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Healthful Holiday Recipes for Clients With Type 2 Diabetes

By Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, CDN

Ah, the holidays are upon us. Don’t you love ’em? I often find myself humming away to plenty a holiday tune. While it can feel like the most wonderful time of the year, the holidays often are overflowing with foods high in salt, sugar, and fat, which can make us feel, well, not so wonderful. Whether it’s a family gathering, a friend’s party, or an office celebration that includes lots of food, cakes, and cookies, the last few months of the year can be a challenge to even the most disciplined, healthful eater. Clients with type 2 diabetes will need to take special care to minimize pitfalls during this time of year amid the many unhealthful foods that will cross their paths.

To ensure the holidays are fun, enjoyable, and stress-free, RDs can help clients with type 2 diabetes develop a strategy and plan ahead so they can avoid eating too many unhealthful foods that aren’t kind to keeping blood sugar and A1c levels under control.

To get a head start on a more healthful holiday season, I’m sharing my favorite recipes that are delicious, easy to make, and diabetes friendly.

Dietitians can adjust holiday recipes to meet individual clients’ needs. To decrease saturated and overall fat in a dish, cook with olive oil instead of butter or use plain nonfat Greek yogurt instead of cream to thicken soups. If clients want to reduce sugar, replace one-half the sugar in a recipe with maple sugar, maple syrup, or honey and the other half with applesauce or a fruit purée. Fruit is a natural and delicious way to add sweetness without added sugars.

— Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, CDN, is a New York-based chef, culinary nutrition expert, and recipe/product developer. You can find her recipes, videos, and articles at CulinaryNutritionCuisine.com.


Vegetarian Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad

Serves 10


2 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts, shredded*
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved
1 cup whole wheat bread cubes, toasted (optional)

* Shredded Brussels sprouts typically can be found at stores such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. To shred them yourself, trim and shred/slice thinly with a knife or food processor.

1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup water
2 T lemon juice
1 1/2 T white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1. Place shredded Brussels sprouts in a large bowl.
2. Place dressing ingredients in a blender or Vitamix and blend.
3. Mix dressing and Brussels sprouts together. Garnish with shaved Parmesan and toasted bread cubes, if desired.

Nutrient Analysis per serving (4 oz of salad, 2 T dressing)
Calories: 160; Total fat: 13 g; Sat fat: 2 g; Sodium: 175 mg; Total carbohydrate: 9 g; Dietary fiber: 3 g; Sugars: 2 g; Protein: 5 g


Golden Berries With Vegetables and Herbed Yogurt Dressing

Golden berries, also known as gooseberries, often are used in desserts and jams. These little berries look like cherry tomatoes but are bursting with both sweet and tart flavors, adding an interesting twist to this vegetable side dish. Gooseberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and contain a wide variety of minerals and vitamins, including vitamin B, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and carotene. They’re also powerful antioxidants.

Serves 10


1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T lemon juice
2 T chives, minced
2 T basil, minced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1 head of cauliflower, grated
1 cucumber, diced small
2 bell peppers, diced small
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
4 containers (15.2 oz) golden berries, halved

1. Combine dressing ingredients in a large bowl and mix together well.
2. Add salad components to the bowl with dressing and incorporate well.
3. Garnish with extra golden berries and chives if desired.

Nutrient Analysis per serving (7 oz)
Calories: 60; Total fat: 1 g; Sat fat: 0 g; Sodium: 55 mg; Total carbohydrate: 12 g; Dietary fiber: 4 g; Sugars: 3 g; Protein: 4 g


Strawberries and Mascarpone

Serves 6

1 lb strawberries, halved
3/4 cup mascarpone
1 oz balsamic syrup/reduction
12 mint leaves

1. Spoon mascarpone onto plate.
2. Top with strawberry halves.
3. Garnish with balsamic syrup/reduction and mint.

Nutrient Analysis per serving (3 oz)
Calories: 95; Total fat: 7 g; Sat fat: 4 g; Sodium: 10 mg; Total carbohydrate: 10 g; Dietary fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 6 g; Protein: 2 g


Baked Apples

Serves 2

1 T walnuts (or nuts of your choice), chopped
1 T raisins (no added sugars)
1 T dried cranberries (no added sugars) (You can use any dried fruit you like)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 medium apples, washed and cored (Granny Smith or Honeycrisp hold their shape better when cooking)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp raw honey or maple syrup (optional)

1. Preheat oven 350° F. Combine the nuts, dried fruit, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl.
2. Place the apples in a small baking dish or loaf pan.
3. Fill the core of each apple with the fruit and nut mixture.
4. Pour the water in the dish and, if desired, drizzle the honey or syrup over the apples.
5. Cover with foil (or use an ovenproof cover for the dish) and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until apples are tender.

Nutrient Analysis per serving (one apple)
Calories: 165; Total fat: 3 g; Sat fat: 0 g; Sodium: 5 mg; Total carbohydrate: 30 g; Dietary fiber: 6 g; Sugars: 21 g; Protein: 2 g
* Analysis doesn’t include optional honey or maple syrup.

— All recipes and photos courtesy of Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, CDN