With National Diabetes Awareness Month in mind and her daughter, Addison, alongside, #Access901 columnist Joy Doss shares a special meal with Chef Ragan Oglesby (right) of Ladyfingers Catering and Sabrina Tiller Gladney, manager at University Vascular Access Care. (Photo: Johnathan Martin)

November is National Diabetes Awareness month. The Cash Saver grocery chain is acknowledging this by offering health fairs at its 4 different locations throughout the month. No one on this planet is more affected by “the sugar” than us, meaning African Americans.

According to the American Diabetes Association, over 13 percent of African Americans UNDER 20 (!) have been diagnosed with diabetes. That doesn’t include those who aren’t diagnosed. Moreover, we are 1.7 times more likely to have diabetes than white folks.

The shame of it is that this is a very easily manageable condition. Small lifestyle tweaks can take you a long way. As with most everything else, diet and exercise are key. Watch your weight and the type of foods you consume. Juice, sodas and condiments are sneaky sugar stashers. One thing I learned from my science nerd, biology teacher mama was that carbs/starches break down to sugars, which break down to lipids/fats if they aren’t burned during the day.

See how that vicious cycle flows?

However, we get that special diets can be painful for you and the rest of your household, especially during the holidays. I mean if I, as the main cook and grocery procurement supervisor, can’t have bacon AIN’T NOBODY HAVING BACON! Amiright?

This Thanksgiving, holiday favorites can be enjoyed without “throwing your whole glycemic index out of whack!” (Photo: Johnathan Martin)

To help those among us dealing with diabetes, we sat down to a nice meal with Sabrina Tiller Gladney and Chef Ragan Oglesby, who offered advice to help offset some of that pain and provide some other useful info. Chef Ragan is the owner of LadyFingers Catering and Sabrina is a manager at University Vascular Access Care. Both will be at the Cash Saver health fairs.

We gathered together with my daughter Addison, who provided the kid perspective, to enjoy some holiday faves – cornbread, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and dressing. Believe it or not, it can be done without throwing your whole glycemic index out of whack!

When Chef Ragan was pregnant with her last baby Maddox, she developed gestational diabetes and had to adjust. Of course, when you are host muvah to a little symbiot this is the last thing you want to hear – what you can and cannot eat and drink. But she adjusted, which resulted in recipes that benefit us all.

We first sampled the cornbread dressing. Chef Ragan explains, “This is not the traditional cornbread dressing. You still have sage, celery and onion but not the cream of mushroom and cream of chicken that we usual have. You want to eliminate is some of the cream if you have dietary restrictions.”

She also advises us to look at the labels on the can.  Sabrina adds, “There are a lot of alternatives out there. We just have to turn those labels around and check for added sugars, added salts, artificial sugars, artificial flavoring.” There is a difference between sugar-free and added sugars. Sometimes sugar free just means no added sugars. Tricky labeling guys! Watch it. She and Chef Ragan also advise us to try to stick to the 5 and 5 rule – no more than 5 grams of sugar per serving and 5 ingredients per dish.

Sabrina also says, “Drink more water. It will cut down on a lot of the bloating and swelling of the hands, legs and feet, especially for diabetics. Everything in moderation will help.”

Next was traditional green bean casserole.

“It usually has a lot of cheddar, has a lot of cream. I used the Healthy Request cream of mushroom, only one [can]. I cut the milk out and used a smaller amount of fried onions. I used a little bit of parmesan cheese instead of cheddar cheese. It looks the same and smells the same,” Chef Ragan promises. Note that the parmesan is less fatty than the cheddar and the heavy cream and milk are eliminated to reduce the sugar content. I likey!

While you can take or leave Auntie’s green bean casserole, sweet potatoes are often a non-negotiable for black folks on holidays. I know y’all are skeptical of low sugar sweet potatoes but Chef Ragan’s recipe is on point. This is coming from a super picky eater.

She used: real butter (3 tablespoons), brown sugar (1 tablespoon not a whole bag of sugar), marshmellows, pecans, nutmeg and cinnamon. Then baked it as usual. It’s a yes from me!

Last but not least, spend time on what you’re looking for. Don’t go grocery shopping hungry or cook when you’re hungry.  Put on a pair of comfortable shoes so you can spend the time looking. This can also add to your work out. Get extra steps and grab the handheld basket; you’re less likely to load up with unnecessary stuff. You also get a little bit of resistance at the same time. It’s the little things that can make a big impact.

There is so much more useful information about lifestyle changes, recipes and even helpful hints for getting diabetic shoes and socks. Get the full video on our website. Chef Ragan’s recipes will be on the WRBO website (one of the health fair partners). And of course, you can see them both at the health fairs every Saturday this month. The locations and more pearls of wisdom from Sabrina are listed at www.memphiscashsaver.com or on Facebook and Instagram.

Oh and everything was Addison approved. The only reason we didn’t take stuff home was because we didn’t bring Tupperware. Womp!