Fresh Focus #15: Scaling back the holiday meal


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It’s been a whirlwind of a year and whether you live alone or are continuing to practice social distancing, the holidays are going to look a little different this year. Whatever this year’s holiday meal brings, you can certainly scale it down while still enjoying some of those traditional favorites in a smaller group.

Pair down the meal with these tips

Protein: Unless the protein source is breaded or fried, it will not raise your blood sugars. If it is breaded and fried, then allow for about 10-15 grams of carbohydrate for that particular portion of the meal. This year, a small turkey or even a whole chicken is a good option. If cooking is not your strong point, then purchasing a rotisserie chicken from your grocery store deli is an excellent option.

Starches: Some of the traditional holiday starches include potatoes and the stuffing/dressing. Potatoes are a great option and a good source of vitamins, minerals and fiber, so we’re going to acquire more nutritional benefits than the stuffing. Whether you prefer regular or sweet potatoes, you can dice them up, place in a pan or casserole dish, toss in olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. They can be roasted in the oven at 400 degrees for about 25-45 min.

Remember, it’s the extras such as the condiments, sauces, gravies, etc., that we forget to count as part of the total carbohydrate intake for a meal, and the result is a high blood sugar reading after that particular meal.

Vegetables: Fill half your plate with vegetables that are low in calories, high in fiber. Fiber is not only good for our heart and digestive system, but it can also help with blood glucose control. A popular holiday vegetable dish is green bean casserole. While this dish isn’t too terribly labor-intensive and can be made in smaller quantities, it does require some preparation and cooking time. Although the green beans themselves are a non-starchy vegetable and therefore very low in carbohydrates, the mushroom soup and fried onions will add some carbs to that dish.

A paired down version would look more like frozen or canned green beans with butter or olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Other fall vegetables include Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, and acorn squash. If purchasing the fresh versions of these veggies, they can be roasted in the oven. If purchasing frozen or canned versions of these veggies, less preparation is needed as they can be warmed or steamed on the stove or in the microwave.

For persons with diabetes, scaling down could potentially make the mealtime more simplified and less stressful in the sense of timing of the meal as well as knowing how to count the carbohydrates in the meal. Listen into episode 15 of the Fresh Focus Podcast for more holiday menu tips.


Amanda Settle is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist.

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