosis, some casseroles, soups or quiches made from scratch were hard enough to count that I made them less frequently. Nowadays, James still prefers simpler fare, but we've been successful just in the last few months at getting him to try some of our fancier dishes. He doesn't love all of them, but each attempt gets us closer to a more sophisticated palate and a broader range of beloved healthy foods.
Like many things in life and in diabetes, making over eating habits involves small, daily changes. Try every day and at every meal to improve things just a little bit and eventually it adds up. Craig and I have been married for over eleven years now. We don't eat peanut butter and jelly for dinner very often (and never on china). The change comes slowly, but it comes!
About the author: My name is Jennifer, and I live in Southern California with my husband, Craig, and our three boys. Our oldest son James has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I'm thankful for this opportunity -- along with my sister-in-law Kim and her daughter Kaitlyn, who also has type 1 diabetes -- to share our struggles and triumphs with our friends in the diabetes community.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.