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Food Substitution Tips for Diabetics During the Holidays

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The holidays present a full season of temptation for anyone, let alone someone managing diabetes. It’s difficult enough to eat a healthy diet and manage one’s sugar levels without all the great food and drinks at parties and celebrations. But we are here to help! Here are nine tips and food substitution suggestions to help you have a healthy holiday season while still enjoying delicious holiday food favorites.

  1. Keep regular mealtimes
    Eat balanced meals before attending holiday parties. If you skip meals in an effort to “save up” calories, you will probably end up overeating foods that are higher in fat and sugar.
  2. Minimize temptation
    Visit with family and friends away from the buffet table. Enjoy fun and conversation while avoiding mindless munching. Also, put holiday treats away after you serve them – “out of sight, out of mind.”
  3. Be a picky eater
    Do not deprive yourself but be choosy and remember moderation. Sample new dishes or indulge in old holiday favorites, but pass on the chips, dip, and fried food. Fresh vegetable and fruit trays and crackers are winning choices.
  4. Listen to your hunger
    Serve yourself reasonable portions and eat slowly to give your body a chance to feel full. You may realize you are satisfied without getting seconds.
  5. Go easy on eggnog and alcoholic beverages
    Alcohol contains lots of calories and few nutrients. If you choose to drink, alternate alcoholic beverages with water or diet sodas.
  6. Stay active
    Exercise helps to burn off extra calories, as well as reduce holiday stress. Spending time being active with family and friends can be as enjoyable as a holiday meal.
  7. Manage stress
    For many people, holidays are the most stressful time of the year. Buy gifts and prepare food dishes ahead of time to avoid the last-minute rush. If you are a host, solicit help from others. Finally, get plenty of rest to boost your energy level, so you will not mistake fatigue for hunger.
  8. Give yourself a break
    Realize that one big holiday meal or one missed exercise session will not have a major effect on your weight. It is what you eat consistently over time that matters. Progress, not perfection is what counts. Forgive yourself and get back on track!
  9. Recipe Substitutes
    Try to use heart-healthy cookbooks and experiment with lower fat versions of traditional recipes to create delicious recipes that are healthy too. Use the following substitutions as a guide:

If the recipe says… substitute with…

  • Whole milk – Skim milk or nonfat milk powder
  • Light cream – Equal portions 1% milk & evaporated milk
  • Heavy cream – Very cold evaporated skim milk
  • Non-dairy creamer – Nonfat powdered milk
  • Egg – 2 egg whites or ¼ cup egg substitute
  • Sour cream – Fat-free sour cream or plain nonfat yogurt
  • Butter/margarine – Light margarine
  • Roux – Brown flour without fat in the oven at 350° in a black iron skillet
  • Baking chocolate – 3 Tablespoons Cocoa
  • Cream cheese – Fat-free or light cream cheese
  • Mayonnaise – Fat-free mayo or plain Greek yogurt
  • Ground beef – Brown lean ground beef, drain and rinse with hot running water

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a diabetes care and education specialist, call 504-842-0075 or 1-844-988-0075 or visit

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