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Health Information Making the Holiday Friendlier for People with Diabetes

Often people with diabetes feel restricted in what they can eat during the holidays, but with the tips below you can make tasty and healthful dishes for your guests and loved ones with diabetes.

"I suggest making simple modifications to your menu to make the holidays more healthful and diabetes-friendly," says Lara Rondinelli, RD, LDN, coordinator of the Rush University Diabetes Center. "You'll want to reduce the sugar and other carbohydrates, like white flour, white rice and other processed grains, in your meal."

There are a number of sugar substitutes on the market made especially for use when baking. "These substitutes dramatically reduce the carbohydrate content of a dish," says Rondinelli.

You'll want to reduce fat, too. "In baking recipes that call for oil, you can usually reduce the amount of oil in half," says Rondinelli. "If you're concerned about how moist the baked product will be, you can always substitute half the amount of oil required with unsweetened apple sauce."

Rondinelli recommends using healthful monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils, such as canola or olive oil, when you cook or bake. Another way to avoid unhealthful fats and cholesterol is to substitute two egg whites for each whole egg required in a recipe.

Strategy for Health: Be Choosy
Rondinelli suggests being choosy at holiday get-togethers. "You may pick your favorite high carbohydrate or high fat food and have a reasonable serving of that, but then cut back in other areas. For example, you could decide that you'd like to have sweet potatoes rather than a serving of bread or mashed potatoes."

You can then enjoy salads, fresh nonstarchy vegetables and lean protein. Rondinelli suggests using the plate as a guide when making your choices. You can think of your plate being cut into four sections:

  • Lean protein – should be ¼ of your plate
  • Carbohydrate (such as grains, pasta and some vegetables like potatoes and corn) – should be ¼ of your plate
  • Green vegetables and other non-starchy vegetables (such as salads, broccoli, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, asparagus, etc.) – should be ½ of your plate

You also need to keep an eye on the amount of food you eat, because eating too much can affect your blood sugar levels. A good rule of thumb for your lean meat portion is that it be about the size of a deck of cards. Carbohydrate servings, such as pasta or rice, should be about the size of a fist.

"As a host, you can offer more nutritious low-fat and low-carbohydrate choices, like green bean almondine or roasted asparagus, instead of the traditional high-fat green bean casserole, a nice fresh salad with low or fat-free dressing and fresh fruit for dessert with a light yogurt sauce, instead of the usual heavy desserts."

Using these simple tips can make any guests with diabetes feel more at ease about maintaining their health. "Another good thing is that using these ideas can make the holiday more healthful and light for everyone, not just those with diabetes," says Rondinelli.

More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • For more information about diabetes education and support at Rush visit Rush University Diabetes Center
  • For more information about nutritional services at Rush visit our Food and Nutritional Services home page.
  • Looking for a dietitian? Call (312) 942-DIET (3438)
  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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