The Key to a Healthy Diet During the Holidays

By: Tracy Hampton

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Correspondent


Eating right during the holidays can be tough for anyone, but people with diabetes face particular challenges because diet can have an immediate effect on their health.


“While you can be a little more liberal and can certainly enjoy the festivities, it’s important to make conscious choices,” says Dr. Eleftheria Maratos-Flier, who is a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Unfortunately, holiday meals tend to include a lot of carbohydrates.”


Dr. Maratos-Flier says that turkey is a wonderful choice at Thanksgiving because it’s high in protein, low in fat, and contains no carbohydrates that might affect blood sugar levels. It’s also a good source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, and B vitamins. When it comes to side dishes, she recommends having small portions and focusing on green vegetables and salads, which tend to be low in carbohydrates. It’s also wise to have a reasonable portion of your favorite dishes and pass on the rest. If you really want to try everything, be sure to make your portions smaller. Overall, try to keep your total carbohydrate intake consistent with a regular day.


If you are in charge of the baking, there are many recipes on numerous Web sites such as that are tailored specifically toward individuals with diabetes who need to eat low glycemic-index foods. For example, stuffing can be made with apples, nuts, and dried cranberries while minimizing bread crumbs. And you can substitute sucralose for some of the sugar in many pie recipes, or you can try cutting down on sugar and increasing the use of cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and other sweet-tasting spices and flavorings. There are also many recipes that simply make traditional holiday foods a bit healthier, such as using fat-free or light sour cream instead of regular sour cream in casseroles or steaming the green beans instead of sautéing them in butter.


The American Diabetes Association offers recipes as well as the following tips to help guide you through holiday events: eat slowly, don’t skip meals to ‘save’ calories and carbohydrates before a party, drink in moderation, be active, and stay upbeat and get back on track if you overindulge.


With a little effort, there’s no reason why a person with diabetes can’t have a tasty and happy holiday season.


Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.


Posted: November 2012