Christmas time isn’t a great time of year to have gestational diabetes (GDM) but what is important is to keep things in perspective. You need to be sensible about your food choices, but also need to remember that one day isn’t going to make a huge difference in the scheme of things. Your mental health is also important at a time in the year when emotions and expectations are probably already running high. Here are a few basic tips to consider when approaching a festive meal like Christmas lunch or dinner. To bring these suggestions to life, I’ve also included a delicious Christmas menu plan from one of our readers, along with my feedback.
Written by Natasha Leader (Accredited Practising Dietitian & Credentialled Diabetes Educator and GestationalDiabetesRecipes.com In-Kitchen Dietitian)
It might be tradition but you can adjust a recipe
Food plays a major role in our social gatherings so adjusting recipes (if you are preparing the Christmas meal) is one approach to staying social. This way you don’t feel you aren’t missing out on things entirely and you can be somewhat in control of the meal plan. Can you introduce more salads to the table and serve dressings and sauces separately? A pasta salad for example is a good way to reduce but still include some carbohydrates. Grilled, roasted and barbequed meats are delicious, high protein and carb free however give the fat a miss (sorry pork crackling).
It’s all in the timing
Another thing to consider is the timing of your meal. Christmas meal is often a long, extended events, which is actually good for GDM as it spaces out the glucose influx to your body. So pacing yourself at the table and keeping dessert until a couple of hours after the meal is really helpful.
Bring your own
Don’t be afraid to ask if you can contribute a GDM friendly dish or two to the table so you know there is at least one thing you can eat stress free. And if that’s not an option, ask your host what will be on the menu so that you can familiarise yourself beforehand with GDM friendly portions. Is it possible to ask if they can make a few small adjustments like sauces and dressings served separately?
A delicious case study
Sara, one of readers, is a self-proclaimed ambitious home cook who has GDM for the first time. She emailed me via our Facebook page, wishing to run her Christmas menu by me to see what improvements might be made and to find out what dishes she could hopefully indulge a little more in. Thanks for sharing your delicious menu Sara – I’ll happily taste test any time!
Chilled shrimp cocktail (with homemade cocktail sauce using horseradish, reduced sugar ketchup, lemon juice and spices)
Assorted olives/pickles/roasted peppers
My feedback: All the starters don’t contain carbohydrate or it is minimal. However take care as (at least in Australia) shrimp, soft cheeses, deli olives etc. are considered listeria risk food for pregnant women. If you are planning any crisps, chips or crackers for starters just be wary, as they are usually either high in carbs or fat. Wherever possible choose whole wheat or whole grain but also consider veggie sticks (carrot, celery, capsicum etc.) as an alternative.
Sara’s Entrée/ Main Course
A baked ham
My feedback: Sara decided to make a ham instead of a turkey to avoid stuffing and gravy. She also suggested serving the glaze or sauce on the side for her guests, which are all great choices. Ham is carb free so this is something that she could potentially ‘splurge’ a little on. It should be noted that ham is high in sodium (salt). Essentially you can fill up on any protein or vegetables (that don’t contain carb). For more information read our factsheet on Free Foods.
Roasted Asparagus tossed in olive oil & kosher salt
Baked potatoes (with gravy on the side)
Cauliflower Gratin (cauliflower, gruyere cheese, Parmesan cheese, milk and some kind of bread crumb topping)
Creamed spinach with onions (blanched spinach, butter, 2% milk, onions, 4 slices diced bacon, cayenne pepper)
Mashed turnips with a little butter and salt
My feedback: Most of those sides are fine as long as Sara watches the amount of potato but this will be easier as she is doing baked and not mashed. Some people find sweet potato (yam) works better for them but it is up to individual taste. She might find that the fat (butter/cheese etc.) content added into some of the dishes causes her body to struggle a bit more in processing the glucose as it worsens insulin resistance – so remember that even if the carb content is okay, the fat content can sometimes work against you.
Citrus Ricotta Torte (sugar free skim ricotta and low fat cream cheese, 11g carb per serving)
My feedback: As I mentioned earlier in the article, if you space out your meal taking a break between mains and dessert and give your body time to process the glucose, the effects of a modest size of ricotta torte are not likely to be problematic and this recipe has the benefit of being low fat as well.
Last updated December 2012