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Healthier Diwali food

Diwali

If you’re planning on celebrating Diwali on Thursday 4 November and live with diabetes, you can still enjoy sweet treats, just in moderation.

Known as the festival of lights, Diwali is a great time to get together with friends and family and enjoy delicious foods. 

But traditional sweets can mean that Diwali presents a challenge for people with diabetes. Foods like barfi and mithai typically contain high fat and sugar levels, and fried foods such as pakoras and samosas are high in fat and calories. 

It is worth planning how you will prepare your Diwali foods and how much you will eat. If you are living with diabetes you don’t have to miss out if you plan your day’s meals in advance and use moderation in what you eat.

South Asian people are two to four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes which means lots of people with the condition, or at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, are joining in on the Diwali festivities.

How to have a healthier Diwali

Throughout the day, it’s best to eat healthier foods such as fruit and vegetables, wholegrain basmati rice, chickpeas and dhal. These types of foods can help keep your blood glucose levels more stable during the celebrations, but keep an eye on your portions. 

If we’re eating more sweet foods than usual our blood glucose levels can rise making us feel thirsty, tired and needing to pee more often. Watch out for these signs of high blood glucose and make sure you stay well hydrated on sugar free drinks. 

You can also make some small changes to make traditional recipes healthier, such as using vegetable oil instead of ghee, using spices and herbs to replace the salt, and by replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners.

Try our delicious take on pyaaj pakora baked battered onions

The other important thing to remember is to stay active, as this will also help you to manage your blood sugar levels. If you monitor your sugar levels, don’t forget to test more during the festivities to make sure they don’t get too high. 

Don’t worry too much if you have one or two high glucose readings. This shouldn’t affect your long-term diabetes control, but you should aim to avoid repeatedly having high readings.

Popular flavours such as cardamon, cinnamon, rose water, saffron and nutmeg are great aromas in the kitchen and in your special occasion dishes. You can use these as much as you like as these will have no effect on your blood glucose, cholesterol or blood pressure.

Diwali sweets and desserts

We should all be trying not to eat too much sugar, so be careful of extra sugars in your food. These are types of free (added) sugars you can find used in mithai and halwa: 

  • Jaggery or gur
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Honey
  • Syrup and molasses 
  • Fruit juice or mango pulp 

Rich milk-based puddings such as kheer and payasam are traditionally made with these ingredients too.

Try using a granulated sweetener instead of these ingredients. It will add a sweet flavour without extra carbohydrate, so your blood glucose levels won’t rise as much. If you adapt a recipe for this, remember the weight of sugar and sweeteners are different.  Recipes which ask for a tablespoon of sugar can be replaced with a tablespoon of sweetener for the same sweetness without the extra calories or carbohydrate. 

To reduce the total calorie and saturated fat content of your puddings try swapping whole milk for semi skimmed milk, and reducing the amount of ghee added if possible.

Check out our healthier take on a kheer pudding.

Comparing typical Diwali drinks

We need to drink 8-10 glasses of liquid every day to stay hydrated. It’s best to avoid fruit juice or fruit juice drinks as they contain a lot of free sugar, which can increase our glucose levels further. 

There can be plenty of tempting shop promotions for the celebrations, but be mindful that many of these can contain hidden free sugars. To help make it easier, we’ve compared some popular brands below. 

Drink 

Energy (kcal)

Carbs (g)

Sugar (g)

Traffic Light for sugar

Rubicon Sparkling Mango 330ml Can

65

15.5

15

Medium (amber)

Rubicon Mango Zero added sugar 330ml

20

3.3

3.3

Low (green)

Pakeeza Mango Lassi 250ml

238

38

34.5

High (red)

Pakeeza Skinny Mango Lassi 250ml

120

21.8

14.8

 Medium (amber)

Sun Exotic Pineapple & Coconut 250ml

50

12.5

12

Medium

(amber)

White Pearl Red Grape Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Juice Drink 250ml

70

17.5

15

Medium (amber)

Brand Icons/Telephone check - FontAwesome icons/tick icons/uk