Healthier Holidays: Simple Ways to Cut Carbohydrates
Heading into the holiday season each year, everyone knows one thing for sure: there will be a lot of food. It can be difficult for anyone not to over-indulge this time of year; however, it can be particularly challenging for someone managing diabetes.
For healthy living, limit carbohydrate intake to 45-75 grams per meal. To put that into perspective, there are about 30 grams of carbs in half a cup of Thanksgiving stuffing. That said, it’s important for everyone, especially if they are diabetic, to meet with a registered dietitian for specific dietary guidelines and goals.
Preparing a diabetic-friendly meal this holiday season doesn’t have to be hard. The dietary needs to manage this condition are similar to what everyone’s should be—high in nutritious foods and lower in saturated fats, processed and added sugars, cholesterol and sodium. While this may seem easier said than done, consider the following alternatives.
- Beans (black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo, etc.): This heart-healthy protein is full of fiber and can actually balance blood sugar. Note that beans aren’t carb-free, so it’s still important to keep an eye on portions. You can also use some of your favorite beans in desserts for a nutritious boost—try black beans in brownies or white beans and chick peas in chocolate chip cookies.
- Cauliflower: One cup of mashed potatoes has about 35 grams of carbs. The same amount of chopped cauliflower is only about five grams. By steaming and mashing this vitamin-filled veggie, guests can enjoy the texture and taste of mashed potatoes without the abundance of starch and carbohydrates.
- Winter Squash: Similar to beans, this swap isn’t carb-free. In fact, winter squash can contain as many carbs as potatoes. The key difference is that along with being a great source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants—squash has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of diabetes. Like cauliflower, it can be baked or mashed with your favorite savory spices. Served in moderation, this alternative pairs perfectly with turkey or ham.
- Zucchini: This veggie can be cut, seasoned, lightly breaded and thrown in the oven to create a tasty twist on French fries. While a single fry has about 26 grams of carbs, a medium-sized zucchini only contains six grams.
- Lettuce Wraps: A great way to repurpose holiday leftovers is to replace sandwich bread with a leafy green like romaine or leaf lettuce. This swap gives your dish a nice crunch and saves about 30 grams of carbs from two pieces of bread.
- Portabella Mushrooms: Grilled portabella mushroom caps can add a unique flavor and texture to any holiday meal. These can also be used as an alternative to bread when making sandwiches with leftovers.
- Eggplant: Chop into rounds, top with mozzarella cheese and add your favorite pizza toppings to make this swap more kid-friendly. One cup of eggplant contains only 4.8 grams of carbs, while one slice of pizza can consist of up to 50 grams.
- Cauliflower: Believe it or not, cauliflower can make a tasty pizza crust or breadstick. Break the veggie into florets, throw in a food processor and steam. Add spices and use your cheese of choice to bind the vegetable and make it moldable to spread on a cookie sheet like a traditional crust. Bake through to cook the crust. Then add any your favorite sauces and toppings.
Pasta or Rice Swaps
- Spaghetti Squash: The shape of this winter veggie makes a great pseudo-bowl to fill with your favorite lasagna toppings and bake for dinner. There are approximately seven grams of carbs per cup, which is significantly less than the 45 grams found in one cup of cooked pasta or rice.
- Cauliflower: If you’re looking for a simple vegetable that can pair as seamlessly as rice to holiday dishes—cauliflower is just the swap for you. All you have to do is “rice” it in your food processor. Then sauté with some of your favorite vegetables for a quick and healthy fried “rice” side dish.
- Zucchini: Also known as “zoodles,” this vegetable can make a flavorful alternative to noodles with the help of a spiralizer. Zucchinis can be baked or sautéed with toppings based on preference. From spices to sauces, the pasta-bilities are endless!
The idea of swapping traditional holiday foods with healthier options can be overwhelming. It’s okay to ease into alternatives at your own pace. But remember, even mixing carb-swaps with traditional ingredients could drastically moderate the amount of carbs in your meal, which ultimately leads to a happier, healthier holiday.
Photo credit: A Healthier Michigan