Sugar and fat-laden pies, cookies and egg nog. Stuffing, sweet potatoes topped with marshmallow, gravy-laden mashed potatoes. These are among the foods that make the holidays taste so good, but can also wreak havoc for people with diabetes trying to eat healthy.

"Choosing smaller portion sizes and healthier food options is the same for everyone," says Bonny Huston, RN,  health services manager for the Barton Center for Diabetes Education. "Don't beat yourself up or go on a guilt trip if you overeat on, say, Thanksgiving. Your blood sugar may be above target that day but you have the power to gain control back by choosing moderation during the rest of the holiday season."

Holidays are a time when you want to indulge in your favorite foods, and one strategy is to offer yourself one small treat per day, says Caroline Bohl, diabetes educator and registered dietitian at the Naomi Berrie Center for Diabetes at New York Presbyterian Hospital.  And you can take control of what you eat by getting involved in cooking yourself.

"Prepare some of your favorite foods so that you are familiar with the nutrient content," Bohl says. "And plan to bring along a low-calorie option that is healthy for everyone."

Smart Holiday Substitutes

  • For appetizers, skip the full-fat cheese and crackers and "pigs in the blanket".  Have a big platter of fresh cut up vegetables and a low-fat dip instead.
  • Eat a slice of white turkey meat rather than dark turkey meat. It has less fat.
  • In place of a green bean casserole made with canned green beans and canned soup, serve fresh green beans instead.
  • Rather than sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows, have baked sweet potatoes or make sweet potato "fries" by cutting sweet potatoes into strips and roasting them on a baking sheet that you have sprayed with calorie-free cooking spray.
  • In place of apple pie, make baked apples with a little bit of butter and brown sugar or artificial sweetener.
  • Rather than pecan pie or cheesecake, have a (small) piece of pumpkin or sweet potato pie. They have fiber and betacarotene, points out Caroline Bohl.
  • Instead of egg nog, fill a glass with one part fruit juice and three parts seltzer.

Other ways to make it easy to resist the season's temptations:

  • Plan ahead, says Bohl. Pack a few healthy snacks so that when you're running around, you won't be tempted to grab an unhealthy choice at a fast food restaurant or mall.
  • Get enough sleep. "Repeated sleep loss reduces your ability to resist temptations and may affect the components of metabolism that influence hunger and weight gain," Bohl says. "Although you may be busy, make sleep a priority."
  • Modify your favorite recipes by using low-fat dairy products instead of full-fat versions, Bohl says. And if a recipe calls for a fried ingredient, try baking or broiling it instead.
  • Whatever you eat, remember that all is not lost. "Overeating at one meal does not spell catastrophe," says Bohl. "You can increase activity or reduce portions for the few days after."