November is a big month. Not only does it usher in the winter holidays, it also marks National Diabetes Month, when individuals and health care professionals across the country strive to draw attention to diabetes and its impact on Americans.
Type 2 diabetes is increasingly common, says Missy Butera, assistant director of dining services at Judson Park and a registered dietetic technician. Figures from the American Diabetes Association show that 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4 percent of the population, had type 2 diabetes in 2015.
All of which raises a timely question for those who are living with diabetes: How can you eat well during the holidays and still control the disease?
“Obviously, people need to watch their carbohydrate intake, because that’s what raises blood sugar,” says Missy. But because heart disease often accompanies diabetes, it is also important to manage the intake of fat and salt as well.
A combination of conscientious food choices and smart substitutions is key, says Missy. Here are some easy tips to remember when shopping, cooking or dining out.
- When pasta is on the menu, pick a whole-wheat product
- Use brown rice or quinoa in place of white rice
- Substitute whole-grain breads for white breads
- Replace sour cream with plain Greek yogurt
- Choose skim milk in place of whole milk
- Try reduced-fat cottage cheese and cheeses
- Use less sugar than your recipe calls for. “In many recipes, you can cut the sugar in half and still get good results,” says Missy.
- Replace some of the sugar in a recipe with artificial sweeteners. Recipes that usually do well with sugar substitutes include beverages, frozen desserts, pie fillings, sauces, gelatins, and puddings.
- Employ herbs and spices to boost flavors without adding salt
- Rinse high-sodium canned goods, like tuna and beans, before adding to recipes – however, many canned goods with low or no sodium are now readily available
- Remember, most of our daily sodium intake comes from processed and restaurant foods. That’s just another reason to cook at home!
As an example of smart substitutions, Missy has provided a diabetic-friendly recipe for a no-bake, no-crust, no-sugar added pumpkin pie. In it, sugar-free pudding mix, gelatin, and whipped topping take the place of sweetened condensed milk. Cinnamon, ginger and cloves up the flavor ante without the use of salt or sugar. Eliminating the crust also eliminates butter or lard, while skim milk takes the place of whole milk. With the addition of canned pumpkin, “you still get that pumpkin pie flavor!” Missy promises.
But let’s be realistic: Like many recipes adapted for special diets, this dish may never strike the same chords as that old, familiar pumpkin pie you grew up with. In that case, says Missy, give yourself a holiday treat.
“I’m a big believer in occasional, small indulgences,” she says. “Otherwise, how are you going to get through the holidays? You want that pie? Okay! Just watch what you eat for the rest of the meal. Load up on raw veggies, have your beans without butter, avoid the bread basket and stick to the white meat on the turkey.
“Because if you really need that pumpkin pie, it’s okay to indulge in a small amount. As with everything, moderation is the key.”