Q: I often see regular recipes that look delicious, but I know I'm not supposed to eat a few of the ingredients due to diabetes. Do you have any tips for turning a regular recipe into one that would work well in a diabetic meal plan?

A: As a diabetic, you are probably worried about the amount of fat, cholesterol, sugar and sodium in many food recipes. That's because you need to keep these ingredients at a minimum if you want to properly control your diabetes. Fortunately, there are some substitutions you can make, and in most cases, swapping out a less healthy food for a better option is simple.

Start with the salt content of the foods you eat. You can easily reduce your salt intake without sacrificing flavor when you use herbs and spices to season your food in place of salt. If you do not want to stop using salt entirely, you should at least cut your intake in half when you make food at home. When you buy foods at the store that contain a lot of salt, you are advised to look for the lower sodium versions. And reduce your reliance on processed meats and canned foods, since both tend to have high amounts of sodium.

When you have diabetes, desserts can be just as tasty as ever, even after you make a few simple substitutions for the sugar. For example, when a recipe calls for a lot of sugar, reduce the amount you use by about one third. You can make up for this change by adding a little vanilla extract or cinnamon to keep that sweetness. You can also completely switch out the sugar for artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda. If you're new to artificial sweeteners and are not used to them yet, you can mix up your recipe with a third of regular sugar and two thirds Splenda so you get the best of both worlds. And if your recipe calls for milk chocolate, substitute dark chocolate instead! It has less sugar and features ample antioxidants, making it a good diabetic dessert in small doses.

Of course, sugar is not the only ingredient you might worry about when it comes to regular recipes. The fat content also counts. In general, try to reduce or cut out major sources of fat, such as butter, oil and some dairy products. You can turn a regular cake into a moist and tasty diabetes cake by using only half the butter or oil in the recipe and replacing the other half with applesauce. If a recipe says to put butter or oil in the pan when you're cooking, use extra virgin olive oil or cooking spray instead. You can use two egg whites instead of one whole egg if you want to reduce the fat and cholesterol in the recipe. Another easy way to ingest less fat is to use the lighter variations of full-fat dairy products, which means you should stick to skim milk, non-fat yogurt and low-fat cheese.

Some recipes are fairly safe for diabetics to eat, but they are not necessarily beneficial for the body. You can turn a mediocre recipe into one that fits into any healthy diabetic meal plan by adding a few nutrients. For example, you can add oats to many recipes when you want to increase fiber and reduce cholesterol. Oats go great in most desserts and snacks, such as muffins, cupcakes, cookies and quick bread. But they can also be added to burgers, soups and sandwiches if you want to stick to a healthy type 2 diabetes diet. An additional substitution you can make is to use whole wheat flour instead of refined white flour to increase the fiber in the typical recipe.

When you make simple changes like these, you can feel confident that your doctor would approve of your diet. At the same time, you won't be missing out on the flavors and foods you enjoy!