By  Barbara Martinez-Benavides, First Mile Care DPP Coach

Hosting a holiday meal can be stressful. If you’re following the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program and trying to stay on track with your healthy eating goals, it means you may need to tweak your go-to menu items. On the First Mile Care blog last month, Coach Taylor Winkel published an article about making traditional holiday meals healthier by swapping ingredients, trying new recipes for old favorites, or establishing new favorites.

One of the benefits of hosting is that you know the quality of what you are eating, and the quantity needed. You can also spread healthy practices to your loved ones by talking to them about managing or reversing prediabetes and introducing them to healthy swaps.  Aim for the same type of dish that you know people expect to appear on their holiday tables, but with different, healthier ingredients. Your goal is to involve more fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals and serve less fat, carbohydrates, sodium, and sugar. It’s possible to reduce calories and add vitamins and minerals without having to sacrifice flavor. 

For example, some folks consider cauliflower to be rather dull on its own, but that makes it a utility player on the holiday table. You can dress it up as an appetizer as well as a side dish, and can offer it as a healthy substitute for pasta and potatoes. Instead of serving macaroni pasta and cheese, a popular holiday dish in the South, try cauliflower mac and cheese. You can also switch in mashed cauliflower for the ubiquitous mashed potatoes.

Eating with a Latin flavor

I grew up in Mexico, where we have our own culinary traditions. After living in the Houston area for several years, I’ve learned to adapt recipes to suit the traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas table. Below are a few suggestions for traditional Mexican dishes to incorporate into holiday meal planning without sacrificing your healthy eating goals. I’ve included a few links to recipes, too.

APPETIZER: Who doesn’t love guacamole? I recommend it for a holiday appetizer as it’s easy to prepare in large quantities and provides healthy fats. If you are feeling adventurous, you can add chopped tomatillos for extra flavor and serve with low-salt baked tostada (tortillas) chips. 

MAIN COURSE: Pozole Verde is a typical heavy soup or stew that is a wonderful main dish as it’s very filling. You can make it with pork or chicken combined with a variety of vegetables so it’s high in protein. Most of the flavor derives from the spices which add flavor but not calories. I like this recipe.

SIDE DISH(ES): You can’t beat tamales when it comes to a perfect side dish. I recommend them as there are so many different options in terms of healthy fillings (beans, vegetables, cheese), and with or without meat. Here’s a recipe for an oil-free vegan tamale. 

DESSERT: I love serving this Mexican Apple Salad recipe during the Christmas holidays because although it’s wonderfully sweet, that sweetness comes from its mixture of fruits and nuts. It offers healthy fats and is high in fiber and water. (Please also check out Coach Sandra Huskey’s tips and recipes for healthy holiday baking.)

BEVERAGE: Here’s a recipe for a delicious sugar-free Mexican Punch that has fruit infused with cinnamon and cloves to give it a Christmas-y taste and aroma. (You’ll find some additional ideas for healthy beverages in this First Mile Care webinar on hydration.)

Don’t these all sound delicious? At the table, make smart choices about what to eat and what to skip. A good practice is to serve yourself rather than allow others to serve you, in order to control portion size. Keep your initial portions really small so you can try everything (and avoid any hurt feelings), and then have a second helping once you know what you really, really want to eat. Eat mindfully, relish every bite, and never feel guilty about leaving food on your plate.

It’s important to remember that holidays are not only about food, but are about family time. Find activities to do that are fun together, especially ones that involve physical activity, and savor the time to bond with loved ones and deepen newer relationships. ¡Buen provecho!

To learn more about how you can benefit from the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program, take the prediabetes risk test and get started today!