Independence Day is just around the corner, and chances are you may be celebrating the day with friends and family. But if you are on a gluten-free or reduced-carbohydrate diet, you may be viewing the upcoming holiday with a little apprehension. Traditional Fourth of July fare isn’t always healthy or diabetes-friendly. Not to worry – there are many wonderful alternatives to the carb-heavy, gluten-filled goodies often associated with this summer holiday. I have found that with a little advance preparation it is possible to declare independence from sugar and gluten, and still enjoy the day! Just remember to avoid portion pitfalls, and be sure to check with your diabetes care team if you’re considering making changes to your meal plan. (Read more here about portion sizes.)
The Cookout: In my opinion, really good, well-seasoned burgers and sausages don’t need a bun; they can taste just as good wrapped in lettuce or simply eaten with a knife and fork. Other barbecue favorites, like wings and ribs, may also be good low-carb choices for the holiday. I season them with dry rubs instead of store-bought barbecue sauces, which may contain sugar or gluten. (Find some tips here for reading food labels.) Or I make my own sugar-free sauces and condiments to accompany these meaty offerings. (Read more about diabetes-friendlier grilling.)
The Fakeout: It may sound a little crazy, but delicious sides like potato or pasta salad don’t actually have to be made with potatoes or pasta. Some creative cooks are using lower-carb vegetables like cauliflower, radishes, turnips and zucchini as stand-ins for potatoes, often with great success. These “mock” potato salad recipes might even fool your guests. And, in my experience, new kitchen tools like the spiral vegetable slicers make it easier to turn just about any vegetable into noodles, so you may add a zucchini or cucumber ribbon salad to your menu for a fresh take on pasta salad.
Taking a Dip: What’s a Fourth of July gathering without the requisite chips and dips to munch on? Making fresh salsa and guacamole at home may help you avoid any sneakily added sugars or gluten. To replace the heavy potato and tortilla chips, I recommend serving dips with endive leaves and slices of cucumber or zucchini. It is also possible to make wonderful crisps with nut flours and flax seed meal strong enough to hold up to the heartiest dip. (Get more tips about dips and salsa here.)
The Big Freeze: Red, white and blue ice pops often make an appearance on Independence Day, but they don’t have to be the sugary store-bought kind. The molds are inexpensive and you might easily make your own frozen treats with a little stevia or other low-carb sweetener. (Read more about stevia and other sugar substitutes.) I recommend pureeing some fresh blueberries and strawberries and alternating them with Greek yogurt for a layered effect, or skipping the molds altogether and simply making a fresh berry and yogurt parfait.
Waving the Flag: Thinking of making a flag cake for dessert? I suggest giving it a low-carb or gluten-free makeover by baking an almond flour cake, spreading it with stevia-sweetened whipped cream, then topping it with blueberries and strawberries in a stars-and-stripes pattern. Or I recommend making a low-carb vanilla cheesecake with a gluten-free crust and using that as the base for a fresh berry flag. I find there are plenty of great recipes for cakes like these to choose from, and guests may never be the wiser.
With so many wonderful and healthful options for the Fourth of July holiday, I believe it’s possible to celebrate patriotism in style – without derailing your reduced-carb or gluten-free meal plan.
Carolyn Ketchum is a writer, runner, and the mastermind behind All Day I Dream About Food, a mostly low-carb, gluten-free food blog. She has a Master’s degree in physical anthropology and an extensive background in higher education administration. Ketchum is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience