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Transitioning family’s menu

By Staff | May 7, 2010

-Farm News photo by Robyn Kruger Brenda Dagel prepares a meal on the grill in her rural Allendale home. After her husband was diagnosed as a diabetic, she retrained her cooking skills and her family's taste buds to eat healthier.

ALLENDORF – Upon learning that her husband was diabetic, this week’s farm cook relied on creative cooking techniques to ease the family into a new way of eating.

Brenda Dagel and her husband, Mark, live on an acreage in this northcentral Osceola County community. The two have raised four sons and now have several grandchildren who live near by.

Along with owning and operating several hog confinements, Mark Dagel, along with one of his sons, owns a construction business. Hardworking men have hearty appetites, which posed concerns for Brenda Dagel when learning of her husband’s health condition.

“Eating healthy has always been important to me,” explained Brenda Dagel, “but now there were certain food items Mark just could not have. I needed to relearn to cook, educating myself on what worked best for Mark’s blood sugar levels.”

She credits her mother for teaching her creative cooking techniques at a young age.

-Farm News photo by Robyn Kruger Brenda Dagel tends to her young plants in one of her four raised-bed gardens.

“Mother hardly ever used a recipe and I tend do the same thing,” she laughed. “I cook with what I have available in the cupboard not with what the recipe calls for. I’m great at substituting.”

Dagel has a large garden she tends to in the summer months, which is a source of much of her meal ingredients. She also likes to cook with locally grown beef, pork and chicken. Being frugal, she opts for ground meats.

She likes to plan ahead to have meals that are ready in an instant.

“I do a lot of grilling in the summer months,” she said. “I can prepare meats and vegetables on the grill and throw them in the refrigerator to have ready for my family to eat when our schedules allow.

“It’s also a healthy cooking method.”

Many of the foods she cooked with in the past are now substituted for other food items. Instead of adding so much sugar to her baked goods, Dagel finds she can add raw chip coconut or dark chocolate for sweetness.

Some times she will add a variety of unsalted nuts or dried fruits to make it interesting. She also uses more brown rice and excludes pasta. Sweet potatoes contain less starch than regular potatoes and were an easy switch for the family.

For seasoning Dagel finds she uses more onion, red pepper and a variety of salsa to liven up the taste.

“We also try not to eat out. We eat most of our meals at home and take food along if we plan to be away for the day,” Dagel explained.

After making the changes in his diet, Mark has lost a total of 40 pounds and is no longer on any medications including insulin. “He tells me he has more energy and feels better too,” she quipped.

The Dagels’ son, Jacob Dagel, has taken this healthy life style and healthy eating to heart. The high school athlete will soon be entering college and is making plans to become a personal trainer.

Dagel shared several of her family’s favorite recipes, along with her own substitutions.

Contact Robyn Kruger by e-mail at rangerob@hickorytech.net.

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