Durga Puja and Navratri (nine sacred days to worship Goddess Durga) is that time of the year that calls for fasting, feasting and indulgent celebrations. Especially for people with diabetes, one must ensure diabetes-friendly feasting without missing out on the sumptuous treats.
Despite gastronomic temptations like the irresistible Bengali sweets or delicacies at the pandals or the Navratri thali comprising sumptuous vegetarian preparations and desserts it is best to plan your meals and routine keeping diabetes-friendly feasting in mind so that you avoid sugar spikes or a drop which can be caused by long hours of fasting.
Dr Radhika V Kumar, Senior Consultant of Endocrinology at Manipal Hospital, Sarjapur says, people with diabetes need to focus on portion control and choose foods that are lower in sugar and refined carbohydrates. It is best to include plenty of vegetables, lean proteins, and diabetes-friendly whole grains – rich in complex carbohydrates in your festive meals to avoid sugar spikes.
According to Dr Ashwitha Shruti Dass, a diabetologist from Bengaluru, though there are higher chances of people with diabetes consuming food rich in carbohydrates and sugar during the festival weeks, it could be effectively incorporated into their diabetes-friendly feasting and fasting with some better planning and healthy combinations of food, regular medications and exercises.
Feasting and Fasting: Strike the right balance
Bangalore-based dietitian Nidhi Nigam cautions people with diabetes to not overindulge in festive foods and not do strict fasting either. Sometimes overeating and fasting can lead to hyperglycemia (high sugar level) or hypoglycemia (drop of sugar level) respectively. So, the key point is to not leave the house on an empty stomach.
Having a few nuts and makhana (fox nuts) with flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc or peanuts is also a quick snackable option to keep the sudden hunger pangs at bay. You can even have cucumber raita to keep you partly full.
According to diabetologist Dr Dass, “It is best that you have a glass of buttermilk or a bowl of salad so that you won’t overeat when you go out.” She says, having diabetes-friendly fruits in moderation or as recommended by your physician is also fine. When you go for the main course at the pandal or the banquet then opt for protein-rich paneer, chicken or fish preparations so that you feel satiated and don’t overeat.
Nigam says when you prepare festive meals at home opt for gluten-free and low GI chapatis made with jowar (sorghum), rajgira atta (amaranth flour), bajra (pearl millet), or kuttu ka atta (buckwheat flour).
Dietitian Deepalekha Banerjee cautions people who are fasting to not go overboard with fruits. “Too much fruit intake can also increase sugar level because the fructose in the fruits breaks down into glucose and increases the sugar level in the blood,” she explains.
Walk more to burn those extra calories
Dr Dass advises people with diabetes who are on medications, not to miss their regular walks. Even during festive eating, 15-30 minutes of brisk walking help minimize the spike in sugar. If you are on insulin and are planning to change your diet during the festival and indulge a bit in those irresistible sweet preparations, then always consult your doctor first.
Add more fiber and protein to your diet
Before venturing on a feastful event, go for proteins first as they would satiate your appetite. “When you are in an optimal level of hunger and not famished you will not overeat or attack food,” adds Nigam.
If there are salads or vegetable options like cucumber, tomatoes or sprouts, then choose these to fill your stomach with fiber.
“Non-vegetarians can have two eggs then they can enjoy diabetes-friendly feasting in smaller portions,” suggests Nigam.
Alter preparations, carb and starch-rich ones
Experts also suggest that by making some wise dietary choices you could ensure not to miss out on the celebrations. One of the best ways would be to avoid or minimize the use of refined flour and regular atta in your Indian breads like poori and paratha. “Try to use an air fryer or as little oil as possible for frying food at home,” says Nigam.
Carb-heavy preparations made with potatoes can be replaced with pumpkins to make it diabetes-friendly. Dietician Banerjee also points out that potatoes could be underplayed a bit and compensated with mixed vegetables and oats in chops and cutlets. Grilled fish and chicken are also good options for non-vegetarians.
“Traditionally chops and cutlets are served with a bowl of salad and kasundi (mustard sauce) both of which help in digestion,” explains Banerjee.
When it comes to sweets and desserts, always opt for milk protein (chena or cottage cheese) based sweets instead of sweets made with maida or refined flour. For instance, if you are opting for rasgulla then it is best to skip or squeeze away the syrup. Payesh (Bengali milk and rice dessert) could be made with roasted suji (semolina) or semolina vermicelli instead of polished rice. And as always moderation would be the key factor here as far as diabetes management is concerned.
People with diabetes can savor festival food in moderation by including healthy proteins and fibers in their diet so that they do not overeat which leads to a spike in their sugar levels.
Festive foods can be substituted with healthier alternatives that are low in oil, carbohydrates and sugar.
They need to exercise portion control and stay active during the festivities so that they also burn out the extra calories.