As the family chef, you get to choose the menu and exercise a certain amount of control over what everyone else eats. But if your spouse or significant other gets diagnosed with diabetes, you may suddenly need to modify your menus and shopping choices. A look at the long list of foods recommended by your partner's nutritionist may leave you wondering how you can ever adjust your cooking so no one feels deprived.

First off, the good news:

The recommended meal plan for a diabetic really works for everyone. It's a healthy style of eating that can keep the family in step with the current recommendations for consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, smaller amounts of protein, and whole grain carbs rather than white flour and refined sugar.

"When it comes to what the person with diabetes should be eating, it's about the same as what the whole family should be eating," says Karen Congro, RD, CDN, director of the Wellness for Life program at the Brooklyn Hospital Center. The ratio of starch, fat, and protein is no different: The dinner plate should contain one-half fruits and vegetables, one-quarter protein, and one-quarter carbs or starch.

You can keep your family, and yourself, feeling anything but deprived if you experiment with these six suggestions. 

  1. Play with herbs and spices. You'll probably be cooking fewer fried meats and vegetables. Enhance the flavor in steamed and baked foods by spicing them up with fresh or dried herbs and spices.
  2. Learn new ways to cook chicken. For an alternative to fried chicken, pull the skin off drumsticks and thighs; dip into beaten egg white and then a coating of seasoned bread crumbs or crushed cereal flakes. Spray with no calorie cooking spray and bake at 450 degrees until done. "You'll have crispy brown chicken that everyone loves without the fat," Congro says.
  3. Switch to brown rice and whole wheat pasta. And make the swap for the entire family, recommends Georgia Giannopoulus, RD, of New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City. "Don't make one type of pasta for the person with diabetes and another for the rest of the family," she says. Before you know it, everyone will enjoy the nutty flavor of brown rice and the delicious texture of whole wheat pasta.
  4. Bump up your consumption of seafood. It's versatile and easy to prepare. "Don't overlook fish such as canned salmon," says Alenka Ravnik-List, RD, CDE, of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. "Moisten with a little mayonnaise and you have a delicious salmon salad everyone will enjoy."
  5. Find substitutes for soda. Regarding beverages, sugary soda should really be off everyone's list. Make a pitcher of iced tea, put some lemon into it, and keep it in the fridge. Let everyone sweeten to taste. Or, buy powdered sugar-free drink mixes. For many, a fruit-flavored drink tastes better than water.
  6. Treat the family to healthier desserts. Stock up on fat-free chocolate puddings and fat-free Jello. And don't forget about small treats like fortune cookies. A fortune cookie has just 30 calories and 7 grams of carbohydrate, says Ravnik-List. If you choose carefully, everyone in the family can sit down and enjoy dessert together.