Gentle (Food) Reminders for the Holidays

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It seems like every year, when the fall and winter holidays roll around, I write about how to “get through” them, whether it’s making better food choices, finding ways to fit in more physical activity, or checking blood glucose levels more often to see how things are going. I began to wonder if I was repeating myself every year.

But, like Santa, I made my mental list and checked it twice and I realized that it’s OK to be repetitive once in a while. Because we forget. And, I don’t know about you, but I appreciate those gentle reminders every now and then to help me accomplish something or do something correctly. So, this week, which leads off with Hanukkah, then Christmas, then Kwanzaa, then New Year’s, I thought I’d compile a few of those “gentle reminders,” at least in terms of food, for you.

Eating Well
The holiday food fest began (at least for some people) on Halloween. Candy and other goodies are everywhere. I went to my local Trader Joe’s store the other day and there’s a whole section devoted solely to holiday treats (including those wonderful salted caramels). But as you know, it can be challenging and not all that fun to maneuver your way through this time of year while you’re diligently trying to keep your diabetes on track. You have some choices, though. Sure, you can avoid dinners and parties, and give those cookies that your neighbor brings you to your office mates. Or you can partake in some of the revelry. It might help to keep a few of these in mind:

• Budget your carbs, just as you budget your holiday spending (you DO have a budget, right?). One carb choice/serving contains 15 grams of carbohydrate (which is the equivalent of one small holiday cookie, by the way).

• Bake and cook with less. You can cut back on sugar and fat in recipes by one-third to one-half. Also, flavor your foods with no-carb spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, and almond extract.

• Let the plate be your guide. Picture your plate in quadrants and try to make sure that you’ve got some vegetables, a healthy grain or starch, some lean protein, and some fruit.

• Stick with your usual eating schedule and meal plan as much as you can. Missing meals can throw you off, in terms of your blood glucose and your portion control later on.

• If you’re craving eggnog, try whipping up a batch of this healthier, lower-carb version:

6 cups skim milk, divided
8 ounces egg substitute (like Egg Beaters)
½ cup of Splenda granular
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum extract
1 tablespoon whipped cream (optional)
Ground cinnamon and nutmeg for garnishing (optional)

In large saucepan, over medium heat, heat 5 cups milk, egg substitute, and Splenda until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add extracts. Cover and chill. Right before serving, thin to desired consistency with remaining skim milk. Garnish with whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Serves 8.

One cup contains: 79 calories, 0 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of protein

• Don’t overlook these healthy, lower-carb foods. They really are superstar foods that can be part of your holiday traditions, no matter how or what you celebrate:

Pomegranate seeds. You can buy these in containers, saving you the trouble of having to deseed a whole pomegranate. These jewel-like seeds provide fiber, vitamins C and K, and plenty of polyphenols (types of antioxidants) to fight diseases. These are great sprinkled on salads and on top of yogurt.

Brussels sprouts. While not as glamorous as pomegranate seeds, Brussels sprouts may help fight cancer and heart disease. Try roasting them in the oven, drizzled with some olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, and your favorite herbs. You’ll like the mellow flavor.

Pecans. Also full of antioxidants, pecans are high in calories (as are all nuts) but these will jazz up any vegetable dish, salad, and stuffing. Or serve them plain as an appetizer.

Sparkling water. Whether you go for the original flavor or something more exotic, like banana, sparkling (or seltzer) water should always be on hand, especially when you get too tempted by mulled cider and other high calorie, high-carb goodies. Dress it up by squeezing in some pomegranate or cranberry juice. Serve it in a festive, fancy glass.

Greek yogurt. Higher in protein and lower in carbs than regular yogurt, Greek yogurt makes a great base for dips, salad dressings, sauces, and desserts. Use it in place of sour cream as a topping, too.

• Finally, I’ll add that it’s likely that you’ll overindulge a bit. It happens to everyone! Remember to stay as active as you can over the holidays, and keep checking your blood glucose (your numbers are your guide). Tomorrow is another day to get back on track.

Happy Holidays!

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