During a time of year that’s filled with heavy dishes, most everyone faces a challenge to eat a healthy diet. While that may not be of utmost importance to some just looking to enjoy rich holiday desserts (hey, we don’t blame you), for those facing health issues like diabetes, making healthy meal choices can make all the difference.

Why and How a Plant-Based Diet Works for Diabetes

The beauty is that many plant-based holiday meals are automatically healthier than animal-based dishes rich in cholesterol and fats and proteins that contribute directly to diabetes (and even cancer). Research has shown that a whole foods plant-based diet is incredibly beneficial for treating symptoms of Type 1 diabetes (genetic) and even curing Type 2 diabetes (non-genetic). The reason being that animal foods (contrary to belief) cause a larger rise in glucose than most all plant-based foods. People that switch to a whole foods plant-based diet (greens, vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds) experience lower blood sugar levels and even greater satiety than those that eat a diet that includes animal foods do.

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The American Diabetes Association even now suggests that a plant-based diet be followed to prevent and treat diabetes because it means consuming fewer calories and less fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol while also consuming more fiber, potassium, vitamins and minerals. So choosing plant-based is the first step to taking care of yourself during the holidays. So skip the ham and go for some hearty sweet potatoes, green beans, and vegan stuffing instead!

Choose Fiber-Rich, Low Glycemic Foods When Possible

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Aside from the ham, that sugary piece of pie may look divine, but might not serve your blood sugar well. Remember that though sugary desserts may technically be plant-based, that doesn’t necessarily make them glycemic-friendly. One of the benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet is that it improves blood sugar, so base your diet off simple, whole foods. To satisfy your sweet tooth, aim to eat more healthier sweet foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, cranberries, apples, and other seasonal delights are much more blood-sugar friendly that also keep you full due to higher amounts of fiber. They also bring nutrients to your body, which it’s ultimately hungry for. If you crave sugary foods, it could be a sign you’re not be eating enough high quality carbohydrates or your diet doesn’t include enough nutrients to fuel your body. Turn to whole foods, which always have more fiber and beneficial carbs that more processed options (i.e. white sugar, flour, chips, cookies). Looking to still enjoy some pie? Try this indulgent no-bake pumpkin pie that’s actually both vegan and sugar-free, and even made from 100 percent whole foods.

Watch Out for Sugary Syrups and Sauces

Sauces and syrups generally house all sugar and almost no fiber. They also don’t keep you full for very long like more fibrous foods (grains, apples, sweet potatoes, beans) do. So, instead of the sugary, fatty sauces, syrups, and oils, go for natural (more healthy) flavor-boosters such as freshly squeezed citrus juice, roasted veggies, herbs and spices, or a healthy vegan sauce. Instead of sugary syrups that have no fiber to slow down the release of those sugars into the bloodstream, make your own by pureeing some berries for a one ingredient syrup in minutes you can serve over anything you like!

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Remember that many healthy plant-based foods can easily be transformed into tasty and satisfying holiday meals, sans the sugar, butter, and eggs. Some to include are: sweet potatoes, green beans, roasted Brussels sprouts, squash, chestnuts, wild rice, mushroom stuffing, whole corn (not creamed), or roasted veggies. You can also try any of our Christmas recipes (or even Thanksgiving options) that have a little piece of healthy for a variety of dietary needs and wishes.

Don’t be tempted to neglect your health during the holidays, at least as much as possible. You deserve to feel your best at one of the most enjoyable, momentous times of the year and can enjoy a delicious meal that will serve you (and your blood sugar) well.

Image Source: Phil Wiffen/Flickr