Here's to a healthy holiday season!Thanksgiving just passed, which means Christmas is almost here, which means…family, presents and lots of food! I think we can all admit that the holidays are often panic inducing, but for those of us living with diabetes, that panic may not be misguided. Even a few days of forgetting about your meal plans and dietary rules can throw your blood sugar out of whack, putting your health and well being at risk.

I’m not telling you this to scare you, or to try and ruin your holiday. Instead, I want to help by sharing these top 10 suggestions (courtesy of BBC GoodFood and Cooking Light magazine) for easy swaps that will make your holiday enjoyable without sacrificing control of your diabetes. Happy holidays!

1. Turkey: Instead of eating a giant turkey leg, remove the skin and eat white meat to reduce your calorie intake.

2. Chocolate: When you're tempted to reach for that plate of brownies, grab a piece of dark chocolate instead. One ounce of dark chocolate has half the carbohydrates of a brownie and, as an added bonus, flavonoids contained in dark chocolate may offer heart-healthy benefits.

3. Pigs in blankets: Use low-fat cocktail sausages and pierce the skins. Instead of sticking them in pastry, wrap with lean back-bacon (with the excess fat trimmed off) and grill, rather than fry or bake, to allow any excess fat to drain away. Try and limit yourself to two or three.  

4. Christmas Cookies: Instead of snacking on decadently frosted cookies, opt to eat shortbread treats. A square of shortbread has just 9g of carbohydrates: a frosted sugar cookie's carb count is almost double that! And if you want to be really virtuous, choose a shortbread with nuts for some added fiber and protein. 

5. Potatoes: Forget the meat drippings or oil: you can minimize the amount of fat you add to this staple side dish by dry-roasting them or selecting a spray oil. 

6. Dippers: We love crackers and dip as appetizers, but that can blow your whole carb count before a meal even begins. Go for raw veggies instead: you'll still get the experience of dipping, but you'll get more bang for your buck (in terms of carbs, you can get two-and-a-half cups of veggies or one ounce of crackers. I know which one I'd choose!)

7. Stuffings: Avoid high-fat, high-calorie sausage meat. Instead, use vegetarian stuffing such as sage and onion or chestnut and cook separately from your protein.

8. Non-Alcoholic Beverages: Make a concerted effort to avoid sugary drinks like soda this holiday season--a 12-ounce can of soda has 40g of carbs, and they are all from sugar! Instead, mix 4 ounces of fresh lemonade with 8 ounces of sparkling water, slashing your carb and sugar intake by two thirds!

9. Sides: Step away from the mashed potatoes and try to fill at least two-fifths of your plate with vegetables. They are low in calories, help you feel fuller for longer and leave less room for unhealthy foods. If possible boil or steam rather than fry.

10. Spirits: Sorry guys, but I'm suggesting you stay away from egg nog this season: while it's a good source of calcium and protein, it's also loaded with lots of cream. This means that, in a typical 6-ounce glass, you'll be chugging about 435 calories and 30 grams of fat! Instead, opt for a timeless toast: grab a flute of champagne! Not only is it an alwasy-classy choice, it also has 0g fat, less than 100 calories, and less than 2g carbs. 

Cheers to a happy and healthy New Year! 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.
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