Baptist Dietitian Offers Holiday Eating Tips for Diabetics

Nov 20 • 2017

Eating well over the holidays can be tricky for anyone, but even more so for people with diabetes. As you prepare for the upcoming season, having the right mindset ahead of time can help you make good decisions.

Most Common Issues

Two of the biggest issues people have during the holidays are overeating and not enough exercise.

“Think about the number of holiday gatherings with family, friends, coworkers, parents of children…the list continues,” said Christy Davis, dietitian with Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis. “Of course, most people don’t volunteer to bring grilled chicken and salad. We want meat and cheese platters, dips, starchy sides like mashed potatoes. And then there is always the dessert table. No one ever brings just one dessert.”

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is one of the most important steps diabetics can take before sitting down to eat.

“My No. 1 recommendation is to never skip a meal before a holiday party or family meal,” said Davis. “We may think we are doing ourselves a favor by skipping breakfast and lunch so we can gorge at dinner. Not a good idea. Still plan your meals as you would any day.”

While it is okay to eat a bit lighter, missing a meal is just as bad as skipping medication. When planning your meals for the day, focus on eating fiber and protein. “A good breakfast would be cereal with fresh fruit and a handful of almonds,” said Davis. “For lunch, have a whole grain sandwich with your favorite vegetables and lean meat.”

Another rule of thumb—bring a dish that is a good substitute for more traditional items.

“If you’re asked to bring an appetizer, go for a plate of fresh vegetables with hummus and pita chips or light ranch dip” said Davis. “If you are asked to bring a side item, make your favorite vegetable dish. For dessert, make your favorite lower calorie and sugar option. Trust me, someone will enjoy your fresh fruit plate.”

Modify Recipes

Many favorite holiday recipes are delicious, but packed with fat and sugar. You can still enjoy them with a few changes.

“One of my favorite recipes is my grandmother’s sweet potato casserole,” said Davis. “But there’s nothing sweet about it for your health. Although sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin A, fiber, and multiple B vitamins, the other ingredients outweigh the benefits. One serving, about ½ a cup, is approximately 600 calories. I’ve found great ways to modify recipes like this by limiting added sugar and fat.”

Davis uses only ½ a cup of sugar and just ½ or ¾ a stick of butter in her version. She uses fewer eggs or egg substitute. By sprinkling a small amount of brown sugar on top with the pecans and marshmallow, she cuts calories. And her family still loves it. Other easy substitutes include swapping Greek yogurt for sour cream, Splenda for sugar and canola oil for butter.

If you’re hesitant to change up a family tradition, Davis offers these tips:

  • Use a smaller plate.
  • Make half of your plate non-starchy, colorful vegetable dishes.
  • If you love starchy foods and need to try them all—shoot for smaller portions. Try about ¼ portion of items like stuffing and sweet potato casserole.
  • If you go for seconds, choose turkey and vegetables. Limit rolls and starchy sides.
  • Be cautious with dessert because this can cause your blood sugar to spike. Keep your portions to less than one cup.

Most Important Advice

Davis’ most important advice for diabetics during the holiday season: plan ahead and don’t skip out on physical activity.

“It can be a challenge to fit that in during the holiday season, but perhaps you can start a new family tradition. Take a 30-minute walk after dinner, play an interactive game like Twister or Charades, or plan a quick physical activity prior to your gathering.”

Visit our website to learn more about our diabetes services or to find a specialist.