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Stay Healthy This Holiday Season – Part 1

Q. I was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and I am nervous about getting through my first Holiday season. I want to prepare a delicious Thanksgiving for my family, but also need to keep my new food plan in mind. So far, I am doing well, but not sure how to stay on track from now through New Years. How do I enjoy all of the festivities and keep my blood sugars controlled?

 A. Great question. During the holidays it seems like food and temptations are everywhere. The trick is to plan ahead for events and be very aware of what you are eating. Also, it is important not to let yourself get too hungry, anxious, lonely or tired, so that when faced with candies, cookies and other foods you will be able to make smart choices rather than eat mindlessly.

Here are a few tips that will help you not only get through Thanksgiving, but to enjoy the day to the fullest. Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will give you more tips for staying energized, not just for the holidays, but all winter long.

  • Include fiber rich foods in your Thanksgiving meal: With a few small changes, you can make a Thanksgiving meal that your family will love. For your stuffing, choose high fiber whole grain bread and add vegetables such as onions, celery and mushrooms for even more nutrition. I like to make my stuffing with Sprouted Grain bread. (Food for Life’s Ezekial brand is available in most grocery stores, usually in the freezer section). Here is an easy way to make your own bread crumbs:
  • Preheat oven to 400˚F. Position 2 racks in the middle of the oven.
  • Cut bread into 1 inch cubes with a serrated knife.
  • Lay bread in a single layer on a sheet pan.
  • Spray bread cubes with some olive oil cooking spray.
  • Toast bread for about 8-10 minutes until lightly browned, tossing once to evenly cook.
  • Set aside to cool. Use in your favorite stuffing recipe.

Avoid added sugar in recipes: If you are going to make mashed sweet potatoes, avoid adding suga, instead flavor them with cinnamon and vanilla. If you want a hint of sweetness, use a small amount of Sucanat, Truvia, or Agave Light Syrup.

Include lots of vegetables in your holiday meal. At my house, I balance the starchy dishes like mashed potatoes with an array of vegetables, including Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and caramelized onions, string beans with roasted garlic, and rainbow coleslaw. Take some time now to plan your menu so that it includes a rainbow of colors and healthy choices.

Savor the Thanksgiving meal and stop eating when you feel satisfied: The 90% rule comes in handy here. Fill your plate with protein and vegetables, but it is not necessary to feel deprived, if you want to taste some of the stuffing or mashed potatoes. Just remember to eat mindfully, and truly enjoy whatever you put on your plate. Eat slowly, and when you are full, stop. I usually prepare either a salad or soup to eat before the main meal, which helps when it comes to portion control and feeling satisfied.

Plan ahead for Dessert: Over the years, I have found that once I get started with sweets it is hard to stop. My strategy is to prepare a sugar-free dessert just for me, that I can enjoy fully without worrying about my blood sugars. For me that is a creamy “pudding” made with low-fat Ricotta and vanilla whey powder that is flavored with vanilla, cinnamon and Truvia. I enjoy my special treat with tea or coffee along with a very small slice of the traditional pumpkin pie. (Check out Janet’s Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe in her “My Italian Kitchen” cookbook. It is delicious.) You can always make a Sweet Potato or Pumpkin pie using a sugar alternative of your choice. Preparing a delicious fruit compote with whipped cream is another option that everyone will like. Or put out a beautiful cheese, nut, and fruit platter along with the traditional pies. For a bit of sweetness, you can put some Fig Jam and some high quality dark chocolate on the side. Very European! There are actually lots of options for tasty dessert without including ingredients that will cause your blood sugars to soar.

Be creative, and remember to go easy on yourself. Thanksgiving is a time of bounty, not just of food, but family, friends and a time to be grateful for all the choices we have. So the best advice I can give you is to take time to make good choices for yourself, and enjoy your holiday!

Janet Sanders/Diabetes Coach

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