With diabetes affecting more than 29 million Americans, chances are your holiday guests may include people with dietary concerns related to diabetes or weight loss goals. You might ask yourself, “How do I prepare a tasty feast of traditional holiday foods for friends and family while respecting their dietary and health needs?”

First, it is important to understand a few basic guidelines regarding food choices for people with diabetes.

There are no truly forbidden foods on the diabetic meal plan, only forbidden portion sizes based on an individual’s meal plan. As people learn to read food labels and count carbohydrates and fats, they quickly learn that many of their favorite holiday foods can be included in a holiday meal with a significantly smaller portion size than what they might have eaten in the past.

With that in mind, you can make some adaptations in your cooking that can make staying within the meal plan a little less stressful for your guests.

Here are some suggestions on how to adapt traditional foods:

  • Turkeys and hams can be prepared with savory herbs and spices, instead of honey glazes and butter brimming.
  • Side dishes can be especially tasty with broths and seasonings, instead of the more traditional cream-based soups and sugar added to casseroles.
  • As for tasty desserts, try swapping breads, fillings and icings for more fruit and nuts. Be aware, however, that fruit is a carbohydrate and can affect blood sugar levels.
  • If the recipe calls for butter, use applesauce for half of the called-for amount of butter.
  • Cut back the amount of fat by up to one third of the amount for most recipes. Chances are you won’t notice a big difference in taste.
  • Reduce sugar by using artificial sweeteners, but be careful about which one you choose. You can bake with Splenda or Stevia; however, many of the other non-nutritive sweeteners such as Equal and NutraSweet will not hold up in the high temperatures required for baking.

The holiday season is a time to celebrate. Open your cookbooks; get creative; and, introduce a new, healthy alternative to your old recipes. Be sure to share your successful alternative recipes with your guests. It could be a wonderful gift to your family and friends.


Oscar Munoz, M.D., is a cardiologist at Del Sol Medical Center.