For food lovers, Christmas is more than a time to give and receive gifts; it’s the culinary event of the year. (Yes, I think Christmas trumps Thanksgiving, but we can duke that out in the comments section if you’d like. I personally think Thanksgiving is just a “dressing rehearsal” for Christmas dinner.) In recent years, a new challenge has made its way to the Christmas dinner table. Millions of families across the world must now alter age-old recipes, inherited from grandmothers and great-grandmothers, to accommodate what has recently been called the “American Epidemic,” or Type 2 Diabetes.
One common misconception about diabetes is that it’s caused by consuming too much sugar. The myth is only half true. Eating too much of anything can lead to excess fat stores. When a body accumulates extra fat, especially around the midsection, hormone levels are triggered and the body’s insulin production is affected. Someone with diabetes doesn’t have enough insulin to process large amounts of glucose, which means diabetics must follow low-sugar, low-carbohydrate diets. But if there’s anything we can ALL learn from diabetes, it’s that a healthy diet (paired with regular exercise) is the best way to prevent this disease and other ailments that result from obesity.
Traditions are an integral part of the holidays, but sometimes tradition tips into over-indulgence – drinking way too much eggnog, going back for thirds of Grandma’s famous dressing, or sneaking an extra piece of German chocolate cake after the kids have gone to bed – leaving us with a few extra pounds to fret over in the new year. Being health-conscious during the holidays doesn’t mean that we can’t have a bountiful spread. Good choices, a little creativity and appropriate portions can help you keep the weight off this holiday season. Here are five easy substitutions for a lighter, healthier Christmas dinner.
1. Go Nuts with your Snacks.
Fruits and nuts are nature’s candies. Nuts provide the body with protein, vitamins, nutrients and fiber. Despite their calorie density, nuts are actually associated with weight maintenance. Some speculate that the healthy fats of nuts serve as appetite suppressants. High-fiber fruits like apricots aid the digestive system by slowing down the absorption of sugar into the blood stream; yet some fruits, like grapes and raisins, have high levels of glucose and should be eaten sparingly. Throwing together snack cups of fruits and nuts is easy and delicious, making it a healthy, stress-free snack.
2. Warm up with Sweet Potato Soup.
Sweet potatoes are a full of nutrients and vitamins. They’re one of those super foods that is just teeming with healthy benefits, and because they’re sweet, these tubers can be satisfy the sweet tooth without all of the sugar. To curve the chill of winter weather while packing your family and friends full of vitamins, try a soup like this Curried Carrot, Sweet Potato, and Ginger Soup (pictured) with Buttered Sweet Potato Knot Rolls.
3. Ham it up.
Ham is a Christmas dinner staple that is often prepared using syrups or sodas. Instead, season your ham with natural spices, brown sugar and a low-glucose fruits like apricots instead of traditional pineapple. If you absolutely must keep the pineapple and soda, use diet soda instead of regular and go easy on the pineapple. I found a scrumptious recipe online for Apricot Baked Ham that you might consider as your main course.
4. Try a New Mash-Up.
I really can’t stress how awesome sweet potatoes are. I mean, it’s called a super food! Just in case you need an alternative for one of a less healthy traditional sides (ahem, mashed potatoes and gravy) of Christmas, consider a flavorful medley of sweet potatoes, cloves and maple syrup. Where can you find such a delightful recipe? Right here.
5. Add a ‘lil Spice to the Evening.
It might seem impossible, but delicious sugar-free desserts do exist (in real life, not just some fantasy land). Traditional baked goods can be made using ingredients like artificial sweeteners, brown sugar, applesauce, and yogurt; and traditional holiday spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves will make for a flavorful finale.
For some people, Christmas dinner is all about the dessert. When it comes to sweets, the best policy is to keep portions small. Even if you’re enjoying a delicious sugar-free spice cake, you’ll want to keep in mind that cakes and breads have a high amount of carbohydrates. Oh, you’re wondering about the oatmeal cookies you left for Santa? Go for it! But just a couple…and with a cup of skim milk.
Merry Christmas and a Healthy New Year!
Amelia Wood is a blogger and freelance writer for medicalbillingandcoding.org. She often offers advice to the curious job-seeker and frequently writes about the ways in which medicine impacts our society, culture, and environment. Direct any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kammie wants to know:
What’s your favorite healthy substitution for a Holiday table?
What’s a Holiday dish you healthify or wish you could healthify?
Let me know in the comments below!