Diabetes: Foods that make the nice list

Low-carb, diabetes-friendly dishes can bring good cheer for all

Many of us have never eaten sugar plums or figgy pudding, but we’re certainly no strangers to sugar cookies, candy canes, homemade fudge, eggnog and the like at this time of year.

Add in loads of carb-laden favorites, such as mashed potatoes, candied yams, dressing and rolls, and it’s easy to see why many traditional holiday favorites make the “naughty list” for those who need to control their blood sugar.

The good news is there are plenty of healthy — and delicious — dishes on the “nice list.” Many diabetes-friendly foods are brimming with seasonal flavor and can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of whether they need to restrict their sugar and carbohydrate consumption.

Stacy Koch, APRN, Norton Community Medical Associates – Endocrinology, advises that in order to be diabetes-friendly, a dish should contain no more than 30 grams of carbohydrates per serving. This represents two carbohydrate exchanges on most standard diabetes meal plans.

As you think about healthy food options for your gatherings, the examples below can help you visualize what 15 grams of carbohydrates look like:

1 small piece of fruit                         1/2 cup black beans or other beans

1 slice of bread                                                       1/4 large baked potato

1/3 cup cooked pasta or rice      4 to 6 crackers

1/2 cup of casserole                         6 chicken nuggets

2/3 cup nonfat yogurt                      2 small cookies

If you’re searching for some healthier recipes, look for those built around readily available whole ingredients — fruits, vegetables, low-fat cheeses, lean meats, beans, whole grains and nuts.

A few simple adjustments to popular party or buffet foods can move recipes from the “slightly naughty” to the “oh, how nice” list:

  • For deviled eggs, use soft or silken tofu as part of the filling.
  • Pair a veggie tray with a flavorful dill dip made from low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt.
  • Make sure your meat and cheese tray includes some low-fat options. If your budget allows it, offer peel-and-eat shrimp, or beef tenderloin mini-kabobs with pearl onions.
  • Eaten in moderation, nuts offer an excellent snack choice for those with diabetes. They are loaded with protein and are low in carbohydrates. While they are high in fat, it’s a healthy unsaturated fat. A dish of aromatic spiced nuts makes a yummy holiday treat for people with diabetes — and everyone else!

Here are three easy ways you can make desserts more diabetes-friendly:

  • Substitute lower-carb ingredients for higher-carb ones. For example, use whole-grain flour or oats instead of white flour in cookies or breads.
  • Use high-quality ingredients that pack a lot of flavor in smaller amounts. A little rich dark chocolate goes a long way when grated, shaved or curled as a finishing touch on a dish.
  • Focus on creativity and presentation. Yes, looks do matter. Any foodie worth his or her salt knows that a well-plated dish is a big factor in overall appeal.

“Sweets don’t have to be banished as long as they are consumed within limit,” said Koch, who coordinates Let’s Chat, a diabetes support group that meets monthly at Norton Healthcare Pavilion.

Whether you’re hosting a huge holiday shindig or a small family get-together, food can help create a welcoming back drop for time well-spent with others. As long as what you serve tastes good, looks good and brings people together, there’s no down side to offering diabetes-friendly dishes that everyone can enjoy.

Wondering about your risk for diabetes?

To estimate your personal risk factors, take a free online Diabetes Risk Assessment.


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