Chipotle Seared Tilapia with Homemade Pico De Gallo (Low Carb and Gluten Free)


Did you know that November is Diabetes Awareness Month? And did you know that today, Monday, November 14th, is World Diabetes Day? If you don’t have diabetes, you may be thinking “who cares?”. Well, you should care, and here’s why: 25.8 million people in the US have diabetes. That’s 8.3% of the population. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States, and is a major causal factor for heart disease and strokes. And here’s the kicker: another 79 MILLION PEOPLE have pre-diabetes, and if they don’t take control of it now, it will almost inevitably lead to full-blown diabetes. Not to get all fearmongering on you, but you may be one of those people. I was, and I didn’t even know it. And if I hadn’t gotten accidentally pregnant with my third child and been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, I might not have found out until it was too late.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself “yes, well, I live a healthy lifestyle, I am fit and eat well, and I have no family history of diabetes, so I am really not at risk”. Guess what? Me too! Based on my lifestyle, slender physique and family history, I had NO RISK FACTORS. None. Nada. Nyet. Nein. My body type and health status set off so few alarm bells in my doctors that I’d only ever had my blood glucose tested during pregnancy, as is standard in most areas. And it was a surprise to everyone when gestational diabetes turned up with my third pregnancy. An even bigger shock came a few months after my daughter was born, when I noticed a disturbing upward trend in my glucose levels. Everyone expected the gestational diabetes to disappear, especially as I made a serious commitment to healthy eating and exercise. But to my dismay, both my fasting glucose and my post-prandial (post-meal) numbers remained stubbornly in the pre-diabetes range. What??? But I was being so good, avoiding sugar and eating lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains! It wasn’t until I dropped my carb levels drastically that I gained any measure of control over my glucose levels.

Far be it from me to preach to other people about how they eat and the amount of exercise they get, because goodness knows I don’t always stay on track. But Type 2 diabetes is on the rise in our society and it behooves us all to pay attention. I consider myself lucky. I caught my disease in the early stages and because of this, I was given the opportunity to control it through diet and exercise and stave off medication as long as possible. So far, it’s working, but diabetes is a progressive disease and I know there may come a day when I need to rely on modern medicine. Technically, I am pre-diabetic, but I suspect this is simply because I am so vigilant about what I eat. Were I to go back to what is considered “normal” healthy eating (fruits, veggies, whole grains), I think by now I’d definitely be a full-blown diabetic.

Strange as it may sound, there are good things that have come out of my diabetes, and this blog is one of them. I started it prior to diagnosis as a lark. I am fairly certain that I would never have stuck with it if it hadn’t become an outlet for me to experiment with low carb cooking and baking. And the blog in turn has led to some wonderful opportunities and connections. One of those connections is to a wonderful online diabetes magazine called A Sweet Life. Started by husband and wife team Jessica Apple and Michael Aviad after they were both diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in adulthood, A Sweet Life posts informative, thought-provoking articles, personal accounts, and healthful recipes. They approached me last February, asking if they could post my Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Truffles on their site. They also asked if I wanted to do a feature article on how diabetes has changed my approach to cooking, baking and eating (Rebirth of a Baker). In time I became a contributor, posting some of my best, healthiest recipes to their site. I also have come to consider Jessica a friend, as we have shared our experiences with diabetes, parenthood and life in general in much of our correspondence.

A connection such as this is invaluable to me in helping me navigate my own way around this disease. And I am so honored that for World Diabetes Day, they are featuring another of my recipes as well as doing a little write-up about my own experiences with diabetes. This is such an easy dish, I almost hesitate to actually call it a recipe. I came up with it over the summer when the tomatoes and cilantro from our garden were so plentiful, I was making jar after jar of Pico De Gallo. I was stumped one evening for dinner when my eye fell upon a jar of this beloved salsa in the fridge. I quickly defrosted some tilapia fillets, sprinkled them with chipotle powder, and cooked them in some butter. I sprinkled them with shredded cheddar when they were hot, to let it melt, and then topped them with the fresh Pico De Gallo.

And the results were so good, I was blown away. The flavours all worked so perfectly together, the fresh cold salsa complementing the warm, spicy fish. It quickly became something I made over and over during the summer and well into the fall, when the tomatoes were still ripening. My husband likes to put his into a tortilla, like fish tacos, but I like to eat mine just with a salad. I really can’t say enough about how good this recipe is.

So please, head on over to A Sweet Life to check it out. You won’t regret it.

Chipotle Spiced Tilapia with Homemade Pico De Gallo on A Sweet Life

And please take a moment to think about diabetes today, on World Diabetes Day, and to think about what it means for you and your loved ones.

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  1. Giuliana says

    What a great post, Carolyn! Your story is absolutely inspiring and highlights the need for all of us to control how much sugar and sweetners we eat!

    Not to mention, this recipe looks divine!

  2. says

    I'm so glad I read this. Your the first diabetic I've met that had to do a carb free lifestyle and I didn't know why. I know that carbs turn into sugar in us, but didn't realize that it would impact so greatly. Wow. My mom was just diagnosed with diabetes (she's 75) and it's what her mom died of so yes, it's a big deal to me.

    As per usual, this is a gorgeous dish and I would make it even though I'm not diabetic, pre or otherwise. It definitely blends together flavors I love. It also makes me miss my garden though. :)

  3. says

    What a resourceful article Carolyn – I did not know that diabetes was progressive, and congrats on having your recipe featured for World Diabetes Day on A Sweet Life. You are doing great things raising awareness for this disease.

  4. RavieNomNoms says

    That looks amazing!! I love tilapia. I think it is such a great fish and you can do so many yummy things with it. Great recipe Carolyn!

  5. anna says

    Carolyn, I wanted to say how much I appreciate your personal story. I am going through almost the same situation, exactly as you describe, except that my gestational diabetes was diagnosed during my 1st pregnancy. and decided to stick around. I am also technically pre-diabetic, but I suspect too that it is only because I switched over to low carb immediately, and if I had not, I would be officially diabetic by now. And this despite being in great shape (and even slightly underweight).

    It's so comforting to know I am not alone. I struggled to accept this and felt very depressed about it at the beginning. Some days I do wish I did not have to prepare absolutely everything I eat from scratch, and it is frustrating, time consuming and extremely isolating. But hearing you say that you are lucky to have caught it early puts things in perspective for me. I'm not looking forward to the medication I will surely need sooner or later, but at least I have a chance to control things for now. Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. food_dreamer says

    Anna, thank you so much for this. It is comments like this that keep me going. It is extremely frustrating and disheartening to live a healthy life and end up with diabetes, but it is so helpful to know that we are not alone. You're right, the food issue can be hard and isolating sometimes, but you do learn tricks along the way, like big batches of low carb muffins in the freezer, so that you have something on hand in a pinch. I find when I don't have something prepared, that's when I am most likely to reach for a higher carb treat!
    Thanks for sharing, I truly appreciate it!

  7. says

    Great information on Diabetes! I will admit I am in the dark, but I need to learn more. This pico de gallo sounds amazing! I am not a huge fan of fish, but I am sure it would be an equally delicious topping for chicken!

  8. says

    (((HUGS))) Carolyn! I know you will help many people as you go through life and I bet you will keep a tight reign on the diabetes, almost as if you don't have it! This dish might be easy – but it looks delightful!

  9. says

    This looks positively delicious! I love all of the colors going on here. Pico de Gallo is a weakness of mine :) Oooh! And you have Intense Debate! yay!! ♥

    I love reading your posts Carolyn. You inspire so many!

  10. says

    Thanks for sharing your story – it is disconcerting to think how we can not know these things are around the corner, and what we think is healthy may not protect us in the end!

  11. says

    Somehow at this time of year anything fresh calls to me from the din of The Land of Sweets. This recipe on it's own sounds perfect. The chipotle attracted my attention but the rest of the ingredients sound perfect. Thank you for all the compelling statistics on Diabetes. My husband's father had it so I had first hand experience with the implications. Bravo to you for getting the word out through your food offereings and being such a role model of how to live with it.

  12. says

    Hi Carolyn, What a great post. Diabetes runs in my family and it's something I have been aware of but not enough. Thanks for sharing your story and inspiring the rest of us to take better hold of our health. Going to head over for that gorgeous Tilapia recipe.

  13. says

    What an inspiring post, Carolyn! Thanks for sharing your story and experiences. I'm so glad that you are raising awareness about diabetes and low-carb diets. My mother (who has diabetes) has become and avid follower of your blog too. Although she's just a lurker :P.

    Also, this recipe looks awesome! I love chipotle chilies.

  14. says

    Thank you for sharing this, Carolyn… your story is truly inspiring. I wish I could say I know a lot about diabetes considering how many people are affected by it, but I see now that I don't know nearly as much as I should. My grandfather is pre-diabetic and I never really understood completely. I'm off to do some research and educate myself a bit better.

  15. says

    I definitely need to read your blog more often. Everything you wrote hits home – I am less healthy than it sounds like you were and my family's definitely addicted to our carbs. It's really been on my mind lately and I keep putting off making the changes I know I should. Thanks for the kick in the butt. 😉 Recipe looks amazing, btw!

  16. says

    What a fabulous dish…just gorgeous! And, Carolyn, I continue to be in awe of you, your story and your dedication to eating what 's right for your body. Your blog and work in diabetes awareness will bring much needed knowledge to so many. I truly admire what you do!!! xo

  17. Maya says

    I find it so interesting and inspirational to read about your experience with diabetes, Carolyn. Although my gestational diabetes disappeared after giving birth to my first child, I know it still lingers there somewhere if I'm not careful with my diet and exercise. Thanks for reminding us again about this silent killer of a disease, you've done us a great service with your blog!

    And this tilapia dish looks so colorful and delicious too!

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