Before you get too jolly, don’t forget cocktails are mostly sugar. Bitters, simple syrups, grenadine, soft drinks — all of these raise the sugar content in your liquids. Hydrate with water before any celebratory glass, and always after. You can also switch it up with some unsweetened tea, which can aids with digestion.
Veggies and nuts are perfect for nibbling on to avoid overeating during the main meal. If carrot and celery sticks are too boring, try asparagus spears and edamame. Raw or roasted almonds, pecans, and walnuts are good for noshing, as well, so long as they're not salted, honey-coated, or chocolate-covered. Bear in mind that sugar-coated nuts are not the enemy but should be consumed with a level of restraint.
Though MedTruth does not advocate needless food restriction, it can be helpful to monitor portion sizes and carbs to keep your blood glucose levels in check — especially during big meals. Experts at the Mayo Clinic suggest that between 45 and 65 percent of total calories in an average diet should be carbs. This may vary with your specific needs, and it may be helpful to consult with a medical professional, allergist or dietician.
Regardless, here are a few pointers for prioritizing health in your holiday foodstravaganza:
If you just can’t quit red meat, always go for the leanest cuts of grass-fed beef and trim off any visible fat. Feeling fishy? Fresh, grilled, or baked (not fried) salmon, mackerel, or tuna all have omega-3 content that lowers blood fats. For land-bird lovers, skinless chicken or turkey get the go-ahead. Vegetarians and vegans may choose from tofu, tempeh, seitan and even turkey-less stuffing. Spots like Trader Joe's make it easy to find meat alternatives that are both festive and healthy.
The American Diabetes Association recommends half your plate be taken up by non-starchy vegetables like artichoke, eggplant, and brussel sprouts. When it comes to green veggies, the darker the better, as they’re low in calories and carbs, and high in key vitamins and minerals. Bring a good fats salad to the potluck with spinach, quinoa, kale, avocado, pistachios, and an olive oil-based dressing.
As a little healthy holiday extra, here’s the recipe for our favorite super-easy, diabetes-friendly salad dressing:
2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tsp white wine vinaigrette
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp hummus (optional)
1 garlic clove, crushed or finely diced
½ tsp each dried or fresh parsley, rosemary, and basil
Salt and pepper
Feel free to adjust to your liking.
Having diabetes doesn't mean you have to swear off dessert entirely, especially when someone like Martha Stewart’s got your back. Skip the starch at dinner if you know you’ll be having seconds of dessert. There are a number of low-sugar options that rely on the natural sweetness in fruit (fructose) to satisfy the biggest sweet tooth, like poached stone fruit or a citrus cobbler.
Ditch processed foods when you can (no hot dogs, bacon, or pepperoni). Refined sugars should be mitigated when possible as well (always read your labels!)
Need a hit of something sweet? An apple a day does, in fact, keep the cardiologist away because it lowers bad cholesterol. It also helps with digestion and is a great source of fiber.
Ultimately, the best way to navigate the holiday harvests is with mindfulness of portions and sugar intake, but don't be too hard on yourself. Health is ultimately a balancing act in determining what works for you and your body.
Happy eating and happy holidays from all of us at MedTruth!