I have always enjoyed the comfort that food gives and the cultural experiences it provides. I was lucky to have a mother that exposed me to a wide variety of food at an early age, as well as the chance to travel to Spain, Costa Rica, and Morrocco. This led me to what I call “traveling” with my cooking and learning to cook exotic dishes. I really began to value variety in my diet above all else.

A few of my favorite things to cook are chicken curry, Greek-style sheet pan chicken, arepas (Reina Pepiada), and Korean BBQ beef bowls. Two memorable dishes that are on my list to recreate are dosa (an Indian dish) and Moroccan chicken tagine. Dosa was made for me when I was housekeeping for a hotel chain, and the tagine had during my trip to Morrocco.

As far as going out goes, I love hot pot, sushi, Italian, Spanish, and Vietnamese food. (We’d all be lying if we didn’t admit that some nights we just didn’t feel like cooking.) Going out also did help inspire me to find recipes on what I wanted to recreate. Sometimes we think just because we got it at a restaurant, we can’t make it, but that isn’t true.

With all this in mind, you can imagine that when I found out I had diabetes, I was devastated. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the foods I loved so much and would have to make so many sacrifices. Bread, potatoes, and rice are some of my favorite things and some of the worst things for a diabetic. To add insult to injury, I hate artificial sweeteners, so I thought I’d have to make peace with that too. Lastly, adjusting to change in general can be difficult.

However, as I have been living with it, I have found that not to be true. While I must make different choices, I don’t ever sacrifice. If I want pasta, for example, I skip the other bread. The opposite is also true, if I am really craving garlic bread, I will make sure I don’t make a pasta dish. I also order diet sodas at restaurants if I am really craving them. Little things like that. The fact that I knew how to cook and liked such a wide variety of food was beneficial in dealing with my dietary needs. I knew so many starch substitutes and low-carb dishes as well.

At home, I switched to seltzer water instead of soda and really liked it! There is an orange creamsicle-flavored one that I love and don’t have to deal with carbs or artificial sweeteners. I have a major sweet tooth and a cereal addiction as well. So I had to find a low carb treat that I liked as well as a cereal that was low-carb (enough so that I could have two bowls!) and still stay under my per-meal carb intake goal as well as my per day.

I am very lucky that my diabetes was caught early, and I can turn it around, but even if you are type 1 or insulin dependent, you don’t have to sacrifice. If you really want something, you can make different choices to be able to have it, and there are so many versions of your favorite things now that you can pretty much find a low-carb version so you can have it more often. This is probably the most important thing if I had to pick in keeping diet in check. A common thing in diet changes is trying to completely give up something. However (at least for myself), this would cause binge eating. If you know that you are going to crave something, it is better to find a healthier version of these than to give in and binge on them.