The holiday season can be an uncertain time for people living with diabetes. As someone with type 1 diabetes, I know the struggles of navigating parties, family dinners, and other holiday events. And when it comes to cooking for others, it can feel next to impossible trying to balance what is diabetes-friendly with what is easy to cook and tastes delicious.
Luckily there are a number of recipes that tick all of these boxes. Below I’ve listed three of my favorite diabetes-friendly recipes that are easy to prepare, won’t throw your blood sugar levels off, and will leave your guests asking for seconds.
Be sure to work these recipes into your diabetic meal plan, as they do contain carbohydrates.
Green bean casserole
Unlike other green bean casserole recipes, this version isn’t loaded with highly processed canned ingredients or extra breading like bread crumbs or fried onions. What’s more, this green bean casserole is lower in carbs, sodium, and fat than more traditional versions of this dish.
Serves: 6–8 people
Serving size: 3/4 cup
Carbohydrates: approximately 17–19 grams
- 1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. avocado oil (divided)
- 1/2 small white onion, diced
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup shredded cheese
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 4 cups frozen green beans
- 1 1⁄2 cups herb-seasoned stuffing mix or croutons
- 1 egg white
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
- Coat a small saucepan over medium heat with 1 tbsp. avocado oil. Let the oil warm for 2–3 minutes. Add in the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally for 5–7 minutes.
- Add in the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Add in the milk, cheese, yogurt, sugar, and salt. Stir until fully combined and heat until bubbling, stirring continually (about 3–4 minutes).
- Set the cheese sauce aside. In a greased square baking dish (8 x 8 inches), add the frozen green beans. Pour the cheese sauce over the green beans.
- Combine the stuffing mix (or croutons), 2 tsp. avocado oil, and egg white in a bowl, and stir to combine. Spread mixture over the top of the casserole dish.
- Bake for 25–30 minutes or until heated through.
Roasted purple sweet potato and beet soufflé
This next recipe is a high-fiber version of a classic southern carrot soufflé. It’s also a great way to pack in some powerful antioxidants and festive fun, without a ton of extra sugar — which is why it’s also a great diabetes-friendly recipe. It has about half the amount of sugar as similar recipes and is higher in fiber.
While purple sweet potatoes are a great way to mix things up, this dish can also be made with traditional sweet potatoes.
Serves: 16 people
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Carbohydrates: approximately 30–36 grams
- 3 lbs. purple sweet potatoes, washed but not peeled
- 2 cans (15 oz) sliced beets
- 2 tbsp. maple syrup
- 2 cups melted coconut oil
- 6 eggs
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/3 cup coconut flour
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
1. Shred the purple sweet potatoes, using the shredding blade in a large food processor. Set aside.
2. Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Rinse and drain the canned beets thoroughly. (I like to spread mine out on a towel and pat dry as an extra step to make sure I remove as much moisture as possible.)
3. Slice or chop the beets into your desired size. (I do a rough chop and even leave some of the slices whole.)
4. Add the shredded potatoes and sliced beets to a 2-gallon Ziploc bag, along with the maple syrup, and shake to combine well.
5. Spread the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. (You might use this time to clean your food processor. I'm a clean-as-you-go kind of person.)
6. Meanwhile, combine all of the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix together using a large whisk. Once the roasted potatoes and beets have cooled some, add them to the bowl and toss through. Reduce the heat of your oven to 350ºF.
7. Pour the entire mixture into a greased 9 x 13-inch pan and bake for 45 minutes.
8. Serve immediately.
Maple black pepper and bacon Brussels sprouts
Regardless of whether you have diabetes, it can be hard to eat enough vegetables during the holidays. This Brussels sprouts recipe, however, is a smart way to fit veggies into your meal.
It offers a great source of fiber and protein, two things that are crucial for stabilizing blood sugars over the holidays. It’s also low in carbohydrates and sugar. What’s more, it’s easy to prepare and the perfect combo of sweet and salty!
Serves: 6 people
Serving size: 2/3 cup
Carbohydrates: approximately 15 grams
- 8 oz. thick-cut uncured bacon
- 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, peeled and trimmed
- 2 tbsp. avocado oil
- 1 tbsp. minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 2 tbsp. maple syrup
- Preheat a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven on the stove over a medium heat. Add the bacon to the pan and cook until crispy.
- While the bacon is cooking, chop the Brussels sprouts in half, lengthwise.
- Remove the bacon from the pan, and set aside.
- Add the avocado oil to the pan along with the Brussels sprouts and minced garlic. Sauté them for 10–15 minutes (stirring occasionally) or until the Brussels sprouts begin to brown.
- Add the black pepper, bacon, and maple syrup to the pan, and toss to combine.
- Serve immediately. Enjoy!
Diabetes-friendly tips for the holiday season For tips on navigating the holidays with diabetes, here are three I picked up at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo 2018:
• Snack on fresh or frozen fruits, like blueberries and raspberries, and nuts, like walnuts. Both help nourish your body and keep your blood sugar stable before and after meals.
• Eat your veggies!
• Choose lower glycemic starch/carb side dishes, such as bean-based pastas or cauliflower mash. If those aren’t available, combine healthy fats — like avocado — with starches and bread to help promote stable blood sugars after a meal.
Mary Ellen Phipps is the registered dietitian nutritionist behindMilk & Honey Nutrition. She’s also a wife, mom, type 1 diabetic, and recipe developer. Browse her website for yummy diabetes-friendly recipes and helpful nutrition tips. She strives to make healthy eating easy, realistic, and most importantly... fun! She has expertise in family meal planning, corporate wellness, adult weight management, adult diabetes management, and metabolic syndrome. Reach out to her onInstagram.