Christmas Food Ideas For People With Diabetes

ideas for healthy food at Christmas for diabetesGuest post from Sally Marchini- dietitian and person with type 1 diabetes

With Christmas sneaking up on us so quickly, and so many Christmassy foods being promoted in the supermarkets,we thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about how to manage this sometimes tricky time of year and some great Christmas food ideas for people with diabetes.

We asked the question: “Christmas is approaching, how do you manage the silly season and all the FOOD that is around?”.

We had some very helpful answers including enjoying the foods you want to but in smaller amounts, and sticking to fresh salads and some ham and prawns.

As well as a wonderfully passionate, “Don’t buy what the shops put out that you NEED to have this stuff, you don’t. You can’t eat it if you don’t have it in your house. You can still have the turkey but serve it with some really nice salads and follow with a light dessert, perhaps as it is a special day a fruit salad”. These answers all highlight the importance of keeping that Christmassy feeling, while not blowing your diabetes control and/or weight so far out that you regret it later on.

So there are a few issues I see worth raising here.  In the blog today we’ll look at the colours of Christmas and how to enjoy them in a healthy way, a few comparisons of carb and calorie counts to help it make sense, and some recipes and ideas to help you on your way.

Already in the shops you’re being hit by a multitude of processed Christmas foods like mince pies, shortbread biscuits, puddings and the like. May I suggest that it would be better to wait until closer to Christmas day before you consider buying these, and buy them just for Christmas Day if you feel you really want them.  Also be careful to buy in moderation otherwise you’ll be tempted by leftovers later. And as our passionate contributor mentioned earlier remember that you don’t NEED these. If you decide you really want them, just go easy and enjoy every mouthful on Christmas day.

ideas for healthy food at Christmas for diabetesThe Colours of Christmas – food ideas for diabetes

I think the colours of Christmas are a good place to start.  I see the traditional colours as Red, White and Green which makes party food lots of fun. When you consider the wonderful red of tomatoes and red capsicum, the lovely greens of asparagus, green beans and fresh herbs, and the whites of cauliflower, cucumber, zucchini and buffalo mozzarella, doesn’t it make you feel Christmassy?

And if we look at the wonderful colourful and flavourful fruits we have available to us too, we really are very fortunate at Christmas time in Australia with the green of the limes, the red of the cherries, nectarines, peaches and mangoes and the rainbow of other fruit colours.

Instead of those processed, high GI, high fat foods being marketed to us in the shops focus your festive tastebuds and eyes on the fresh, brightly coloured fruits, vegetables and proteins that are around us.

ideas for healthy food at Christmas for diabetesParty Ideas for Diabetes at Christmas

For parties, take a something like a white dip made with a tin of cannelini beans, a clove of garlic, juice and zest of a lemon and extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and whizz it with a stick blender to dip consistency. With it take red and green vegetable sticks – beans, asparagus, red and green capsicum, and cherry tomatoes for dipping. It’s one of my favourites and always a hit at parties.

My family’s traditional Christmas day meal has evolved into a healthier version and is very popular with the whole family. We start with my Mum’s cold zucchini soup (I’m happy to share the recipe if you’d like it – just let me know) that sits alongside the tomato gazpacho made with our Christmas ham and cucumber chopped through it. We then have our baked ham and turkey breast with the obligatory fresh prawns served with green asparagus and beans, baby potatoes tossed in pesto, sliced tomato with buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil leaves.  We indulge in the summer fruits with a scoop of a quality low-fat vanilla ice cream for dessert.

ideas for healthy food at Christmas for diabetesCounting Calories at Christmas

And for Christmas snacks, it’s a good idea to keep Calorie King handy so you check the kilojoule/calorie and carbohydrate content of different foods and make comparisons.  MyFitness Pal app is another great one for this.

For example, did you know that:

  • A cupful of halved fresh apricots (155g) has only 10g carb (half a serve) and 265kJ/64 calories.
  • A cupful of cherries without seeds (145g) has 15.8g carb (one serve) and 363kJ/87 calories.
  • A cupful of strawberries with no stems (150g) has only 6g carb (possibly not worth counting!) and 162kJ/39 calories.
  • A scoop of low-fat vanilla icecream (50g) has 11.4g of low-GI carb and 258kJ/62 calories.

Compared with:

  • 1 small slice of a Christmas fruit pudding (50g) has 30.4g carb (2 serves) and 785jK/188 calories (plus loads of saturated fat and sodium)
  • 1 small fruit mince pie (40g) has 26.8g carb (2 serves) and 802kJ/192 calories (plus loads of fat and sodium too)

It’s easy to see that there are some delicious, low carb and low calorie options to enjoy that will be more satisfying than the processed foods you’re being marketed through the supermarket chains.

Also don’t forget your daily handful (30g)of nuts are festive too, especially if you buy them in the shell and crack them with a nut cracker!!  There’s lots of research demonstrating the health benefits of including a handful of nuts in your diet – quite amazing!

What other wonderful healthy Christmassy foods do you share with your loved ones?

Wishing you and your families a safe and happy festive season!  Enjoy 🙂

Sally Marchini

Dietitian and person with type 1 diabetes