8 tips for healthy holiday eating

8 tips for healthy holiday eating

Healthy holiday eating can be a challenge for people with pre-diabetes, with looming festivities that can test anyone’s willpower and resolve.

Smart food choices are a key component of diabetes prevention, however, so keeping a few ideas top-of-mind to handle them can make it easier. 

The trade-offs can be fairly easy! Try a few of these.


1. Rev up your metabolism.

Our bodies consume calories faster when our metabolism is working hard and exercise kicks it into high gear. Taking a brisk walk or following your normal fitness routine before a big meal keeps it moving.

Taking a walk after the meal can also help.


2. Don’t leave home hungry.

Before you head to a party or meal that you know will be tempting, consider eating a healthy snack from your own kitchen before you leave the house. Even if it’s carrot sticks dipped in hummus or a few bites of leftover chicken breast, it ensures you don’t arrive at the celebration feeling overly hungry. You’ll be more likely to nibble than nosh.


3. Enjoy just one alcoholic beverage.

Alcoholic beverages are fun, but too much alcohol can add extra calories and carbs, instantly sabotaging healthy holiday eating goals. It’s a good idea to be cautious in what you consume, limiting yourself to just one drink.

Avoiding sugary mixed drinks is also a good idea.


4. Consider using a salad plate instead of a dinner plate.

It’s easy to load up a plate with delicious food during lavish holiday meals. Everything looks so delicious! Using a salad plate instead of a dinner plate manages portion sizes effortlessly by limiting how much food fits on the plate.

Some also find it helpful to fill half of their plate with vegetables before adding other choices that are higher in carbs, sugars or fats.


5. Try substituting mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes.

The starchy goodness of mashed potatoes is undeniable… but mashed cauliflower is a nice low-carb substitution with the same creamy texture.

Since it’s a very popular alternative for carbs, tasty recipes abound replacing rice, potatoes and more with cauliflower, with cooking methods that range from mashed and riced to roasted. If you know the hostess won’t offer many healthy alternatives or want to be certain you have a side dish that fits in with your pre-diabetic eating plan, this is one of those side dishes that make a lovely hostess gift to bring along. Then it’s sure to be available and you can choose a recipe that appeals to you.


6. Consider an herb-seasoned vegetable alternative to green bean casserole.

This well-loved favorite is a staple at many holiday tables. Between the cream-based soup mix and fried onions, however, green bean casserole is a cornucopia of fats and carbs. Forgoing this in favor of a healthier vegetable alternative that’s seasoned with low-calorie flavors from herbs and spices can be a wonderful substitute.

If you’re still pondering a side dish to bring, making the casserole with low-salt/low-fat cream of mushroom soup and substituting flavorful caramelized onions for the fried onions may appeal to both people with pre-diabetes and diabetes. With the prevalence of these conditions, you won’t be the only guest looking for healthy holiday eating choices.


7. Marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, stuffing and pie, oh my.

Few items on a holiday menu have more carbohydrates than stuffing or dressing in any form, mashed or sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. And if the sweet potatoes are topped with brûlée, marshmallows or other sweets? Well, it’s really more of a dessert than a side dish. To keep carbs and calories down, consider choosing a small helping of one of these or a dessert, but not both.

If that’s too difficult, just a tablespoonful of each gives you a taste to enjoy without feeling deprived while managing the total amount of carbs and sugar you consume.

We hope these ideas are helpful. Learning to modify diet and lifestyle to prevent or delay a full-blown diabetes diagnosis is incredibly important. Diabetes may be preventable if you take action during pre-diabetes, but once diagnosed, diabetes is a permanent condition to manage. It has significant influence on your health and wallet.

If you’d like to learn more about diabetes prevention, Sun Health offers a classroom-based program for those diagnosed by their physician as pre-diabetic. It’s the only in-person diabetes prevention program in Arizona to be recognized by the CDC for effectiveness.

National Diabetes Prevention Program

Sun Health’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) is led by a registered dietitian and an exercise physiologist.

This yearlong lifestyle-change program uses research-based curriculum developed by the CDC to help you make the necessary nutrition, physical activity and behavioral changes to improve your health and prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

The fee for this series is covered by Medicare and many insurance providers. Call 623-832-WELL (9355) to register.

Mondays, starting Jan. 7; 9 to 10 a.m.
Location: Banner Boswell/Chapman Conf. Room

Fridays, starting Jan. 11; 9 to 10 a.m.
Location: Center for Health & Wellbeing


(Originally published Dec. 5, 2018; last updated Jan. 12, 2019.)

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