Mira Sorvino Talks Diabetes, Movies and the Mommy Juggle

The Oscar-winning actress talks about her dad Paul Sorvino's diabetes, how family meals have changed for the healthier and her latest film projects

For the past year-and-a-half, actors Mira and Paul Sorvino have been working to raise awareness about diabetes and the importance of getting support from family and friends to help manage the disease. Paul was diagnosed with diabetes 6 years ago. Since then, the actor best known for his roles in Goodfellas and Law & Order has relied on Mira, an Oscar winner for Mighty Aphrodite, to help keep his blood sugar in check.

More than 25 million Americans over age 20 -- about 11 percent of the population -- are living with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Sorvinos are spokespeople for the drug company Sanofi US and are featured on its Diabetes Co-Stars Web site. In honor of Diabetes Awareness Month, iVillage spoke with the Sorvinos about how they work together to manage his diabetes, make meals healthier and more.

iVillage: The International Diabetes Federation has just predicted that one in 10 adults could have diabetes by 2030. How can family and friends be supportive of someone living with diabetes now, even if the person doesn’t want or ask for help?

Mira: Get involved in a very loving way, not an overbearing way. Tell the person living with diabetes that you care and you want to become a part of the successful management of their blood sugar. That means if they want you to, you’ll go to the doctor with them. A lot of people like my dad don’t need that, but some people would welcome that because it can be intimidating. Start changing what is served on the family table. Put away the bread. Put away the desserts. Make substitutions. There’s lots of ways to cook things that are healthy and delicious for the whole family. Dad discovered a low-carb pasta that doesn’t have anything artificial in it, and yet it’s absolutely delicious and tastes just like regular pasta. That has allowed him, in his words, to stay Italian.

I’ve discovered other things, too. Instead of wheat flour when you’re baking, I recently came up with a recipe for holiday gingerbread cookies that uses coconut flour and almond flour, in addition to a little bit of whole grain flour, and a low-glycemic index, low-calorie coconut sugar, or I use palm sugar instead of regular sugar, which has less carbs and less sugar per serving. You can get on the band wagon and serve things that everyone will enjoy and that way nobody feels ostracized. If you say, let’s make healthy, delicious, high-protein, veggie-laden food that’s very low in carbs, it’s better for everybody. It’s actually the healthy diet for all kinds of health issues.

iVillage: And it’s great for prevention.

Mira: There’s a genetic component toward developing type 2 diabetes so obviously I might be in line for it. So the better I eat now, the less chance I have for getting it later. Also, exercise is a big deal. It can go a long way toward regulating blood sugar control, so we try and do things together now. After a meal, instead of sitting and having the dessert course and watching TV, we’ll go for a walk together. That’s really helpful in bringing blood sugar down and it’s also fun. It’s like a breath of fresh air, literally, and the time spent together with my kids and grandpa -- it’s a wonderful thing.

iVillage: Are you still ballroom dancing?

Mira: We made these ballroom dancing videos on the Diabetes Co-Stars Web site. It’s really fun. It’s not professional in any way. It’s a great way to get exercise that young and old can do together. It’s something you can ease into. We had a terrific time emulating, in our own small way, those old Fred and Ginger movies we used to watch when I was little.

iVillage: Do you have a favorite father daughter recipe?

Mira: We wrote a booklet of recipes that we modified to be diabetes friendly and you can find those on the Web site. NEXT: Mira talks about her new movie roles

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