Vegetable Barley Bake – Not Just for Diabetics Any More

Hear me, Fellow Foodies.  

Diabetes-friendly food is not lame.  

I learned many things at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association, not least among them that heart-healthy, blood glucose-healthy foods can also be mighty tasty.  

ADA's vegetable barley bake Photo by Michele Sullivan

At big medical research meetings, press rooms often supply some sort of food for reporters. I say “food” — not “breakfast” or “buffet lunch” — because those terms might imply that said “food” carries with it some kind of sensory appeal.  

So I was pleasantly surprised by the chow line at this meeting. Not only was it abundant, it was darn good. I was especially impressed after I learned that the convention center kitchen took every recipe from one of the ADA’s many cookbooks.   

I don’t know what I expected from diabetes-friendly food. Maybe cardboard with no salt? Whatever I thought, it wasn’t what I got. A huge fruit platter every morning and afternoon. A different warming soup every day (especially helpful in Florida, where its 99 degrees outside and 64 degrees indoors). Absolutely fabulous fish and chicken dishes. And desserts like  roasted pears on vanilla custard, with a graham-cracker crust.  

I won’t lie: The pineapple-upside down cake didn’t hold a candle to the one I make that uses 2 whole sticks of butter. But I didn’t feel like I need to run a mea-culpa 3 miles afterward.  

Fruit and behind it, red cabbage and artichoke salad, garbanzo bean salad

Diabetes-friendly food is low-fat, high-fiber, makes use of lots of fruits, veggies, and grains, and is eminently suitable for anyone who wants to eat well while watching their fat, carbohydrate, and sugar intake.  

The standout dish for me was the vegetable barley bake. Creamy, cheesy, satisfying, full of just-fork-tender veggies. It was good. And not just good compared to usual press food.  Good as in “I can’t wait to get this recipe and make it when I get home.”  

The fine print?  One serving: 115 calories, 3 g fat, 3 g fiber, 5 g protein.  

I was so impressed that I visited the ADA online cookbook book store and ordered The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook from among the many enticing offerings. The folks at the ADA bookstore at the meeting were happy to give me the vegetable barley bake  recipe to share:  

Vegetable Barley Bake  

From the ADA “Healthy Carb Diabetes Cookbook”  


cooking spray  

1 cup quick barley  

2 cups reduced-sodium fat-free chicken broth  

1 T olive oil  

2 small zucchini, diced  

1 medium red bell pepper, diced  

1 small onion, diced  

1 t. garlic powder  

1 T fresh basil, chopped  

1/2 c. nonfat milk  

3 T grated Parmesan cheese (1 T reserved)  

1/4 t. salt  

1/4 t ground black pepper  

Prheat oven to 375. Coat an 8×8-inch backing dish with cooking spray  

Cook barley according to package directions using broth instead of water and omitting salt. Set aside  

Add olive oil to a large saute pan over medium heat. Add zucchini, bell pepper, and onion. Saute 5-6 minutes.  

Add cooked barley and vegetables to a large mixing bowl. Add garlic powder, basil, milk, 2 T Parmesan, salt and black pepper. Mix well  

Pour mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  

Bake 25 minutes  

And try not to eat the whole pan at one sitting!  

—Michele G. Sullivan (Twitter @MGsullivan)  

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Filed under Allergy and Immunology, Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Family Medicine, Geriatric Medicine, IMNG, Internal Medicine, Primary care, Uncategorized

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