The only online publication for women in Greater Cincinnati
Food

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For our annual “Go Green” issue, Chef Ken talks about the ultimate green food with tips to take salads from boring to blissful.

 

What comes to mind when you think of a salad? 

Some consider salad a “diet” food. How common is it to order a salad instead of a burger when you go out to eat since it’s perceived as a healthier choice or lower-calorie option? And, as we all know, so many salads that started with calorie-free vegetables aren’t at all healthy by the time you mix it with dressing, cheese, croutons, etc.

Outside of being a replacement for a main course, a salad is typically a first course. It’s the introduction to a balanced meal. The salad course is what kicks your palette into gear and gets you ready for the epicurean adventure to come. Sadly, though, so many salads are uninspired. How many times do you think you’ve sat down to a plate of iceberg lettuce, a few julienned carrots, and a thin, watery dressing? 

I’ve had a lot boring salads. While we’ll leave the gender stereotypes out of it, it may be partly because I’m a man that I just never thought of a salad as anything to get excited about. Men are not typically brought up to love salads. So even with my culinary background, chopped greens on a plate soaked in ranch was what usually initially came to mind when I thought of a salad. 

My Salad Conversion

When I meet my clients for the first time, I start by asking them what their favorite meal is. Usually, I’ll be told about a decadent pasta dish or a steak that was seasoned and cooked to perfection. I get a lot of people tell me about some phenomenal dish they had at a celebrities’ New York City or Los Angeles restaurants or locally from one of Jean-Robert deCavel’s or Jeff Ruby’s fine dining establishments.

But there was one time that I asked my client what her favorite meal was, and she replied, “It was this salad…”

I listened intently, hoping to develop a custom menu for the upcoming party based on things she loved about the salad. She went on to describe the fresh-caught New England lobster seasoned with salt, pepper and lime juice, rolled inside slices of honeydew melon and topped with hearts of palm, cubes of grapefruit, and avocado. It wasn’t so much the individual ingredients that made it special, but how they all blended together so perfectly like a symphony. She also mentioned that no matter how many times she had ordered it before, her husband would read over the bill and exclaim, “Twenty-six dollars for a salad?!” to which she replied confidently, “That salad is worth every cent.”

How that client described the best meal she ever ate got to thinking more about salads, and how they really get a bad rap. While it’s just the starter course, the salad set the tone for the whole meal. So I wondered, what is it that elevates a salad? What makes a salad so extraordinary that you’re talking about it years later?

I couldn’t think of one that stood out, so I asked my wife about her favorite salad. She showed me a photo she took of a lobster salad that she had ordered at Matunuck Oyster Bar in Rhode Island where we own a second home. We have had some fantastic meals there, which I think is due to its proximity to the water. Because of the plentiful wild-caught seafood that chefs have to work with, they are careful to source produce locally so their lobster, crab, and oyster dishes are accompanied on the plate by the best vegetables available. Together, that makes a huge difference in turning a plain old seafood salad into a spectacular dish worthy of remembering.

Elevating Your Salad

When you’re making a salad at home and want it to be truly memorable, put the time and effort into it by using these tips:1. Go to a farmer’s market or purchase vegetables directly from a family farm. 2. When you do your shopping, get out of the romaine/iceberg rut. Look for greens with different textures and flavors like spinach, arugula, or dandelion leaves and mix them together. 3. No matter what meat you use, it should be just as fresh as the vegetables, so consider whether you are buying meat and seafood that’s humanely raised, antibiotic-free, and sustainable. 4. Think beyond meat. Proteins like eggs, nuts, and quinoa are great in salads.5. Use fresh herbs and mix your own salad dressing instead of buying it in a bottle, and dress your salad before you plate it.

Whether you’re eating it as your only course or as the start of a multi-course meal, your salad should be special! If you’d like more tips and tricks on salads, follow me and send a message on Instagram.

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Our Chef-in-Residence Ken Durbin breaks down the farm-to-table movement, explaining why locally-sourced food is healthier and tastes better.

 

When thinking about the theme of this week’s issue, I considered some of the gourmet food trends that have come into fashion of late. Ancient grains. Oat milk. Sumac. Truffles. (Who doesn’t love truffles?) And then it hit me—the biggest trend in food right now is not a food at all, it’s how we get our food. Sustainability is in fashion.

Take those delicious truffles, for instance. The best truffles are sourced from France. It takes a whole lot of jet fuel to schlep those truffles across the country and across the ocean. Beyond being stupidly expensive (hence the price of truffles), jet-hopping all over the world to find crazy ingredients is terrible for the environment. Yes, that’d be the same environment where we’re trying to grow our produce and raise our livestock. So like many chefs today, I’ve embraced the trend toward sourcing from local farms and markets. This encompasses a lot of related food trends, which you may have heard referred to as farm-to-table, sustainable agriculture, or local sourcing. 

What all these trends boil down to is that the closer the source, the better the food will taste. Knowing where your food comes from is a surefire way to avoid ingredients that you don’t want or need, like added hormones that have been injected into your meat or pesticides that cover your vegetables. You also know that when you buy local foods, they haven’t been loaded up with preservatives, boxed up, canned, or packaged and driven hundreds (or thousands) of miles to reach the store.

Beyond Taste

But the reason that we care so much as chefs about food sourcing today goes beyond the selfish reason of wanting the food we cook to taste good. People in our communities work really hard to grow produce and raise livestock. It’s their livelihood, and it’s important to support our local small farms and farmers markets. 

As a chef, local sourcing allows me to make informed decisions. I can ask questions face-to-face with the farm owner about about how a vegetable is grown or how an animal is raised. Does the farmer use pesticides? Are the animals being raised humanely and eating the proper diet to ensure a quality life? Knowing these answers then allows me to feel confident telling my clients they can trust me when I say that the food they are being served is as organic and environmentally-friendly as possible.

From Land to Sea

So while it’s relatively easy here in the Midwest to locally source agriculture and livestock products like vegetables, beef, or poultry, what in the heck are you supposed to do if you want seafood? We live in an area of the country that’s so far from either of the coasts that it can be difficult to navigate the environmental impact of the seafood we buy. With overfishing being a real threat to our ocean’s ecosystem, it’s become vital as chefs that we become more knowledgeable about sustainable seafood. Luckily, there are organizations that are constantly staying on the cutting edge of this topic and I’m proud to associate myself with them in order to learn more about how I can choose products that help marine life to thrive and continue to feed our bellies for centuries to come. 

Last month, I had the honor of taking part in Off the Hook, an annual event produced by Chef’s Collaborate and James Beard’sSeafood Watch in partnership with the Newport Aquarium to educate and inspire chefs to use sustainable seafood that’s been fished in environmentally-responsible ways. I was honored to learn from and cook alongside chefs from across the country who believe in this mission, including one of few master sommeliers in the country Steve Geddes, who you may remember from Cincinnati’s with Local 127 and legendary Las Vegas chef Rick Moonen, who is nationally known as “The Godfather of Sustainability.”

It’s All About Community
When you buy from the local economy you foster community pride. It is easier to build lasting, trustworthy partnerships with vendors when you can meet them face-to-face. My clients may pay more for my commitment to local sourcing, but I firmly believe there is high value in feeling good about where the ingredients I serve are grown or raised. We’re all stuck on this planet together, we might as well take care of it. And that’s a trend I can get behind.

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Cincy Chic’s new Chef-in-Residence Ken Durbin dishes on GNOs and why a private chef is the secret ingredient to your best girl’s night in.

As a private chef, I cook meals for all sorts of special occasions. While I’ve been privileged to curate cuisine for luxurious birthday parties, anniversary dinners, and even small company functions, I’ve also had the opportunity to work a different kind of event—and they are one I’d never be invited to as a guy! I’m talking about the GNO, or Girlfriends’ Nights Out.

Over the years, I’ve been hired to prepare meals for a lot of them, so here’s the 411 on GNOs (from a guy’s perspective):

Rule #1- No Boys Allowed

My GNO clients (who are amazing, successful, and dynamic women) have told me that the goal of their ladies’-only evening is for the busy women in their lives to have a chance to take a night off from their husbands or boyfriends to focus on celebrating and enriching the connections that they share as women.

Along with no guys, a GNO is typically also a night away from the kids, too. Many of my clients have told me that this is especially needed for stay at home moms. I could not agree more. The SAHMs I know somehow balance weeks full of endless soccer practices, PTA meetings, science projects, drying tears, cleaning up spills, and still managing to get everyone (and the dog) in matching sweaters for Christmas pictures. You deserve a night off from that craziness.

I also think about the women in my life who are rocking out demanding careers, going to school, caring for an elderly parent, or putting in thankless volunteer hours in your communities to make them better. And many of you are balancing many, if not all of all these roles. You all are amazing, and you all deserve a night off.

GNOs By the Decade
In your 20s, your GNO was all about going out on the town, dressing up to the nines, wearing your cutest dress with your highest heels, and dancing the night away in them… which I have no clue how you do, and fully respect when you take them off and just jam out in your bare feet.

But I digress.  

So then, life happens and as you get into your 30s, your GNOs start to look a little different. It might involve back-and-forth texts for months until finally the planets align and somehow you can all get a babysitter on the same night and score reservations for seven at the hottest new OTR restaurant. So you go, you eat, you share, you laugh—and it’s transformative. Your girlfriends have brought you back from the edge of your sanity and brought out the “fun” in you again.
And you vow to keep doing it.

Then your 40s arrive and your GNO gently changes again with every other beautiful imperfection you’ve come to accept and embrace about yourself. You’ve officially stopped caring so much about what you’re wearing anymore or even what hot new restaurant you’re checking into on Instagram. Forget all that because where you’re at doesn’t matter—what matters is who you’re there with. And that’s when you decide to bring the girls night out in.

While your traditions may get altered as careers and husbands and babies and life happen, the spirit of your GNO remains intact. A GNO is about building and nurturing the bonds you have with the important women in your life. Through all of your life changes, your girlfriends have been your constant. You support each other on your brave journeys, motivating one another through everything from husband problems to job stresses to dealing with the gravity of breast cancer. You elevate one another gracefully in a way that, frankly, us guys really don’t know how to do.

The Definition of Eating Well
The women I’ve worked with on planning their GNO have had vastly different dietary needs—some request to keep it light (yet still gourmet and locally-sourced), Keto-friendly, or vegetarian/vegan-friendly. Or, on the flip side I’ve had women want to give their girlfriends a night off from their diets too and make something really decadent. The three tenets of my business are 1.) pamper yourself, 2.) enjoy life, and 3.) eat well. Eating well doesn’t always mean eating healthy. Sometimes eating well means that if you and your girlfriends want to eat bread—I’m going to make sure you eat the best damn bread in the tristate. If you want lobster, I’ll fly it in fresh the same day from Maine.

You’re going to enjoy the best food at an At Home Chef party, but what I’ve come to learn is that a GNO isn’t about the food. It’s about support and empowering.

Last December I had the honor to cook for a group of women who have been gathering for their GNO every single year for the past 27 years. Since the day they graduated high school together, they’ve come back at least once a year and have been there for each other through whatever life brought them.

It struck me the night I was preparing their dinner that it’s definitely not a coincidence that my client and her girlfriends are all so successful in life. Bankers, lawyers, doctors, hairdressers—they all resonated the same theme, which was that supporting one another’s careers has made a key difference in their lives. For them, their GNO honors their bond of friendship in a way that helps them all soar, both professionally and personally.

Bringing the Girls Night Out In
That’s the kind of friendship I see over and again and it’s all because the GNO these women planned in their home with my company gave them a night to just talk with no worries of who’s driving with whom, who had too much to drink, where to park, or what time the dinner reservation is. You’re all there in one house together, there’s no clean up to worry about (because I do all that), and you can have as much wine as you want because you know going in that you can all spend the night.

In the age of social media, it’s so easy to occasionally send a DM or text to your besties and move on with your day. It seems like it’s enough—but deep down you know it’s not. You need those genuinely warm hugs; you need the fits of laughter; you need that closeness that can only be felt when you have a GNO.

If you’re considering where to hold your next GNO, why not do it at home? The At Home Chef can take care of all the details so you can focus on what’s important—supporting your girlfriends, helping one another do this life thing, and inspiring and empowering each other like the extraordinary women you are.

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Whether it’s for your Valentine or Galentine, your kiddos or your own sweet tooth, we checked out the sweetest shop in town for ideas on how to spread the love this week.

 
Valentine’s Day might be Feb. 14, but it’s a week-long celebration at Gigi’s Cupcakes! 
 
“We do Valentine’s Day gifts all week long,” says Amy Jones, owner of Gigi’s Cupcakes – Cincinnati.  “Our treats are made daily in our Kenwood shop with lots of love and care.”
 
The in-store menu offers a selection of both classic and seasonal cupcakes, minis and cakes. Each cupcake is topped high with those Gigi’s Signature Icing swirls. Always gluten friendly options too! “We’ll have a lot of flavors to choose from,” Jones adds, “even if you forget to order ahead of time.”
 
They have several different Valentine’s Day themed cupcakes you can pre-order that come in a 4-box or a dozen. Perfect for a Valentine’s Day party or just bringing home to surprise the family!
 
Gigi’s Cupcakes is located at 7940 Hosbrook Rd, Cincinnati, OH 45243. Hours of operation are Monday-Saturday 9am-8pm. Learn more by visiting their website or checking them out on Facebook.

Photos: Twin Spire Photography http://twinspirephotography.com

This is a special advertising supplement, paid for by Gigi’s Cupcakes – Cincinnati.

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From sipping on some wine, enjoying a fireside dinner and decadent dessert to Sunday brunch with the girls -- however you want to celebrate Valentine's Day, see why Parker's is the place.

From sipping on some wine, enjoying fireside dinner and decadent dessert to Sunday brunch with the girls — however you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Parker’s is the place.

At Parkers, they specialize in All-American Fare with an amazing selection of beef, seafood and specialty entrée salads. They even a wine list honored with the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.

They offer as much variety of dishes as they do dining experiences, too. Stay cool in the summer dining on the newly remodeled Tap Room patio and warm in the winter as you cozy up to one of their wood burning fireplaces. It’s the perfect place to meet friends for a drink, do a business lunch, grab a meal to go, kindle romance or celebrate special moments.

They have a newly remodeled main dining room and also private dining rooms – seating 12 to 60 or cocktail up to 100 – so your event can have the perfect setting for things like rehearsal dinners, bridal showers, anniversary parties and business functions.

The Tap Room hosts Happy Hour six days a week (Monday through Saturday) from 3:00pm-6:30pm. Happy Hour includes half off all 17 drafts and 25% off all liquor, wine and bottled beer! We also have a special bar menu where guests can find small bites for snacking to our delicious half pound cheeseburger.

They host live music regularly. Then, on Sunday, they have their famous brunch that people drive from all over to enjoy! It’s from 10am-2:00pm which includes a complimentary Mimosa, Bloody Mary, screw driver or a glass of champagne.

Parker’s is located at 4200 Cooper Road Cincinnati, OH 45242. If you haven’t been, or haven’t been lately, come check it out for yourself! Like them on Facebook to stay updated and learn more about them at http://parkersblueash.com.

Photos: Twin Spire Photography

This is a special advertising supplement, paid for by Parker’s Blue Ash.

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A local catering service is making waves at events large and small, corporate and residential, casual and refined. Read on for all the delicious details!

currentcatering
Current Catering by Bensons
. It might be a new name on the local catering scene, but they certainly aren’t beginners.

Bensons Catering was founded by the Bernstein Family in 1981. Over the decades, Bensons was selected to cater in some of Tri-State’s most prestigious homes and venues, such as the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, Music Hall, The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and The Western & Southern Open.

But after three generations in the business, it was time for Benson’s Catering to get current — quite literally. “Current Catering by Bensons is a new and updated version of Benson’s Catering,” says Current Catering owner Terri Bernstein. “The third generation of the Bernstein family has now taken over the daily operations.”122214SOCIAL

While Benson’s Catering saw much success, Bernstein says that they wanted to take those 33 years of experience and incorporate the fresh, new ideas of today. According to Bernstein, the business plan for Current Catering by Bensons was finalized in March 2014 and implementation of that plan got off the ground in October 2014.

From corporate dinners and business boxed lunches to weddings and galas, or even family picnics and household holiday parties, this full-service catering business offers services to a variety of customers. “We do many small house parties all the way up to the Great American Insurance Christmas Party every year for 7,000 people,” says Bernstein, adding that they’re always looking to expand. “We have a whole team out and about looking for new ideas and business.”

According to Bernstein, the team at Current Catering by Bensons will design a menu to fit nearly any taste, occasion or price point. Breakfast starts at $8 per plate, lunch starts at $10 per plate and a dinner menu is created starting at $14.95 per plate. And if you want to pair with your food with beverage service, Current Catering by Bensons also holds a Kentucky catering liquor license!

Each year, Bernstein says Current Catering by Bensons, as well as their other family owned business BB Riverboats, always gives back to the community that supports them. In fact, she adds, when they consider the donations they provide, they’re giving tens of thousands of dollars to many local organizations.

To learn more about Current Catering by Bensons, visit www.current-catering.com or send an email to info@current-catering.com. You can also check them out on Facebook.

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011915ADVERTORIAL

There’s only one thing that makes the food at Mama Mimi’s even better: WINE! That’s why they’re now offering between 15-30 boutique offerings of small production wines at their Kenwood, Anderson and Oakley locations.

These aren’t the boring, same-old-same-old wines you’ll find at Kroger. These are fun, specialty wines that were hand-picked to perfectly pair with the menu times at Mama Mimi’s. Brands include Don Bosco, Underwood, Borsao and Aves Del Sur.

 

If you’re more of a beer buff, they have that too. Available at all locations, Mama Mimi’s carries options from Madtree Brewing Company, Breckenridge Brewery, Lexington Brewing (Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale), and Two Brothers Brewing (a gluten free option!).

 

To learn more about Mama Mimi’s, visit www.mamamimis.com. Make sure you “like” them on Facebook and watch our exclusive webcast with Mama Mimi’s below!

This is a special advertising supplement, paid for by Mama Mimi’s

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Pair the fresh lineup of vegetables and cheeses in Mama Mimi’s Veggie Lasagna with the
brightness of fine tannins of Underwood’s Pinot Noir (available at all three Cincinnati locations)!


 

The holidays are here, and so are all those great family gatherings and food galore. But that doesn’t mean you need to slave away in the kitchen making all the food, and then succumb to elastic waistband pants from eating it all.

 

Mama Mimi’s makes family nights fun and stress-free. You can have all the healthy, freshly made meals you see on Pinterest but don’t have the time to make. They’re made-to-order, too. So, if little Johnny is gluten intolerant, order up a gluten free pizza. If mom doesn’t like mushrooms, just tell them to hold those and load up on spinach instead.

 

While Mama Mimi’s is known for their gourmet take ‘n’ bake pizzas, they also have delicious lasagnas, pastas, calzones, salads, and cookies, too. Click here to view their full menu. Oh, and since you’re making it a family night, click here to download Mama Mimi’s fun family games.


If your family loves their libations, make sure you chat with the in house wine-beer experts at Mama Mimi’s so they can assist and give recommendations on the perfect pairings and serving suggestions. Click here to view their spirits selection.

 

Once you submit your order online, just pick it up, throw it in the oven, and by the time the table is set, you’ll have a fresh, delicious, hot meal. Plus, you’ll love that you didn’t sacrifice health for ease, and you spent your time with family and not the four walls of your kitchen.

 

To learn more, watch our exclusive webcast with Mama Mimi’s below.

This is a special advertising supplement, paid for by Mama Mimi’s.

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092214ADVERTORIAL

Being a working mom (who’s trying to lose a baby belly – ack!), I want fresh and healthy food that’s also quick, easy, and affordable. An impossible combo, right? I thought so too, until I discovered the amazingness that is Mama Mimi’s.

 

Mama Mimi’s Take ‘n Bake Pizza is the result of a young couple’s dream to help others achieve a balance of work and family. With other young families in mind, Jeff and Jodi Aufdencamp opened for business in 2000 with traditional values and family recipes, all centered around fresh, hand-picked, healthy ingredients. It provided a quick and delicious solution to the often rushed family dinner hour.

 

From that moment on, Mama Mimi’s has built a loyal following of customers who refuse to compromise a quality meal for a high-paced lifestyle. Using many of the recipes straight from the cookbook of their Grandma Mimi, Mama Mimi’s provides its customers with quality gourmet pizzas, pastas, calzones, lasagnas and salads that’ll fill your home with the aroma of quality home cooking.

 

I married into an Italian family, where I quickly learned that food and time spent together were top on the priority list, so Mama Mimi’s is perfect for us. I’ve been bringing home pizzas on my way home from work (they even have gluten free for my hubby who has a gluten allergy!) and I love it. I put my custom order in online, pick it up, throw it in the oven when I get home and it’s ready to eat by the time I set the table.

 

It’s not oily, soggy pizza that you feel guilty about the next day. They make their own dough and sauces, use premium cheeses (not the greasy processed stuff) and cut all their veggies that morning. You know, all the things Pinterest inspires me to do, but I never have time for. Oh, and what I love most about it is that not having to spend all that time in the kitchen to make that healthy meal buys me more time with my family, which now with our new baby, is more precious than ever!

 

To learn more about Mama Mimi’s, visit www.mamamimis.com. Click here to get an exclusive discount for Cincy Chic readers (free salad with any pizza when you sign up for their email list). Also, “like” them on Facebook and watch our exclusive webcast with Mama Mimi’s below.

Editor’s Note: This is a special advertising supplement, paid for by Mama Miami’s

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Dear Holly: What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes? Am I going to get it? -Sweet Tooth.

 

Dear Sweet Tooth: Anything that we eat that contains carbohydrates will eventually be broken down in our digestive system to individual sugar molecules. These tiny sugars are the building blocks to starchy breads, potatoes, rice, fruit, milk, and sweets. Any of these foods, not just desserts, can impact blood sugar.

 

Once sugars are absorbed from our digestive tract into our blood, they are transported to our liver for processing and to each and every cell as fuel. The gatekeeper for entering each cell is insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas. Without insulin, the cells cannot open their gates to allow the glucose inside. Without sufficient insulin, blood sugars can quickly rise and eventually cause damage. Everyone has some circulating glucose – the potential for trouble is if these levels get too high or too low.

 

Type 1 diabetes is when a person’s pancreas stops making insulin. The remedy? Injecting insulin. These days there are different of types of insulin, ways to inject and how to monitor changes in blood sugar throughout the day. Insulin is an excellent medication and works well if the person managing the blood sugar has the proper education and support.

 

Type 2 diabetes is more common. Approximately 95% of the people in the US with diabetes have Type 2. Things are more complicated here. The pancreas is still making some insulin, but less than is needed, and the levels decline with time. The muscle cells are also resistant to insulin trying to let the glucose in. My analogy is that the cells are like a bratty teenager – insulin is knocking on the cell door but the cells aren’t responding.

 

There are a variety of medications used to help support healthy blood sugars. Each carries different risks and benefits. Some medications act at the muscle site to improve the response to the declining levels of insulin, others act at the pancreas to increase production. Some medications decrease carbohydrate absorption from the GI tract and others lower the amount of stored carbohydrate that is released by the liver.

 

Gestational diabetes can occur during pregnancy. The physiology is similar to that of Type 2 diabetes where the body resists the insulin that is being made. It often resolves after delivery of the baby, but the fact that may get glossed over is that having had gestational diabetes significantly increases your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes down the line.

 

Will you get diabetes? If I could predict that, I would be accepting a Nobel prize! Risk for developing Type 2 diabetes increases with age, with obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet. Certain groups are more vulnerable to diabetes because of their genes.

 

In a diagnosis of any kind of diabetes, a solid foundation of education is imperative to successful management. Doctors and dietitians talk about following a “diabetes diet” but it isn’t really anything so different than my usual goals for clients; moderate portions of carbohydrates at each meal, even spacing of eating throughout the day, skipping concentrated sweets most of the time.

 

If you have a diagnosis of diabetes, I recommend you make an appointment with a dietitian to optimize your eating and protect your health.

 

Ready for a Real Food Wellness Challenge? Start the month with 21 Days of Real Food! Click to enroll in the challenge; we launch the 1st of each month.

 

What’s your question for Holly? Send them to info@hollylarsonrd.com. For more information and to make an appointment to work on your goals, visit Grass Roots Nutrition, LLC and BrideBod, owned by me, Holly Larson, a Registered Dietitian. Visit me online at hollylarsonrd.com and follow us on Facebook. Have a delicious, healthy day!