"One of the things I really recommend is to have a team available specifically, not just your physician because they don't have time to really go through the food, but really get into the nitty gritty of the diet with a registered dietician. And there are certified diabetes educators who are also directly registered dieticians and there are many across the country a lot take insurance." - Toby Amidor, RD.
Shireen: With over 20 years of experience in the Food and Nutrition industry, Toby Amador is a Wall Street Journal bestselling cookbook author, leading dieticians, spokesperson and recipe developer who believes that healthy and wholesome can also be appetizing and delicious. Welcome, Toby.
Toby: Thanks so much for having me
Shireen: A pleasure having you on. So I want to dive in. And I want to ask you with the number of years of experience you've had as a, as a registered dietitian, what really brought you into this field of dietetics, and then more specifically into diabetes management.
Toby: So the story, it's actually a funny story, because my parents sat me down, when I was like a junior or something in college and was like, you need to do something with your life or sophomores. Yeah, in college. And there were only three new two nutrition classes in where I went to college. And so I took all the prerequisites, I love the two nutrition classes. And I ended up joining my mother at NYU for a master's degree in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics. And then from there, I ended up teaching at a culinary school for many years while I had my kids. And then I actually went on to do clinical work. And I did work with children with diabetes. And I did work with a whole variety of health conditions, but certainly diabetes, and then some of the consequences of uncontrolled blood sugar in a person with diabetes. So it was very interesting to experience all this and to speak to all the, you know, individuals and how they were managing disease and help them manage the disease. So you know, they can live a healthier life.
Shireen: Sounds interesting. So can we talk through what are some of the risks of a managed diabetes?
Toby: So I mean, these are things that I would, you know, you read it in a textbook, these, you know, some of the consequences and unmanaged blood sugar and unmanaged diabetes, and you're like, yeah, it'll never happen to me. You see these day in day out like I was in a small hospital, and a lot of the folks coming in there did have these issues coming up. And one of them is a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, including stroke and heart attack. The other one would be poor eyesight, just because there's only one blood vessel feeding the eye. And so if it's saturated with too high sugar, and the nutrients can't go into VDI, over time, you get blindness, and then also some neuropathy, which basically the feelings of the tips of your fingers and tips of your toes, you don't feel it. And that's why you need extra foot care. People over time, we'll lose toes, you know, if the blood sugar is too saturated in the blood, and the other nutrients really can't get through. And so I've I mean, I've seen it all. I've seen people lose, unfortunately, from just really not caring about controlling their blood sugar at all, or losing, you know, toes, specifically extremities. And it was very sad because they were just like, oh, bring me a milkshake. And I'm like, oh, you're losing toes. And now you want a milkshake. I'm like, and it's really not getting there. But research certainly shows that food absolutely can help control blood sugar. And you can absolutely push off these things that tend to happen. It's a higher risk for people with diabetes, but you can absolutely push them off not just one or two years, but yours and your 1020 you can push them off for a very long time with good management. So that's great news.
Shireen: Right, and what, what kind of nutrition strategies then, would you suggest and that you have found really to be most useful to assist individuals in managing the diabetes?
Toby: One of the things I really recommend is to have a team available specifically, not just your physician because they don't have time to really go through the food, but really get into the nitty gritty of the diet with a registered dietician. And there are certified diabetes educators who are also directly registered dieticians and there are many across the country a lot take insurance. So that's you know, even if you just go until you get the hang of it, and then you can manage it on your own or just go for check ins at least you have support whenever you need it. The other thing is I did write a couple of books in conjunction with the American Diabetes Association. second one's not out yet but the first one is the Create your plate method which is created by the American Diabetes Association and basically it's the plate method where you take a plate, just your standard dinner plate and you cut it in half not physically cut it but with your you know, eyes you cut it in half and half the plate should be low carbohydrate vegetables like spinach and kale and could be cucumbers, squash, and then you have a quarter of the plate and that quarter of the plate should be starches. Hopefully whole grains will help manage the blood sugar a little bit better, but it could be anything. It could be also starchy vegetables if you want a potato with the skin that day or it could be fruit or dairy in that section. And then the last section which is the last quarter would be protein and of course you want to opt for lean protein like chicken breast without the skin fish. You could do plant based proteins if you want you just have to watch the the carbs to go up a little bit when you do do plant based proteins over there and then you do want to add a beverage right you want to drink so we don't want to forget about that and look for a non calorie that's the most ideal. So if it's water, if you don't love water, there's sparkling waters there even sparkling waters that have no calories with some flavors in it or you got a lemon or lime in there to add flavor. So there's certainly ways that you can do things, even coffee and tea. If they're not sweetened, or you just use, I only recommend sweeteners for someone with diabetes, just to manage that blood control, blood sugar control. And then the last step of the plate method is to add healthy fat onto the plate, whether it's you're using a vinaigrette, which is made from an oil and you don't need a lot, just one or two tablespoons of undergrad or sliver of avocado. Or on top of your salad, you have maybe a two tablespoons of slivered, almonds, something like that. So you have some sort of healthy fat. And that also not only helps manage blood sugar, but it helps you feel full. So hopefully, you know you're not going there snacking and it'll hold you off to the next meal.
Shireen: That's interesting and you mentioned five steps in your, in your book. I'm curious if we can number out the five sort of tangible steps that folks who are listening here today can, can take on in managing their diabetes.
Toby: Sure. So step one is the first half. So basically, the pre step is to get that plate, okay, so then and then in your mind, you're dividing it up and a half. So the first step one is half your plate with low carb vegetables. That's step one, step two is one quarter. So one of those other quarters of the plate should be carbohydrate foods, which could be starches, starchy vegetables, like potatoes, it could be dairy, or it could be fruit. And then the other Step three is that third section. And so that third section is protein, lean protein is what you're aiming for step four, is the beverage to go for very low or no calorie really beverages. And Step five is to add that fat, that healthy fat to your plate.
Shireen: So what, what are the advantages of that Create Your Plate model? You mentioned it in your book as well, but what having it sort of laid out that way does, does what for us?
Toby: It just gives you a visual without really having you know, people sometimes are in a rush or don't want to measure and I do recommend measuring in the beginning just to get an idea of the numbers. And then once you do that for maybe a month or two and or until you get the hang out of it, you can actually set up your plate and you, you can have the you know, visualization and that makes your life so much easier. And also if you're going out to eat, you can visualize it without having to count calories, which are very, it's very frustrating if you're a person with diabetes, and then Okay, you're taking a calculator, everybody's eating, you know, this way you're like, Okay, just eat the low carb edge. Let me get the dressing on the side, right now let me do half I did get, you know, a grilled piece of fish. So that's my other quarter. And if you need to go over something, you can go over a little bit on the protein just because it's not going to raise your blood sugar as long as it's not breaded or any kind of carbs on there. And then the other, the starchy section, I mean, whatever's on the table, if it's rice or a baked potato, you can a lot of times order from places and so you're able to fix your plate up the way you want it even if you're dining out.
Shireen: Now how would you adapt this for people from different, different backgrounds, different sort of tastes, preferences, cultures? How would you adapt sort of this plate method for that for a cultural cuisine?
Toby: So I mean, if you want to use for example, plantains, I know certain cultures love it. So that will go in the search section. So all you have to do is find the food that belongs to your culture and make sure you know how to group it whether it's a low carb vegetable, whether it's a fruit or you know, maybe it's like where I'm from labuda is like lebbon lagna is you know, from Greece and Israel and it's a thick Greek yogurt and that would go in the starch section. So as long as you know how to categorize the food from any country in the world, you can still stick it on the plate in the correct location and the core and and it is also about portion size, I mean a quarter of your plate you know, you don't want to half your plate with the carbs or your blood sugar well.
Shireen: And I love that you put it that pretty much foods from around the world can fit into that plate, they don't have to be a you know, you sort of think of healthy food and there's like this image that you go to and it doesn't look very appetizing. It doesn't.
Toby: I know it's like grilled chicken and broccoli and brown rice. No you don't need grilled chicken and broccoli and brown rice and that's why in my cookbook, I actually do have some a dish with collard greens and I do have different I think like a Brazilian type steak you know with some and that's really herbs and spices are beautiful because as long as it's not like a garlic salt but you know herbs and spices in the regular form have very, very few calories and carbs that you can utilize them most freely. I mean there is some limit you don't want to eat the whole container but you could use a teaspoon APA teaspoon and you're okay in terms of so that is a really good flavor enhancer using those herbs and spices. So and that's what I did with the Brazilian type steak. I just use some spices on there to make it to flavor it and make it delicious.
Shireen: Can you give us some options for folks that are vegetarian, plant-based? How can they create the Create Your Plate model?
Toby: So with the Create Your Plate model, what you would do for that protein section, you know, depends what type of vegetarian if it's fish, you could do or lacto. There's a lacto. There's ovo, lactose fish, ovo is eggs. And so the lacto if it's dairy, dairy would go into the remember in the starch section or the carbohydrate section. And so you would need a plant based protein, whether it's tofu, you could do some hummus in there if you wanted to some peanut butter if you wanted to, or do peanut butter and a cracker, and that would be the two sections of the plate. But the thing is, even if it's beans or lentils, you do have to remember that blood sugar will be a little bit higher because you're having your starch section. And then there are starches in your protein section. And that's just something you could always lower to touch and just add a little bit more vegetables if you find your blood sugar's a little bit too high or out of the range that your doctor wants it but it is actually standard, you're gonna have a little bit more carbs because those proteins are gonna have some starches and so you just have to give it you know, watch it and know you're everybody's different. So know yourself.
Shireen: So what I'm going to do, Toby, I'm going to totally put you on the spot. You mentioned the collard greens just a little bit ago, I'd love for you to walk us through the column. I'd love for you to walk us through the collard green recipe. And also, I'd love to hear from you another recipe that is more suited for the Mexican population from the Mexican culture. So if you have something or if you have some ideas around it, would you, would you tell us?
Toby: Sure, I mean, with the collard greens, it was pretty simple. I did it I think I put it with a squash or I think I did it with a squash in that one. And so I sauteed them up. Just a little bit of olive oil, you put some garlic for flavor, add the collards and then the zucchini that one is a little bit you don't want to overcook it so you have to be careful so you want to put that in at the end and you just cook it up like sauteed stovetop for a few minutes and it's done. You can add a little bit of salt, a little bit of pepper. If you don't have garlic you could do garlic powder, onion powder, if you want to flavor at more you can saute up and I usually do this you could do an onion or leak even a little bit at the bottom you know in the beginning to give it a little bit more flavor. But it should be really easy and that's that's really what I'm all about is really easy. So that one is really the collards and then if you're looking at more for Mexican flavors, I even for breakfast you can have like a burrito you know just do a smaller size whole wheat and then you have your scrambled eggs with a little bit of beans and at one scrambled eggs some beans in there salsa is absolutely low carb vegetables, I'd like to saute up always some spinach because that's a low carb vegetable and always add some vegetables and a lot of times in my fridge I like I have leftover mushrooms a lot. And I love using mushrooms that's a flavor it up and it has a ton of nutrition for very few calories. So even though it's not in the, usually in the Mexican fare, I'll always add something whatever vegetable I have in my, in my refrigerator to minimize food waste in my home, help my food bills and just always add those vegetables. Of course you can always do rice and beans is very easy. And the leftover rice and beans, you can actually have you know you don't want rice and the tortilla. So you could do the rice and beans with an egg with it. There's no reason. Who says you can't have that for breakfast with some salsa on it. So you can play with whatever flavors you want. As long as you set up your plate the way you know, the plate method recommends.
Shireen: You mentioned earlier, Toby, about, you know, having a physician team or having a I think I mentioned healthcare team within this health care team. I think you said don't only focus on your physician and having a relationship with him or her but also look at a registered dietician and group, you know forming a relationship there. What would you say to folks who say well, the dietitian is just going to tell me all the things I'm doing wrong, because that's something that we hear through Yumlish all the time, people just immediately default to Well, I know what I'm eating, I know it's not healthy, or the dietitian is going to take all the foods I love away and I don't want to live with you know, I want to have, you know, a delicious food. So we continuously hear these types of things. What would you say to that?
Toby: So there's a couple things I would say first, maybe it's not the right registered dietician for you. So you have to find the person that that report is right with you, they really shouldn't be telling you what you are taking away. Yes, they're there to help you know, instead of this, why don't you, you know, instead of white rice all the time, try brown rice and look at the watershed. They're there to help guide you and they're supposed to be on your team. So if you're not perfect, and that's okay, they can help and some of the guidelines that I like to do is let's slowly get you there. So instead of like completely taking away you like your cup and a half of white rice, can we move it maybe down to a cup and a quarter of white rice, you know, maybe switch it to brown rice or maybe there's another whole grain that you like so we're always trying to find something that you like but also help you in decreasing portions because that's usually one of the biggest issues is and ultimately, it's your Health like we want to get you in the best health possible so but finding someone you have a really nice rapport and you really trust sometimes it takes a couple tries. It's just like any you know, I always tell my kids the teacher in school may not be your favorite this year but there'll be one year you know, find the teacher that you like love, do some research, you know, with the teacher and the college course when my kids are in college. So you know, I say the same thing with doctors because doctors to you don't always love your doctor, find the one that really resonates with you, and you really can call them on your team. Find the philosophy at the dietician that works for you. And there are many different ways that dietitians or approaches dietitians can take no, you're not supposed to have a whole plate full of starches. So they will remind you of that but getting you in the right direction slowly baby steps is also a good technique to because ultimately you will get those side effects quicker if you're not if your blood sugar is out of control. And they look at your a one C which gives a good picture of the past few months of what you've been eating, they're not trying to tell on you, you know, they're just trying to make your, they want you to be healthy and that's really what their job is. And if you feel like they're doing something to shame you or whatnot, you need to tell them or you need to find someone else.
Shireen: Thank you so much for sharing that. We, we've been talking about your cookbook, the Create Your Plate model that is included within the Create Your Plate cookbook. For all of our listeners here today, we have a giveaway for you. So what Toby has offered is to do a giveaway of this Create Your Plate cookbook. It is specifically for diabetes as well. So to our listeners who are either caregivers, have diabetes themselves., on the verge of diabetes, we definitely urge you to look for this cookbook. It's available on Amazon and if you are interested in the giveaway, head over to our social media so that you can be entered to win this cookbook. With that Toby really want to thank you for coming on. I would love for listeners to learn more about how they can connect with you after this episode, learn more about your work.
Toby: Sure, you can go to my website Toby Amidor, ami dor nutrition dot com and it's Toby Amidor basically on all the social media platforms: TOBY am I dor. If you want to follow me stories, recipes and even if you're trying to eat healthy and delicious, the whole family can enjoy the Create Your Plate diabetes cookbook I you know I made the dishes for my own children who are, do not have diabetes, they have other other issues, but they were very, they were happy with it and they were you know, digging in.
Shireen: And so with that you heard it here you can connect with Toby and we'll also going to link up everything in the show notes. So you can click through and you can head over to her website. So with that, thank you again, Toby for your time.
Toby: Thank you so much.