Healthy Menu Planning for the Holidays



In the spring of 2015, best-selling author Marlene Koch, @marlenekoch, “Eat More of What You Love,” joined for a twitter chat event on healthy eating during holidays.

Whether it’s Easter or Passover, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or just a gathering of friends and family, holidays can be a challenge for people with diabetes.

Here is some great information for people with diabetes or their loved ones when preparing healthy meals for holiday gatherings.

April is a busy month for celebrating holidays and eating. What can I serve for Passover or Easter?

Beautiful food makes everything so special! Prepare or serve foods with lots of color – carrots, purple cabbage, fruits and vegetables. They’re abundant in the spring and full of nutrition, too.

Hard boiled eggs are also a great choice – they’re festive and healthy! Deviled eggs have just 35 calories and are appropriate for either holiday.

If that Easter basket is too great a temptation, how about a bunny tray of carrots, celery and garden delights? Serve with Ranch Dressing or a packet of Ranch seasoning mixed in Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

And if there are children with diabetes, how about toys in their basket instead of candy and chocolate?

Just remember, holiday or any day, it’s the carbs that count. And beware of the sugar free label – sugar free isn’t always best for glucose levels.

I’m a guest at the holiday meal – how do I control what I eat?

Bring a delicious dish you enjoy and that fits your diet. Present it on a pretty serving platter and it’s a perfect hostess gift.

Or, if you’re going to close family or friends, you can always take over the kitchen yourself!

Are there any foods that are “off-limits”?

All foods are allowed at celebrations – but moderation is key! Allow yourself a few bites of indulgent foods, but don’t overdo it. Cut out the so-so high carb foods that are not special and leave room for those things you REALLY must have.

Always check out all of the options before you fill your plate, and pile the veggies on first!

How can I make my holiday menu healthier?

Substitute healthy whole foods and vegetables wherever you can.

For a healthier side dish, when making your mashed potatoes, try substituting half of the potatoes with cauliflower! You’ll get fewer carbs and more nutrition without losing any flavor. Or how about a root mash with sweet potatoes, carrots and rutabaga?

Creamed cottage cheese and non-fat Greek yogurt are lower carb, high protein alternatives to sour cream or mayonnaise in dips, deviled eggs or salads.

Want to snack on jelly beans? How about snacking on some dried fruit instead! It’s high in minerals and vitamins!

And did you know that chocolate can be healthy? 1-2 squares of dark chocolate – especially over 75% – has very few carbs and is full of good-for-you flavonols.

What are some of the naturally healthy foods to enjoy during Passover or Easter?

There are so many fresh, healthy foods for you to choose during the spring holidays of Easter and Passover!

Colorful fresh fruits and vegetables make any meal more festive.

Eggs are very healthy foods that are eaten at both Easter and Passover.

Lean proteins can be enjoyed at both meals. Even a Passover brisket, when well-trimmed, has just 6 grams of fat in 3oz.

How do I deal with food challenges, like eating too many carbs or taking an extra piece of cake?

Don’t worry if you overdo, think about what you will do next, not what you have already done!

Get up and get moving – it’s the best way to lower your blood glucose quickly. Then make better choices at the next meal.

A snack before a meal can help prevent overindulging. Or filling up your plate with veggies and other healthy foods before heading for the dessert table.

How can I manage my blood sugar levels during the holidays?

Eat protein at each meal and snack to help keep your blood glucose balanced. Check your levels often, and eat small snacks to help keep you from getting too hungry. Pre-celebration snacks that won’t spike your blood glucose include almonds, pistachios, veggies, cottage cheese and eggs.

Don’t forget to exercise. How about a good walk or jog the morning before a holiday party? A walk between courses helps to lower your blood sugar, too.

How do I manage alcohol consumption?

One cocktail or glass of wine for women, or two for men, is usually okay. Avoid sugary mixers, and monitor your blood sugar.

Remember that alcohol can stimulate appetite and increase the risk of hypoglycemia – so limit your consumption and have your drinks with your meal.

I’m going away – do I still have to exercise?

Never take a vacation from physical activity – especially during a holiday that revolves around eating.

You can always take a walk around the block to help keep blood sugar in check. Take your friends or family with you! Just a 10 minute walk after each meal can greatly assist in lowering your blood glucose. And it’s good for your friends and family, too.

How can I get back on track after over-indulging?

Lower your carb intake, increase proteins and make sure that you do physical activity to get your blood glucose levels back down. It’s not if you fall, but if you are able to get back up!

We are all human. To get or keep on track, make sure to keep your log going. Denial is not your friend. Think positive!!

Your diet will never be perfect and it doesn’t need to be. Make healthy choices the majority of the time and you’ll be okay.


For the full transcript of the tweet chat event, go to



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