Diabetes Blogs

The Queen of Spaghetti

The Queen of SpaghettiAs a little girl I rarely went a week without consuming pasta of some kind. Today, I live with diabetes so enjoy it in moderation.

On my way to Milan, Italy next week, I’m preoccupied with what to pack, what to do, and – maybe most of all—what to eat. 

From my earlier trips to Italy I know it’s no problem finding extraordinary food, but the problem – as always – is finding something I can eat without spiking my blood sugars. While earlier travels this summer to Martha’s Vineyard and Asheville North Carolina proved no problem at all, the thought of all that pasta is enough to make me break a sweat. 

Moderation and substitution often work for me with other foods—bread can be replaced with whole grain crackers, juices with berries and sugary alcohols with a wine spritzer. But Italian pasta is my downfall, in part because it’s guaranteed to send my sugars spiraling and in part because I love it so much.

In the old days before diabetes (BD) I was known to my aunts and uncles as the Spaghetti Queen. Given any option on the menu—steak, lobster, you name it—I went straight for the pasta and meatballs. Once, I spent a week at the Shore with my Aunt Fay and though she did her best to tempt me with fish, chicken,anything else, I already knew what I wanted. “You’re going to turn into a noodle,” she’d tease me, as I happily shoveled the stuff into my open mouth. 

Traveling in Italy earlier in my life, I figured I could treat myself and ignore the repercussions. But now that I’m older and somewhat wiser, I understand the need to be more cautious. (Besides, I want to reserve some of my precious natural insulin to work on hazelnut gelato.)

So what to do? 

Is it Possible to Avoid Pasta in Italy?

For one, Italian menus are divided into antipastos, primi and secondi courses. Antipastos contain a lot of the good stuff – eggplants, mushrooms, artichokes – that while doused in oil, can be safely downed without upsetting my numbers. And if I devour the pasta list with my eyes (and take a judicious spoonful of my partner’s spaghetti a la carbonara or rigatoni alla Bolognese) I can move onto the secondi, which often contains heart-healthy fish and other proteins. 

I know what you’re thinking – when in Rome, do as the Romans do. But in the back of my mind, I’ll be thinking about how much better I’ll feel finishing a meal that doesn’t leave me logy and overfull.  And, more importantly, doesn’t fill me with regret when I face my glucose monitor the next morning. 

To be clear, I don’t feel like a martyr. Just a slightly restricted person who is acting in favor of her own health.

Will I have a cheat day? You betcha. I’ll have one meal of pasta while I’m there, ordering a half portion (a perfectly acceptable menu move). I’ll roll my spaghetti onto a spoon as I was taught to by my Aunt Fay many summers ago, and close my eyes and savor every bite, imagining that I’m ten years old and gunning for the role


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