Photo credit: Gnom-Gnom.com
Look at a traditional holiday spread—mashed potatoes, honey-baked ham, warm bread, pies—and every step is a glucose landmine, just waiting to leave you passed out on the couch, feeling bad. Instead, this year give yourself the gift of great eats and steady energy all day by making some simple swaps in your holiday menu. Don’t worry about a dinner table revolt: We promise each of these ideas is a delicious alternative, and can help keep your blood sugar stable, which means more joy now and for holidays to come.
The swap: Traditional Eggnog → Keto Eggnog
Why it’s better: Standard eggnog recipes call for up to a cup of refined sugar. That’s like eating a half-dozen candy bars. This recipe keeps all the eggy, frothy goodness, but replaces dairy milk with almond or macadamia nut milk and gets its sweetness from allulose, a natural sweetener alternative endorsed by Dr. Peter Attia.
The swap: Regular crackers –> Flax-seed crackers
Why it’s better: Get the sugar-spiking refined white flour off the hors d’oeuvres table this year by putting out crackers made entirely of flax seeds. Whether you make your own or buy a box, this alt snack is loaded with omega-3s and fiber. And don’t forget to set out the crudités with lots of cruciferous veggies like cauliflower and broccoli, which contain a compound called sulforaphane, which has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity.
The swap: Mashed potatoes → Cauliflower mash
Why it’s better: It’s not just sugar that can spike your glucose levels; high-carb foods like potatoes can do it too. That’s because they tend to have a high glycemic index (GI), which means the body breaks down their carbs into glucose faster, which can cause a quick rise in blood sugar (of course, everyone’s glucose response to carbohydrates will be different, so you can test for yourself). Mashed cauliflower has a great nutty taste, is incredibly creamy, and has a lower GI.
The swap: Traditional gravy → Mushroom gravy
Why it’s better: The roux that thickens gravy is typically made with white flour, a refined grain that’s typically not great for stable blood sugar. This mushroom sauce subs in cashews instead. Plus, a recent study found that white button mushrooms may alter the gut microbiome in a way that promotes better glucose regulation.
The swap: Glazed ham → Grass-fed or game meat
Why it’s better: Search for “Holiday Ham” and you’ll find recipes that call for up to 1.5 cups of sugar in the glaze. If you eat animal protein, go for game meats like venison or elk, which are lower in fat; grass fed and finished red meat, or pasture-raised poultry, or salmon. In general, high quality meat means more omega-3s and no antibiotics — two things that are important in supporting metabolic health. Stick with simple roasting and skip the glazes and sauces, which can have a lot of hidden sugar.
The swap: Gingerbread cake → Almond flour gingerbread cookies, almond flour cake with caramel frosting, or black bean brownies
Why it’s better: One key to any metabolically friendly desert is to lose the refined flour. Almond flour has a lower GI, more nutrients and may have other health benefits. If almonds aren’t your thing, try black beans, which is high in protein and has a rich flavor that pairs well with cocoa.
More great healthy ideas:
- Roasted asparagus and mushrooms – Eating metabolically well doesn’t just mean losing sugar, it also means getting plenty of fiber and micronutrients, which are plentiful in roasted veggies.
- Keto Cranberry Sauce – This recipe swaps out the sugar for natural alternative monk fruit
- Beet sauerkraut – Fermented foods contain probiotics that can be beneficial to our gut microbiome, and this recipe adds beets for extra color and flavor.
- Brussel sprout tahini salad – Tahini, made from ground sesame seeds, is a great source of healthy fat, which helps blunt blood sugar spikes.
Your holiday-cooking cheat sheet:
What’s missing from Levels’ holiday meal suggestions?
- Refined flour
- Refined sugar
- White potatoes
- Starchy vegetables
- Refined seed oils
- Salads with dried fruit
- Breaded/fried foods
- Maple syrup
What’s included in our pro-metabolic menu?
- Thoughtfully sourced proteins
- Fiber (flax, beans)
- Omega-3 fat sources
- Thoughtfully chosen sugar substitutes, like monkfruit and allulose, not artificial sweeteners like saccharin
- Lots of micronutrient rich foods to support metabolic functioning