Easy, tasty, healthy: Recipes from Phil Vickery’s Diabetes Meal Planner

It’s a grim new statistic: official figures reveal that a third of those who’ve died from coronavirus this year also had diabetes. As Phil Vickery reveals here, fighting, beating and managing it is more crucial than ever.

More people than ever have diabetes – it affects more of us than all cancers and dementia combined. It is not always the easiest of conditions to understand, and not enough people appreciate the damage it can do. Symptoms include being unusually thirsty, feeling tired all the time and needing to pee more than usual.

By spotting symptoms early, taking prescribed medications and making healthy changes to diet and lifestyle, you can reduce your chances of developing diabetes complications. The list of ingredients that you can eat if you have diabetes is very varied, but when you are building balanced, nutritional recipes, you need to be extremely careful – and it takes a huge amount of time and effort to get things right.

phil vickery
Kate Whitaker

You have to be strict not only when developing or cooking the recipes, but also to ensure you give the correct advice. Research is being published all the time and there have been significant changes even in the three years since the publication of my book Phil Vickery’s Ultimate Diabetes Cookbook. For my latest book, Diabetes Meal Planner, I have tried to write easy, colourful and tasty recipes that will inspire you to get involved and cook. We have also taken into consideration shopping, so have kept ingredients to a minimum. Some recipes are very simple. We make no excuse for that – as a wise chef once said to me, ‘the fewer ingredients, the less you can hide.’

The overriding factor is the need to eat a nutritionally well-balanced diet, keeping an eye on calorie intake if you’re managing your weight [the nutritional values listed under each recipe are per portion]. But it also goes without saying that keeping active is crucial. I’m no doctor, but my brother is, so we often chat about diets, and he stresses the need for a combination of moderate exercise and a balanced diet.

People with diabetes spend around three hours with a healthcare professional every year; for the remaining 8,757 hours they must manage their diabetes themselves. An important part of this self-care is eating healthy, balanced meals. There isn’t a special plan for diabetics to follow; dietary guidelines are similar to those recommended for everyone. Making healthier food choices is good for everybody. this means including more whole grains, fruit, vegetables – especially green leafy varieties – and pulses such as beans and lentils. Also incorporate healthy fats: for example, oily fish, avocado and nuts. and eat less refined grains and processed meats, as well as sugary food and drinks. Lower your salt and saturated fat intake. Eat less red meat – maybe once or twice a week – and choose better quality produce, if possible.

Before making any changes to your diet it is best to check with your healthcare team, especially if the diet is restrictive and/or you’re on medication. Unless advised, it’s best to eat a variety of healthy foods rather than take vitamin and mineral supplements to get the essential nutrients and manage your diabetes.

Recipes from the Phil Vickery Diabetes Meal Planner cookbook

Breakfast

Roasted red pepper and sardines on toast

Sardines on toast, in combination with sweet red peppers and seasonings, is delicious. You could buy a jar of red peppers but it is better to roast your own. Roasting preserves the flavour and the nutrients. Keep a prepared batch in the freezer for other recipes.

phil vickery sardines on toast
Kate Whitaker

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Mushrooms on sourdough toast

A simple recipe full of intensely savoury (umami) flavour. You can use button mushrooms or mix it up with chestnut (brown cap) and larger portobello varieties if you wish.

phil vickery mushrooms on toast
Kate Whitaker

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Green power smoothie

Straight juicing is a fast option but can take most of the fibre goodness out of the fruit and vegetables, leaving just a sugary drink. Proceed with caution and limit the total amount of fruit juice or smoothie you have to one small glass (150ml) a day. If you do make a smoothie, add some fibre and a boost of nutrients in the ingredients you choose, to contribute to your daily dose of greens.

phil vickery green smoothie
Kate Whitaker

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Soups

Summer vegetable soup

When I was training to be a chef we used to make minestrone. The golden rule, the head chef told me, was there should be so much veg that, once cooked, the wooden spoon should stand up in the centre of the pot. With that in mind, try this summer vegetable soup packed with lots of veg plus flavours such as ginger, lemongrass and oregano. You can add a little dried spaghetti or rice to make another variation, if you want.

phil vickery summer vegetable soup
Kate Whitaker

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Mixed mushroom and Chinese noodle soup

Brown cap, white button, shiitake, even dried mushrooms are good in this dish. I’ve also made it from a pack of frozen wild mushrooms, because they were cheaper. I like to keep the noodles separate from the soup as they tend to thicken it.

phil vickery mixed mushroom soup
Kate Whitaker

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Salads

Chicken salad with tomatoes, olives and capers

With the capers, this is a punchy little salad. Use the most flavoursome tomatoes you can find; it will make all the difference to the taste.

phil vickery chicken salad
Kate Whitaker

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Vegetable noodles with spicy garlic dressing

Some vegetables lend themselves to making a delicious alternative for noodles and pasta. The vegetable noodles are also good to sauté for stir-fries, simmer briefly for soup or eat raw in salads. It helps if you have a spiraliser with a special blade to turn any firm vegetable into strands. A rainbow of courgette, carrot, sweet potato and beetroot noodles are all delicious, lower calorie and lower carb, with more fibre than noodles or pasta. Here is a suggestion to use them for a side dish, dressed with a lightly spiced sauce.

phil vickery vegetable noodles
Kate Whitaker

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Vegetarian

Moroccan bean patties

Spices and fresh herbs add deep flavour. I add no extra salt as there’s a little in the stock. In its place, I use lemon zest and juice.

phil vickery moroccan bean patties
Kate Whitaker

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Tortilla muffins

This neat recipe is great for using up leftover bits of cooked veg. Combining them with eggs gives the dish a nutritious contribution of protein, vitamins and minerals.

phil vickery tortilla muffins
Kate Whitaker

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Jewelled five-pulse dal

Remember to soak the pulses overnight first. You can cook them in their dried state but it can take a long time. The secret is to cook the pulses down until you end up with a thick stew, so the flavour and texture are at their very best – I dislike dal that is too liquid. Sultanas are included as I once had a dal with them added in India; they bring a sweet edge to the final dish. If you can’t find asafoetida, try fresh or dried curry leaves; if you don’t have either, no problem, it just adds a rounded flavour to the finished dish.

phil vickery jewelled five-pulse dal
Kate Whitaker

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Fish

Fish tacos

An easy lunch or a crowd pleaser when scaled up. Take advantage of seasonal produce for the salad.

phil vickery fish tacos
Kate Whitaker

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Salmon in miso broth with black rice and braised greens

Miso is made from soy beans and often rice or other grains, left to ferment. Black rice is worth seeking out for its texture, flavour and nutritional value: it has antioxidant pigments, is high in heart-healthy polyphenols and has more fibre and protein than white rice. But it takes ages to cook and can be expensive, so cook ahead and keep some in the freezer. Or try brown or red rice.

phil vickery salmon in miso broth
Kate Whitaker

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Sautéed squid with yogurt and lime

The first thing to do is split all the ingredients in half (apart from the yogurt) to cook in two batches. This makes the job a lot easier and keeps the heat in the wok or large pan. This is essential for getting a nice colour on the squid and stops it from boiling. Ensure you pat the squid dry on kitchen towel. I have no problem with using frozen squid; in fact I think the freezing process helps by slightly tenderising the flesh, especially with larger ones. I use no salt in this dish, but instead rely on the spices, ginger, garlic and lime to boost the flavour.

phil vickery sauteed squid
Kate Whitaker

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Meat

Spring braised chicken with little gem, peas and beans

I really like braising lettuce, not only for the texture but also for the colour it brings to the dish. You can use a red lettuce such as radicchio, or even chicory, though they do have a slightly bitter edge. If you wish, you can use only one chicken breast or replace it altogether with more vegetables to bulk out the dish. Swap in a vegetable stock cube to make it vegetarian.

phil vickery spring braised chicken
Kate Whitaker

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Chicken meatballs with garlic, herbs and paprika

Yes, I do dry-fry the meatballs – you will find a certain amount of moisture is released from them as they cook, which helps to colour them. I don’t ever fry paprika as it burns and tastes awful, so you should always add it to a mix or liquid. Be careful with the amount you use, though – smoked paprika is very pungent and can overpower the other ingredients.

phil vickery chicken meatballs
Kate Whitaker

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Fragrant turkey pho

I was once lucky to film in Vietnam. On every street corner in Hanoi they serve pho from early morning until lunchtime. It’s very satisfying and good for you.

phil vickery fragrant turkey pho
Kate Whitaker

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Desserts

Silky chocolate mousse

Silken tofu is creamy and smooth with a subtle flavour that lends itself to thickening and creating this chocolatey treat. It just happens to be vegan – and low calorie, too.

phil vickery chocolate mousse
Kate Whitaker

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Banana spring rolls

These banana spring rolls are simple but packed with flavour. I sometimes freeze these first and bake from frozen; just add an extra 15-20 minutes to the cooking time.

phil vickery banana spring rolls
Kate Whitaker

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Minestrone and beans

A hearty soup that is adaptable to use ‘what’s-in-the-fridge’ vegetables. You can use any mix of beans. I’ve added a bit of miso paste to make the flavour sing; feel free to play around with herbs and spices, too. If you have time to simmer this pot for longer than 30 minutes, the vegetables will be softer and taste even better.

phil vickery minestrone
Kate Whitaker

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Chef’s chicken salad with quinoa

Fingers crossed for nice weather – this is a great salad to take on a picnic or to make for a barbecue; but keep it chilled until you are ready to serve. You can change the main ingredients such as using salmon instead of chicken, or make it vegetarian.

phil vickery chicken salad with quinoa
Kate Whitaker

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Braised aubergines with spiced butterbeans and crispy garlic

An easy recipe that cuts out 90 per cent of the oil you normally use to cook the aubergine. Instead, I use water to start the cooking process then add beans, chilli, garlic and Tabasco to flavour the dish as braised aubergines can be pretty bland without all the oil.

phil Vickery braised aubergines
Kate Whitaker

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Vegetable spring rolls

When I filmed in Vietnam, in the Mekong Delta, spring rolls were on every boat, street and food vendor’s stall. Most had very little or no meat at all, relying instead on great flavours. Here is a vegetable version that doesn’t need any cooking. If you want to add meat, try a little cooked chicken breast, a few prawns or some tuna. Steam the rolls for a hot version.

phil vickery vegetable summer rolls
Kate Whitaker

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Spicy cauliflower rice with prawns and baby spinach

Cauliflower has become very popular and can work really well in certain dishes, but to get any real flavour you need to roast or cook it really hard to drive off a lot of the moisture and intensify the flavour. I always roast or sauté it first. I also apply the same rule to pumpkin and squash. The smaller the florets you roast, the drier the rough purée will be, so don’t purée to a smooth paste.

phil vickery spicy cauliflower rice
Kate Whitaker

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Twice baked sweet potatoes with sausages and beans

My mother used to cook us twice-baked jackets as kids. It turns a simple baked potato into a full main course. Pretty much anything goes. I sometimes microwave the potatoes for 4-5 minutes to start them cooking, cutting down the time spent in the oven to roughly half of what it is otherwise.

phil Vickery twice baked sweet potatoes
Kate Whitaker

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Watermelon with saffron yogurt, basil and mint

I really like this serving method for any watermelon dish, sweet or savoury. I saw the idea when I filmed in the Turks and Caicos Islands, where chef Colin Watson at Sandals Beach reigns supreme.

phil vickery watermelon with saffron yogurt
Kate Whitaker

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Plum compote

Plums are underrated yet contain plenty of good stuff with polyphenols and phytonutrients – especially the red and purple varieties. These antioxidants are concentrated in the skins, so leave these on when you cook them. Roasting intensifies the natural sweetness in the fruit.

phil vickery plum compote
Kate Whitaker

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Buy Phil’s book with a 50 per cent discount

phil vickery diabetes meal plannerDiabetes Meal Planner by Phil Vickery will be published by Kyle Books on 8 June, price £22. To order a copy for £11 until 14 June, go to whsmith.co.uk and enter the code YOUVICKERY at the checkout. Book number: 9780857837783. For terms and conditions see www.whsmith.co.uk/terms