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Healthy Meal Makeovers for Five Diabetes Heroes

A firefighter, teacher, nurse, deputy, and mom are all heroes in their own ways. For these five people living with diabetes who give so much, we give a little back -- by making their favorite recipes healthier.

  • Diabetes Heroes

    We gave five amazing people living with diabetes a diet makeover. We swapped out high-fat and high-carb ingredients and made their favorite meals -- enchiladas, muffins, Philly cheesesteak, and more -- healthier but still oh, so tasty.

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  • The Firefighter: Jeff Wood, type 2

    One cannot be a wimp and a firefighter. So a year ago, when Jeff Wood learned he has type 2 diabetes, caving in to pressure was not an option. Jeff, whose dad was a firefighter, has always liked helping others. "It's about serving the community I grew up in and giving back," he says.

    Although he admits that finding out he has a chronic disease was even scarier than fighting a fire, Jeff conquered his fear by working out and eating right, which resulted in a 40-pound weight loss. His efforts have kept him strong -- capable of withstanding 24-hour, adrenaline-filled shifts and wearing 50-pound turnout gear when blaze-blasting.

    Being an eager cook helps, too, and makes eating well an adventure instead of a chore.

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  • Jeff's Firehouse Enchiladas

    We turned Jeff's popular enchiladas into a more healthful option by swapping in corn tortillas, low-fat beef, and a homemade sauce instead of sodium-laden tomato soup.

    Get Jeff's Firehouse Enchiladas Recipe

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  • The Teacher: Dave Harbaugh, type 1

    Anyone who knows the negative effects that stress can have on successful diabetes management may wonder why Dave Harbaugh -- who has lived with type 1 diabetes for more than half of his life -- chose to devote his career to educating adolescents.

    Teenagers can be a tough crowd, particularly in the alternative middle school where Dave teaches science. But no matter how unruly they can be, Dave's heart is with his students. And his aptitude for science has made managing his diabetes easier. "It's not rocket science," he says. "It's just a matter of balance and control. Test six or seven times a day. Eat right. Exercise. It all makes sense."

    When it comes to favorite foods, Dave has a taste for "everything ham." His personal collection of Spam memorabilia spills into his classroom, where he even holds an annual Spam recipe contest.

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  • Dave's Sweet-and-Sour Ham Balls

    We made Dave's ham ball recipe lower in fat and sugar by using a combination of lean ground meats and making an easy sauce from microwave-steamed red peppers. We upped the nutrition and rounded out the meal by serving it over wilted spinach and sauteed pineapple.

    Get Dave's Sweet-and-Sour Ham Balls Recipe

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  • The Nurse: Sue Coffer, type 2

    Calmness and confidence -- two qualities essential to nursing -- radiate from Sue Coffer's warm voice. But calm and confident were not how Sue felt six years ago, when she learned that she has type 2 diabetes. To remedy the upset and fear, Sue swallowed a good dose of denial.

    "Sure, my mom and dad have diabetes, but not me," she remembers thinking. "I don't want to change."

    But change she did. Sue, who works mainly with low-income senior citizens -- many of whom struggle to manage diabetes -- knew the drill. She had just never applied it to herself. So she began practicing the things she had been teaching her patients all along.

    And Sue, who loves to bake, was up for the challenge. After all, as she says, "You have to start with yourself before you are able to help others."

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  • Sue's Apple Streusel Muffins

    One of Sue's favorite treats to make is apple streusel muffins. We made them healthier by cutting back on saturated fat from butter and eggs and using oil and egg substitute instead.

    Get Sue's Apple Streusel Muffins Recipe

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  • The Deputy: Chuck Snider, type 2

    You know that stereotype about cops and doughnuts? Pennsylvania police officer Chuck Snider does, and he admits to indulging in more than a few. But that was then, and this is now.

    When Snider -- who moonlights as a drummer in a local band -- began experiencing hand cramps five years ago, he knew something was wrong. And that turned out to be type 2 diabetes. Learning his diagnosis was not as frightening as facing an armed criminal -- but close. "Anything is scary when you don't know what to expect," he says.

    For Chuck, the toughest part of managing diabetes was changing what he eats. For people who work nights, health-smart foods are not easy to come by. Fast-food outlets -- and doughnut shops -- are often all that is open. But now, Chuck packs his own food in his duty bag.

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  • Chuck's Philly Cheesesteak Burritos

    Chuck loves steak and vegetables, so his state's famous Philly cheesesteak was a top candidate for a makeover. Our version is stuffed in a low-carb wrap with sweet peppers, onion, and a melty Provolone sauce in place of higher-fat processed cheese dip.

    Get Chuck's Philly Cheesesteak Burritos Recipe

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  • The Mom: Sally Bartlett, type 1

    For a young woman whose sweetest dream was having a houseful of kids, waking up to learn she has type 1 diabetes could have been a lifelong nightmare. But not for Sally Bartlett, who refused to give up on her dream.

    Thirteen years ago, Sally experienced severe vision impairment. "I thought I was going blind," she remembers. "It was so scary." Even scarier was finding out that her vision loss was caused by diabetes.

    When told she could have only one or two children, Sally took charge. Then -- grounded in her faith in God and strengthened with the help of a team of health professionals and one "incredibly helpful" husband -- Sally turned disappointment into deliveries: four of them.

    Their names are Reagan, Grant, Riley, and Jackson.

    "I'm a poster child for putting my kids in front of myself," she says. But in order to put kids first, she must maintain her own health. Sally checks her blood glucose often, eats right, and recently trained for a half-marathon by running on a treadmill while her children napped.

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  • Sally's Honey Chicken Stir-Fry

    Sally's favorite stir-fry was a hit with her whole family, but it was high in fat and sugar. Our version, which uses fast-cooking frozen vegetables and brown rice, calls for a lighter sauce that is still flavorful and sweet.

    Get Sally's Honey Chicken Stir-Fry Recipe

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