Hometown: Layton, Utah
Age when diagnosed: 26
Nikki is known around the Diabetic Connect community for her knack of creating an array of delicious diabetic-friendly recipes. If the photos alone don't make your mouth water, her recipes will. Nikki’s recipes offer unique twists on classic dishes, like her popular Chicken Pesto Pizza with a Cauliflower Crust. As a foodie at heart, Nikki proves that just because you have diabetes it doesn't mean you can't eat your favorite foods.
Cooking with diabetes
Healthy, tasty, and easy sometimes don’t go hand-in-hand and Nikki isn’t a stranger to kitchen challenges.
“Not knowing if a recipe will end up tasting like a diet recipe or not is the biggest challenge I face,” she says. “I have such a love for food that I am not satisfied with a recipe unless it leaves the thought of ‘that's a good recipe’ instead of just ‘that's a good diabetic recipe.’ All my recipes have to get the stamp of approval from my husband and kids as well as myself.”
For those new to cooking with diabetes, Nikki says the best advice is to experiment.
“If you don't like how it turns out or if the list of ingredients doesn’t appeal to you originally, chances are with a little tweaking you can make it just how you like it,” she says. “Keep trying new things, and keep an open mind when trying a new recipe out. The ingredients may not make sense to you, or may seem strange for the recipe, but give it a try anyway. Sometimes you don't realize that the combination of ingredients is actually really great together.”
Nobody is perfect when it comes to cooking, and even with her experience and cooking knowledge Nikki has had her fair share of kitchen blunders.
“The one that stands out most is the first batch of peanut butter cookies that I tried. I used the same base recipe as a previous cookie I had made that had turned out successful, but adjusted a few things. They came out so bitter and crumbly and were pretty disgusting,” she says. “Despite my warnings, my kids tried them and even they were trying not to gag.”
Cooking for others
Cooking for her family members, who don't have diabetes, can be a challenge.
“I don't want to have to make ‘special meals’ just for myself and make something completely different for them. That's just too much work. But at times I do substitute for just myself,” she says. “For example, if I make Philly Cheese Steaks for my family, I'll serve theirs on hoagies and put mine on a green pepper. Or when I make burgers, I wrap mine in lettuce and let them enjoy the buns. But most of the time, I just try to come up with recipes that we can all enjoy and that will be healthy for all of us.”
Introducing her family to new healthy foods is part of the fun of cooking healthy.
“Big hits with my family have been Cauliflower Rice, Zucchini Lasagna with strips of zucchini instead of noodles and a few others. I've noticed when I cook for them, as long as the dish has a lot of good flavor, they don't notice as much when there's something substituting what they're used to,” she says.
A young diabetic
Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 26 years old was terrifying for Nikki.
“I knew that everything was going to change. And it didn't help when my physician who diagnosed me told me the news over the phone, then told me to go pick up some insulin at the pharmacy and to inject myself, without telling me any other information,” she says. “Like most people, I had never given myself a shot, I didn't know how to, I didn't know how much a unit was. I was completely ignorant.”
She was fortunate to have support waiting for her. Her brother, who had been a type 1 diabetic for more than 15 years, came to her rescue.
“After I talked to my doctor, I called him. He dropped everything, drove about 30 minutes to meet me, and told me everything I needed to know. He showed me how to give myself a shot, and even talked me through the anxiety of it because I had been terrified of needles my entire life. He sat with me for hours and took all my fears away,” she says. “I knew it was going to be okay, because I had him there to help me anytime I needed him — which has been often. Although there are constant challenges, being burdened with this disease hasn't been so bad when I've had him going through it with me.“
Together she and her brother both face diabetes head-on and don’t let it come between them and living their lives.
“I never realized before I was diagnosed how different type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are. I think most people put them into the same category automatically because they both contain the word ‘diabetes,’” says Nikki. “But once you really learn about them, although they may have a lot of the same effects on us, the diseases themselves are very different.”
Everybody is different and what may work for one may not for another.
“Foods affect us all differently — we all require unique doses of insulin, or different treatments,” says Nikki. “Just by reading comments on my recipes that I post, I realized that very quickly. Some diabetics can't handle certain foods, and some do just fine with them.”