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Healthful Holiday Eating

By Sonia N. DeAlwis, MD, Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism, CareMount Medical
October 16, 2020

Halloween through New Year’s Day is usually a challenging time for people with diabetes, people who are trying to lose weight, and anyone who is trying to be mindful of carbs, calories and fat.  Making wise food and drink choices as friends and families gather can feel like navigating a culinary minefield. This year, while the pandemic necessitates smaller and fewer festivities — albeit less opportunity for temptation – many people will likely seek comfort in cooking, baking, eating and drinking traditional favorites. The consequence: putting on holiday pounds that you’ll regret in January after the pecan pie and peppermint hot cocoa are long forgotten. Here are some ways to plan a healthful approach to holiday eating.

  • Make an appointment to see your physician for a level-set before the holidays: make sure you are up to date on your numbers – weight, BMI (body mass index), blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. If you have diabetes, ask which foods and drink can raise or dangerously lower your blood sugar. Share any health concerns you have and ask about an indoor exercise plan that’s right for you.
  • Think of the seasonal foods you just can’t resist and commit to a allowing yourself a few bites – in moderation – and by exercising portion control. You’d be surprised how satisfying just a taste can be, especially if you eat slowly and savor each bite.
  • If you like to cook and bake, experiment with your favorite recipes and find out which ones will taste just as good with ingredients that reduce fat (use oils rather than butter or lard), salt (sodium-free, fragrant spices), sugar (substitute with Stevia or natural sweeteners like agave and honey) and carbs (nut and whole wheat flours).
  • Think out of the box – bake at home so you can create cookies, cake and pies that are more healthful than packaged, commercially made items. Think out of the crust: if faced with pumpkin pie, just eat the pumpkin and leave the crust.
  • Consider alternatives to high carb white potatoes, white rice and white breads. Instead of mashed potatoes and gravy, try whole or mashed sweet potatoes or butternut squash; rather than parker house rolls, go for whole wheat and whole grain breads.
  • If you like “take-out and delivery” look for menus (usually available online) and order from restaurants that offer healthful choices.
  • Keep track of your waist measurement as well as your weight. Even if your weight is stable, inches can creep on if you are sedentary and not keeping physically active.
  • Make a shopping list of pantry and freezer staples to use in holiday recipes and for everyday eating: frozen fresh berries without sugar, steel-cut oatmeal, whole grain breads that don’t easily spoil and nuts for snacking.

Needing to be mindful of what you eat and drink during the holidays may not seem very festive, but think of it as a gift of health that only you can give yourself.