Be a choosy eater during the holidays

It is possible to choose wisely and eat well during the holidays. With a little pre-planning and some thought about healthy choices, holiday food selections can be satisfying for those watching their calories.

You like food. You really like food – especially on festive occasions. But your health care provider tells you that you need to lose weight, or maybe your blood glucose levels are too high, or you’ve simply decided that this is the time to begin eating in a healthy way.

But the holidays loom large and you feel like you may end up being out of control.

What to do?

Michigan State University Extension health and nutrition experts suggest that people with diabetes first identify foods that contain carbohydrates, as these items have the most impact on blood glucose. Look at starches such as bread and rolls, stuffing, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas and butter beans, as well as sugars, such as fruit, candy, desserts, milk, soda, sweet tea and eggnog.

Then, decide which of the carbohydrate foods are most important to you. Have these (yes, even dessert) in small amounts to stay within the number of grams of carbohydrates your health care professional has recommended.

Let’s look at it this way: One piece of pecan pie has about 64 grams of carbohydrates in it. That is about equal to an entire turkey dinner, in modest portions. Want to see the math?

1/8 of a 9-inch pecan pie = 64 grams

3 ounces turkey (0 carb)


1/2 cup stuffing (20 grams carb) OR 1/2 cup mashed potatoes (17 grams carb)


2 tablespoons gravy (2 grams carb)


1 roll, brown and serve type (13 grams carb) WITH 1-2 teaspoons margarine (0 carb)


1/2 cup green beans (4 grams carb) OR 1/2 cup cranberry orange sauce (6 grams carb)


Tossed salad WITH 2 tablespoons of “light” Italian dressing (2 grams carb)


1 slice pumpkin pie made with heat stable artificial sweetener (18 grams carb)

TOTAL: 60 grams carbohydrate

 TOTAL: 56-61 grams carbohydrate

Don’t forget to look at beverages, including alcoholic beverages. There are some reasons to limit alcoholic beverages, not only during the holidays, but at other times also:

  • Alcohol reduces willpower, so some people tend to eat more when they drink.
  • Alcohol contains extra calories and often it’s mixed with high-calorie mixers, like eggnog and regular soda.
  • People taking insulin can experience low blood sugar after drinking alcohol, so it’s best to either wait until dinner or have something to eat when drinking so that you don’t have an empty stomach.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that women limit themselves to no more than one drink per day and men, no more than two drinks. Some people should not drink at all – those with high triglycerides, neuropathy and those taking medications that interact with alcohol.

When you do choose to have an alcoholic beverage some choices are better than others. A mixed drink, such as a gin and tonic, prepared with sugar-free or diet mixer is a better choice (zero grams of carbohydrate) than one prepared with regular soda (22 grams of carbohydrate). Light beer usually has fewer carbohydrates than regular beer. One popular brand has 14.1 grams of carbohydrate in its regular beer, and only seven grams of carbohydrate in the light version.

Ultimately we all choose what to eat each day. Don’t feel discouraged when going to a holiday party; take a few minutes to first do some research as there are many healthy choices possible during holidays!

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