Diabetes & the Holidays - Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare

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Diabetes & the Holidays

Yikes! It’s the Holidays! What’s a Person with Diabetes to Do?

OK everyone, brace yourself. The holidays are coming fast and furious. And if you have diabetes, you know that means an extra helping of stress worrying about what you can eat and still stay on track. But there’s no need to curl up in a ball while visions of celery sticks dance in your head! The expert dietitians at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare – who happen to be excellent cooks by the way – are here to help.

We all want to eat healthier during the holidays. It’s important for everyone, including people with diabetes. Especially as our holidays are usually all about food. The rich, gooey, yummy kind we wait for all year long.

The good news is with a little advanced planning and a few tweaks to some of those time-honored recipes, there’s no need to deprive yourself. Take a look at this exceptional Thanksgiving dinner menu, complete with recipes, and tell me you’re missing something.

P.S. Remember to say "Grace."

Herb-Roasted Turkey


10-12 pound turkey
¼ cup fresh herbs, plus 20 whole sprigs, such as thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano and/or marjoram, divided
1-2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
Aromatics: onion, apple, lemon and/or orange, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 1 ½ cups)
3 cups water, plus more as needed


  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 475°F
  2. Remove giblits and neck from turkey cavity. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a large roasting pan and pat dry with paper towel. Mix minced herbs, oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the herb mixture all over the turkey, under the skin and onto the breast meat. Place aromatics and 10 of the herb sprigs in the cavity. Tuck the wing tips under the turkey. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Add 3 cups water and the remaining 10 herb sprigs to the pan.
  3. Roast the turkey until the skin is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove the turkey from the oven. Cover the breast with a double layer of foil. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and continue roasting for about 1 ½ hours more. The turkey is done when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh without touching bone registers 165°F.
  4. Transfer the turkey to a serving platter and cover with foil. Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes. Remove string and carve.

Yield: 12-3 ounce servings
Per serving (without skin): 155 calories; 5g fat; 175mg sodium

Creamy Garlic Herb Dip


½ cup (4 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese
¼ cup 1% fat buttermilk
2 Tbsp. minced fresh chives
1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1 tsp. grated lemon rind
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 small garlic clove, minced


  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Beat with a mixer at high speed for 2 minutes or until smooth.

Yield: 12 2-tablespoon servings
1 serving equals 55 calories, 4 g fat, 1.5 g carbohydrate

Apple Salad


½ cup unsweetened apple juice
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. canola oil
4½ tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
Dash ground nutmeg
1 medium red apple, chopped
1 medium green apple, chopped
6 cups torn green leaf lettuce
6 cups torn red leaf lettuce


  1. In a large salad bowl, whisk the first 10 ingredients until blended. 
  2. Add apples; toss ingredients to coat. 
  3. Place lettuce over apple mixture (do not toss). 
  4. Refrigerate.
  5. Toss to coat just before serving to prevent apples from turning brown.

Yield: 12 1-cup servings
1 serving equals 50 calories, 2 g fat, 7 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber

Green Bean Casserole


4 wedges light Swiss cheese (such as Laughing Cow)
½ onion, diced
1 tsp trans-fat free margarine
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
¼ tsp salt (optional)
¼ tsp black pepper
½ cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp cold water
¼ cup lowfat milk
2 14.5-oz cans no-salt added green beans, drained

For Topping:
1 cup corn flakes, crushed
1 ½ Tbsp trans-fat free margarine, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a 1.5-qt baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Heat cheese wedges in microwave for 30 seconds; stir. Set aside.
  3. Heat a large nonstick sauté pan coated with nonstick spray over medium heat. Add onions and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add margarine to pan and melt. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper, and cook for 4-5 minutes. Pour broth into pan and simmer for 1 minute.
  4. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and cold water; add to broth mixture and stir for 1 minute.
  5. Add melted cheese wedges to pan and mix well. Add milk; stir to incorporate. Cook additional 2-3 minutes until thick.
  6. Remove pan from heat and stir in beans. Pour entire recipe into baking dish. 
  7. In a small bowl, prepare topping by mixing corn flakes and margarine. Spread on top of green beans. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Yields: approx. 7½-cup servings
1 serving equals approx. 92 calories, 2.0 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 268.9 mg sodium, 13.4 g total carbohydrates, 4 g protein

Cranberry Sauce


1 12 oz bag fresh cranberries
12 oz applesauce
2 tblspns orange zest
¼ tspn cinnamon
¼ tspn salt
1 cup water


  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. 
  2. Reduce heat and simmer until the berries pop and the mixture thickens, about 30 minutes. 
  3. Allow to cool, then refrigerate.

Light Sweet Potato Casserole


2 ½ lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1/3 cup low fat milk
4 egg whites or ¼ cup egg substitute
2 Tbsp brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
For Topping:
1 Tbsp butter or trans-fat free margarine
2 Tbsp chopped pecans
1 Tbsp brown sugar
¼ cup Special K® cereal


  1. Place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until tender. Drain and place in a large bowl; mash.
  2. Combine mashed sweet potatoes, milk, egg whites, brown sugar, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon until smooth.
  3. Transfer to a 1-qt baking dish coated with nonstick spray. Cover and bake at 350°F for 15 minutes. 
  4. While baking, melt butter in a saucepan. Add pecans and brown sugar; cool and stir until sugar is melted. Stir in cereal until coated. Sprinkle over potato mixture.
  5. Bake, uncovered, 15-20 minutes longer or until topping is golden brown.

Yield: 8 servings
1 serving equals 170 calories, 2.5 g total fat (.5 saturated fat), 125 mg sodium, 37 g total carbohydrates (4 g dietary fiber), 3.5 g protein

Crustless Pumpkin Pie


1 egg
2 egg whites
1 can (15 oz) solid-pack pumpkin
¾ cup sugar substitute (such as Splenda)
½ cup biscuit/baking mix
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp cloves
1 can (12 oz) nonfat evaporated milk


  1. Combine egg, egg whites, pumpkin, sugar substitute, baking mix, vanilla, and spices until smooth. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
  2. Pour into a 9-inch pie plate coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for 35-40 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Yield: 8 servings
1 serving equals 99.7 calories, 1.3 g total fat (.3 g saturated fat), 135.5 mg sodium, 15.9 g total carbohydrate (1.7 g dietary fiber, 8.6 g sugars), 5.9 g protein

Pumpkin Mousse


1 0.3-oz package sugar-free butterscotch pudding mix
1 ½ cups cold milk
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 ½ cups light frozen whipped topping, thawed
¼ cup crushed gingersnaps


  1. Beat pudding mix and milk in a large bowl until well-blended, about 2 minutes.
  2. Blend in pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg, then fold in whipped topping.
  3. Spoon ½-cup servings into serving dishes; chill for 3 hours.
  4. Sprinkle with crushed gingersnaps before serving.

Yield: 8 servings
1 serving equals 65 calories, .2 g total fat (.1 g saturated fat), 188 mg sodium, 13 g total carbohydrate, 2 g protein

Holiday Punch


1 cup light cranberry juice
1 cup orange juice
1½ cups water
½ cup Splenda
2 cups diet ginger ale


  1. Combine all ingredients in a pitcher.
  2. Stir to blend.

Yield: approx. 7 six-ounce servings
1 serving equals approx. 25 calories, 6 g carbohydrate

Diabetic? Tips for Making Smart Holiday Food Choices

Get more helpful hints on satisfying the holiday urge to splurge. Watch this brief video on healthy eating for diabetics during the holidays.

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