4 Ways to Enjoy Party Food When You Have Diabetes, Plus Blood-Sugar Friendly Food Ideas

There’s no reason to avoid the food and festivities that mark this celebratory season.

Party Food and Diabetes CAN Go TogetherLiving with diabetes doesn't mean you have to skip the party foods and festivities. Tweaking recipes and exercising a little portion control can go a long way toward helping you enjoy holiday favorites.

When you’re living with diabetes, big temptations loom during winter holidays that are all about celebratory meals and parties. You may need to modify some of your traditional holiday recipes, stay away from all those sugary treats, and put in a little extra effort to avoid overeating or overdrinking. But none of that should stop you from joining in the festivities and having as much food fun as everyone else.

Look At It This Way

A change in attitude can help reduce any sense of deprivation you may feel while staring at a buffet table laden with foods you’re not supposed to eat. Rather than thinking of yourself as someone who must constantly control your eating and drinking habits, think of yourself as someone who is simply committed to making healthy lifestyle choices. That puts you in the same group as the many, many people who may not have diabetes but still try to be careful about what they consume (and how much they exercise), not only during the holidays but throughout the year.

How to Eat What You Love

When it comes to deciding what you can and can’t eat, think about the holiday foods that mean the most to you. If some of the party treats and traditional family favorites you love are carb-rich and fatty foods, fill up on lighter choices first—salads and non-starchy vegetable dishes—so you’ll be more satisfied with smaller portions of the richer fare.

Raise a Glass

If you enjoy having a drink, wait until after the big meal, or until you’ve had a few party snacks, so that you have enough food in your stomach to dull alcohol’s effects on your blood sugar.  Drink at least one glass of plain or sparkling water with your food, to dilute both the alcohol and carb content of the beer, wine, or mixed drinks that follow.

Create Recipes for Success

During this season of old-fashioned food and fun, keep these two oldie-but-goodie strategies in mind for getting through any holiday dinner or cocktail party: Plan ahead and bring your own. Plan to eat light (but don’t avoid eating) on those days when you know you’ll be faced with multiple temptations that evening. Schedule in some extra time to get a little more exercise. And when the party is at someone’s home, or even at the office, bring a dish that you can enjoy along with everyone else, whether it’s a low-carb appetizer, a lightened-up bowl of eggnog, or a festive, no-sugar-added dessert. Here are some ideas:

  • For easy, low-carb appetizers, try mini pizzas made with thickly sliced zucchini rounds for a base, topped with tomato sauce, shredded, reduced-fat mozzarella, and grated Parmesan. Oil a foil-lined baking sheet, place the rounds on the sheet in a single layer and bake in a hot oven (400°) for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your zucchini. Another easy idea: Fill deviled eggs with a half-half mixture of mashed yolk and avocado. Sprinkle with finely chopped cilantro.
  • To make a lower-carb eggnog (alcoholic or non-alcoholic), use unsweetened almond, soy or coconut milk (or any combination of any of these) in place of regular milk or cream. If you’d rather stick to dairy, try lactose-free milk, which contains the same amount of carbs as regular milk but is naturally sweeter and thicker, so you can cut back a little on added sweetener. To avoid a hangover, replace good old Jamaican rum with rum flavoring. (Note that rum extracts and flavorings usually contain small amounts of alcohol.)
  • When it comes to holiday desserts, remember that you can eat almost anything you want, including sweets in small portions to finish off an otherwise balanced meal. Combinations of ingredients such as fresh or cooked fruits, soft cheeses, nuts, dark chocolate, whipped cream and unsweetened coconut can satisfy a yearning for something rich and sweet, without incorporating any natural or artificial sweeteners. Think small baked apples or sliced poached pears topped with pureed ricotta cheese, lightly drizzled with a little melted chocolate and sprinkled with coconut or chopped walnuts. Consider a nut crust when baking pies and when you bake with flour, stick to whole-grain varieties. The more fiber in a dessert, the less likely it is to cause spikes in your blood sugar levels.
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