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Jo-Anne M. Rizzotto, M.Ed, R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E.

Jo-Anne Rizzotto, MEd, RDN, LDN, CDCES, is Director of Educational Services at the Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA. She is a registered dietitian and a certified diabetes educator with over 25 years of clinical, research, management and industry experience and is a key member of the clinic leadership team. Jo-Anne is co-chair and an active member of the National Certification Board of Diabetes Educators Exam Board. Jo-Anne has a proven track record of managing many facets of quality assurance and improvement with documented outcomes including advancing the use of technologies in the clinic for the management of diabetes. Jo-Anne establishes, directs and manages all aspects of diabetes education programs including overall direction, content, design, delivery, budgeting and staff management. She ensures all programs and staff delivering education meet the highest quality standards and do so with the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness. Jo-Anne participates in and has been the co-principle investigator in numerous clinical research studies. Jo-Anne chairs and participates in a variety of high level selection committees, clinical guideline committees, publication review committees and academic promotion committees. She also chairs the quality committee with the General Counsel at the Joslin in addition to the Clinic policy and procedure committee.

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Diabetic-friendly Holiday Meal Planning

Ask the Expert


I have a family member who's coming to our house for the holidays. She has diabetes. Is there anything I should keep in mind when planning meals?


Meal planning guidelines for individuals with diabetes are the same as for those of us who do not have diabetes and want to eat healthy. Eating healthy but allowing for some indulgences during the holiday season is OK for everyone, including those with diabetes. The key is planning ahead when having a guest with diabetes for dinner. With your thoughtfulness in preplanning the holiday meal, it will be easier for your friend to enjoy herself.

Some tips for the holidays:

• Serve foods, such as fruit, nuts in the shell, or a fresh vegetable tray with light spreadable cheeses or dips, to be enjoyed whenever guests need to eat. Certain diabetes medications may require a person to eat a snack sooner than the meal can be served.

• When planning your menu, provide a balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat. The Thanksgiving meal is a good example: roasted white meat turkey, baked sweet potato, plenty of greens and perhaps a fruit cup for a starter. You might add a tossed salad as an option (even if it isn't a traditional part of the holiday meal).

• Serve food family style or buffet-style so guests can choose their selections and control portion sizes. People with diabetes generally are advised to fill most of their plate with vegetables, whole grains and unsweetened fruits, with smaller portions of low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods, and very small amounts, if any, of alcohol-containing, high-fat or high-sugar foods.

• Provide a choice of low-sugar, low-fat desserts. For example, substitute artificial sweeteners for part or all of the sugar used in recipes. Using artificial sweeteners will decrease the carbohydrate content of the food, allowing your guests to eat more carbohydrates during the rest of their meal.

• Use one-third less sugar in your recipes. Serve pumpkin or apple pie because each has fewer calories and carbohydrates than pecan pie.

• Serve a variety of sugar-free beverages, including water. Another option is a spritzer, which can be made with seltzer water, a splash of cranberry juice and lime. If your guest prefers wine, offer a wine spritzer.

• Limit added fats such as butter, oil, cream or cheese to your food preparation. Use nonfat milk or low-fat milk in recipes; evaporated skim milk is a good substitute for cream. Provide reduced-fat cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, salad dressings or other toppings as choices. Fat-free dips are a good alternative. Serve sauces and gravies in separate bowls and let people choose the amount to add to food.

• Ask your guest if there are any particular "favorite" holiday foods that she usually eats and try to have one or two available for her.

• Finally, consider asking your guest when she usually eats her meals, and, if possible, think about adapting your meal schedule to better accommodate hers.

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