My husband and several family members are diabetics, and I’m mindful of their health challenges when preparing holiday meals. Holiday celebrations are all about food, and this can be a very challenging time for individuals dealing with diabetes. Holiday stress and bountiful food can lead to impulse eating and risky blood-sugar levels.
Forgoing all holiday foods isn’t really an option for those with diabetes, since food is a major part of our celebrations. With some planning and by keeping to your routine, you, too, can manage your diabetes and keep blood sugar under control. Try these tips to help face the holidays head on:
Monitor your blood sugar — Maintain your routine of checking your blood sugar and monitor more closely if eating frequently or at irregular times.
Eat before the party — To avoid overeating, eat sensibly during the day of a party. Otherwise you’ll arrive hungry, making it hard to maintain control. It’s important to spread your carbohydrates evenly throughout the day to better manage diabetes.
Be choosy — Look over the food offerings, and don’t waste calories and carbohydrates on foods you could eat anytime. Save space in your meal plan for “special” holiday treats. Some people find it helpful to keep a food journal during the holidays to help track carbohydrates and avoid overeating.
Downsize portions — Trim your portion sizes, especially if you’re not certain about the ingredients in a tempting casserole or dessert. Control the amount you eat by either limiting yourself to one trip through the buffet line, or make the first trip primarily vegetables and salad, then your second helpings could be small portions of heartier, richer fare.
Bring your own healthful food — Food won’t be a challenge if you take along a vegetable dish to share that contains little or no carbohydrates (like my recipe for Microwave Lemon and Garlic Green Beans). Others will appreciate the low-calorie option as well. Consider revising a favorite holiday recipe by substituting lower-calorie ingredients. For example, instead of fried onions in the green bean casserole, add roasted, caramelized onions and lower-fat mushroom sauce. For dessert, use sugar-free gelatins or puddings.
Keep eating in perspective — Focus on the fun, not the food. Enjoy connecting with family and friends during the holiday gatherings. Spend your time in conversation rather than thinking about what’s on your plate. It’s often helpful to keep your back to the buffet table, or move to another part of the room.
Stay active and get plenty of rest — Holiday stress and fatigue can be reduced with adequate sleep and exercise. Physical activity, like walking or lifting weights, will lower your stress, burn calories and help control blood sugar. Lack of sleep can influence your hunger and increase stress.
Use these tips and this delicious recipe for Microwave Lemon and Garlic Green Beans to safeguard your health. Have a happy holiday season!
Microwave Lemon and Garlic Green Beans
This easy microwave recipe uses steam to cook the dish quickly and bring out the best flavors in fresh green beans. Tossing the green beans in the garlic-infused oil, lemon juice and basil is a delicious way to finish the dish.
1 pound fresh green beans, preferably thin French haricots or frozen, whole green beans
2 tablespoons water or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1&1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed, peels discarded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 to 4 fresh basil leaves, minced
1. To trim green bean ends: Gather a handful and stand them up on the cutting board while holding loosely so the beans line up. Then lay them flat and trim the ends. Cut the beans into pieces, about 2 inches long.
2. Place beans in glass bowl with the water or chicken broth and 1/2 tablespoon of Italian seasoning. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high 2 minutes.
3. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add garlic cloves and stir about 1 minute to season the oil. Be sure not to brown or burn garlic, or it will taste bitter. Remove garlic and discard. Add beans, remaining Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes, until beans are crisp-tender and take on a golden brown color.
4. Lower heat, then pour lemon juice over beans. Stir beans, turn off heat and sprinkle with lemon zest and basil. Makes 4 servings.
(Additional information is provided by Lynda Johnson, nutrition and health education specialist at the University of Missouri Extension.) ••
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her Web site is www.divapro.com