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Why a Diabetes-friendly Diet Doesn’t Have to Be Bland and Boring

diet-diabetes-cookbook-milk and honey-mary ellen phillips
diet-diabetes-cookbook-milk and honey-mary ellen phillips
Mary Ellen Phipps | Photos by Gerry Meyers Photo

Mary Ellen Phipps is a registered dietician nutritionist living with type 1 diabetes. She’s the creator of the brand Milk & Honey Nutrition (@milknhoneynutrition) and has published two diabetes-focused cookbooks: “The Easy Diabetes Cookbook” and “The Easy Diabetes Desserts Cookbook.”

We talked with Phipps about how growing up and living with type 1 diabetes has shaped her attitude toward food and from where she draws her nutritional inspiration.

What inspired you to share tips and recipes to individuals with diabetes across social media?

I grew up in the 90s, at the heart of diet culture and food restriction. And this bled into the diabetes nutrition information I was taught as a child living with type 1 diabetes.

But as I got older and started learning things about nutrition in college and grad school, I realized those of us with diabetes didn’t have to be relegated to a life of bland and boring food. This fueled my desire to become a registered dietitian.

I worked for several years in a clinical setting, and then in an employee wellness position at a major hospital here in Houston. I launched Milk & Honey Nutrition after my second daughter was born and started to see the opportunity to educate people online on a greater scale about how to make food work for them and not the other way around.

I get a lot of joy from teaching people how to enjoy all the delicious foods they love, and it’s so exciting to see how much more empowered people feel and watch that joy come back into their lives when it comes to food.

How did you come up with the recipes in your cookbooks, “The Easy Diabetes Cookbook” and “The Easy Diabetes Desserts Cookbook”?

All of the recipes in my cookbooks are built on the idea that no foods are off-limits. It’s better to think about what we can add to a recipe or a meal to make it work for us, instead of focusing on a list of foods we have to avoid. Each recipe incorporates adding in some combination of fat, fiber, and/or protein to help it be more diabetes-friendly and better for blood sugar management.

How have been able to juggle your career and raising a family, all while managing your diabetes symptoms?

One of the perks of working for myself and getting to set my own schedule is that I get to set my own deadlines and choose the projects that I do knowing the demands of living with type 1 diabetes. Sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes it’s easy. There are definitely days where my blood sugar is all over the place and I can’t be as productive as I’d like.

What’s one key piece of advice you would give to people managing diabetes when it comes to health and nutrition?

Remember that the more you stress about healthy eating or clean eating or whatever term you want to use, often the harder it will be. Allow yourself to eat the foods you enjoy, keeping in mind that sometimes you may need to add a protein or fiber source. But, just because the food requires a little bit more forethought or intention to enjoy, doesn’t mean it’s off-limits.

Also, a food’s carbohydrate count is not an indication of its nutritional value. High-carbohydrate foods are not inherently bad or less nutritious.

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