The holiday season can be difficult for anyone who follows a special diet or manages a diet-related health issue like diabetes. Decadent dishes, shifts in meal times, and lack of control over the menu can be stressful for friends who worry that a brief moment at a buffet or dinner table may mean many moments of discomfort or elevated blood sugar later.
With a bit of thought, you can create a diabetic-friendly menu that offers a balanced blend of dishes that make it easier to control blood sugar. Not only will diabetic guests feel welcome and safe, it will help all your party goers avoid over doing it and keep everyone a bit more in control (a good thing during the holidays!)
Appetizers can be tricky for anyone trying to make healthy choices. Often fried or heavy in cheese and decadent dips, appetizers can end up being a “meal” before the meal. Try these options that are diabetic friendly and perfect to set the stage for better eating.
Little skewers: Using toothpicks, skewer a small cube of cheese with fresh herbs and vegetables to make little skewers. The combinations are up to you, but the result is always a nice mix of veggie and portion-controlled cheese that avoids the need for a carbohydrate rich cracker.
English cucumber “crackers”: Speaking of avoiding the cracker, slices of English cucumber make the perfect base for a dollop of dip. Try topping with hummus and a bit of feta cheese, for example, or any other better-for-you dip. Just like the skewer, it sneaks in a veggie and is diabetic friendly for sure.
Dips done right: A high calorie, high fat dip can bring down a veggie platter. That’s why I love this Curried Red Pepper Dip made from nonfat, Greek yogurt or this White Bean & Pine Nut Dip made with fat-free sour cream.
Better crackers and more: Whether it’s making your own pita chips (as done in the above White Bean & Pine Nut Dip) or looking for the best options at the market, consider what you serve. Seek baked chips, whole grain (high fiber) crackers, and other Guiding Stars-earning options available on store shelves.
Whether you are setting up a small buffet or a sit-down dinner, the first step to planning should be thinking about how to create a balanced menu. I suggest the following blueprint: light salad, protein, starch, cooked (non-starchy) vegetable. If you want to add to the meal, add a second vegetable. Here are some ideas to consider.
Light salad: The key here is to ensure it’s lightly dressed then choose from a variety of options that include dark greens, fresh veggies and possibly fruit. Try softer greens or maybe kale for a crunchy Caesar salad (use a better bottled option or try this vegan recipe).
Protein: The good news here is that any lean, healthfully prepared protein will do! It’s important to be mindful of stews or combination plates that include potatoes or similar vegetables, which will eliminate the need for a starchy side. For an elegant dinner party try this recipe for Beef Sirloin with Oven Roasted Vegetables or this Mediterranean Chicken Bake.
Vegetable: Make vegetables shine instead of having them seem like the side that people know they “should eat.” With dishes like Mediterranean Roasted Broccoli & Tomatoes or Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pistachio & Shallot guests will be delighted to eat their veggies.
Safe starches: Naturally it’s the starchy side that can be less diabetic friendly and ultimately make any dinner carbohydrate rich for all your guests. Manage this by controlling portions and choosing the best options for your meal. For example, if you are serving baked potatoes, seek the smallest available (about the size of a computer mouse). Likewise, if pasta is on the menu, choose whole grain and make “just enough” to offer everyone about a cup. Starchy vegetables like butternut squash and sweet potato, which are rich in antioxidants, are wonderful additions to a meal, but keep in mind that portions need to be controlled for these options too.
Yes! It’s possible to serve dessert and let everyone feel included. Consider doing petite desserts, like mini brownies or small cookies, which are great for everyone, but especially perfect for your diabetic guests. Alternatively, consider small pre-portioned desserts like this Old Fashioned Fruit Crumble. Lastly, aim for desserts that are made with a healthful twist like these recipes for Cherry Cobbler and Lemon Cookie Balls.