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Simple, Healthy Holiday Meals for People with Diabetes

Carved Turkey on PlatterIf you are living with type 2 diabetes, you know that it can be a real challenge during the holiday season. With all the food-centered celebrations, it can be very tempting to overindulge in traditional (and often delicious) high-carbohydrate, high-fat foods. Sometimes I feel like I’m eating a continuous meal, starting with Thanksgiving and finishing with a New Year’s Day celebration! But take heart– with a little planning you can maintain your healthy lifestyle and diabetes control and still enjoy the season.

The key to managing diabetes during the holiday season is to plan ahead. You probably have a daily routine that helps you manage your diabetes. During the holidays, you might need to make adjustments in your routine because the types and amounts of foods you eat, as well as meal times, may be different from what you are used to. Preparation is most important.

I have Type 1 diabetes myself, so I know what it’s like. Here are some suggestions for planning ahead that work for me.

Take It Easy!

Many traditional holiday foods are high in carbohydrate and/or fat. You don’t want to go overboard with either of these. Be selective in what you choose and take small portions to keep your meal-time and daily carbohydrate choices as close to what’s typical for you as possible. Be a connoisseur! Eat slowly and really appreciate the taste of different foods. Take small samples of foods rather than full servings. This way you get to enjoy a little of all the foods on offer without eating more calories and carbohydrates than you need.

Prepare Healthier Versions of Your Favorite Foods

There is a healthier version of just about every holiday dish, even sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, and stuffing. Whether you are cooking at home or invited to someone else’s home, you can prepare a healthy dish that everyone can appreciate.

Be Physically Active

Walking ShoesThe holiday season is not the time to be a couch potato! Maintain your normal routine if you are an active person, and if appropriate, step up your activity. Increasing your activity level can help you to compensate for eating a little more than usual.

Make Half Your Plate Non-Starchy Vegetables

According to the Idaho Plate Method, adults with diabetes should make half their plate non-starchy vegetables. Starchy and non-starchy vegetable choices during the holidays tend to be prepared with excess fat and sugar. Healthy versions of non-starchy vegetables can be delicious additions to any holiday meal.  Since they are low in carbohydrate and calories, these dishes will help off-set the higher calorie and carbohydrate selections on your plate. There are many non-starchy vegetables to choose from, including asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, leafy greens (such as collard, mustard, turnip and beet greens), spinach, green beans, onions, peppers, and tomatoes.

One more suggestion – if you overindulge, don’t worry about it, but do get right back on track. You don’t want to wait until January 2nd to realize your blood glucose has been out of control since Thanksgiving.  Keeping your focus on family and friends during the holidays will help keep your mind off food and on what’s really important: time together with those we love.