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Holiday Eating For People Living With Diabetes

People with diabetes can enjoy most holiday fare, but should exercise care with portion control to control their carbohydrate intake.

The Thanksgiving meal will mean some overindulgence for some. Those with diabetes will have to exercise some care, but holiday food doesn't have to be a major issue.

Sharon Cox, a registered dietitian with Parkland Hospital System, explains.


The major objective: "Control your carbohydrate intake. The main control comes with the serving size, like half a plate of vegetables, the non-starchy ones. That leaves a small amount of room on your plate for the other foods."

Turkey and other meats: "Keep your serving size to about the size of your palm, then you'll do fine. Other meat choices would be fine, though. Cured ham, smoked hams usually have a lot of sodium. If you could get the ham with the bone in the meat counter that you would take home and cook yourself, that would be fine."

Be careful with some vegetables: "Don’t use the high salty, fatty meats when you cook greens or cabbage. There are salt-free seasonings you can use instead. I like to use Herb Ox. It’s sodium free and comes in beef and chicken flavor."

Carbohydrates: "Potatoes, stuffing or dressing, macaroni and cheese. If you want all three or four, then get a tablespoon of each. That would be okay."

Healthier versions: "You could do mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes, or do half and half. But don't tell the family. Just season it, make it taste delicious and no one will know."

Sweets: "Think about whose cake or cookies you really, really want to eat this holiday because we have a couple more holidays coming up to celebrate. Usually for me, a small slice of my sister in law’s sock-it-to-me cake. I try to keep it about two fingers width. The next holiday, maybe I'll move on to the pie."

For making healthier desserts: "Choose not to use flour crust for your pie. Use a graham cracker crust. It’s about the same amount of carbs, but it's less fat because the crust has some solid fat with it."

When visiting someone else's house: "Take a salad, take a green vegetable, boil or roasted vegetables for the meal and then sort of build around that on your plate. Vegetables at the beginning, then your protein, carbs and starchy foods."


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Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.