How to enjoy Diwali when I have diabetes? – 13 practical tips (yes you can still eat sweets)

Deepavali is coming, are you ready for it?

Like many other celebrations, food plays a central role in it. While there is a lot of food to be enjoyed, the “Festival of light” cannot be completed without the sweets.

It can be challenging for people with diabetes, especially when food becomes a sign of connection among people, and everyone is eating them.

However, it is not impossible to maintain a pretty blood sugar reading and celebrate the festive at the same time.

First, let’s see what are the popular Diwali sweets (and savoury tidbits) in Malaysia!

5 Popular Diwali Treats that Malaysians Like

1. Murukku

Murukku, Diwali treats

No one can deny that Muruku is the signature snack on Deepavali. The name “muruku” is derived from the Tamil word for “twisted”, which can be seen on its shape.

The spiced, savoury snack is made from a mixture of rice and urad dal flour deep-fried in vegetable oils.

2. Laddu

A bowl of Laddu, an Indian sweet eaten during Deepavali

The nutty sugary ball is a mixture of “boondi”(flour fried in tiny droplets), sugar and ghee, nuts, and shaped into a ball. Laddu is a popular snack served in major Indian festivals and celebrations such as weddings.

However, it is coated and shaped with sugary syrup, one laddu contains about 25g of carbohydrates, (a small bowl of rice has roughly 45g of carbs). Thus, it is not an ideal choice for people with diabetes. 

3. Adhirasam

Adhirasam, a type of doughnut-liked Indian snack

Adhirasam is a doughnut-like Indian sweet with a long history. Even though the ingredients are simple - raw rice, jaggery (an unrefined brown sugar), ghee and some spices, the preparation is pretty tedious.

However, you know it is worth the hassle when you pop one into your mouth! 

4. Ghee ball

Ghee ball, a sweet Indian indulgence during Diwali

Ghee ball or nei urundai is a must-have item in Diwali festive. It is sweet, but not as sweet as laddu.

Ghee ball is made from mung bean flour, ghee, sugar, cardamom powder, nuts and raisin. You can taste the aroma of mung bean instantly as the fluffy sweet ball melt in your mouth when it reach your tongue!

5. Achu Murukku

Achu Murukku, honeycomb-shape fritter

Achu Murruku, also known as “rose cookies (kuih ros)” got its name from its rose/honeycomb-shaped. It is made from a mixture of rice flour, egg, coconut milk and sugar, coated with flower-liked mould and deep-fried in hot oil.

The fritter is super thin and crispy, you might overly eat them before you notice. Rose cookies is also a common kuih to be enjoyed during Chinese New Year.

Except the list above, there are many more snacks like Jalebi, Chippi, coconut candy, Mysore Pak and many more!

It is exciting to discuss the delicacies, however, all of them have one similarity - They are all calories-dense, super high in sugar, high in fat and it’s not good for your blood sugar level…

Assorted Diwali sweets and treats

Oh man, what a buzzkill! Why can’t I just enjoy what I want to eat? The celebration is only once a year!

Yes, we understand. However, the festival is meant to be merry, we do not wish your health is being affected by the indulgence. Besides, let’s be clear, we all know that Malaysia has endless festivals to be celebrated.

Don’t worry, you can still enjoy the Festival of Light, by following the steps below!

1

Check your blood sugar every day during the festive

Since there are many tempting festivity foods, it is important to always keep your blood glucose monitored. Check your blood glucose at least once a day, and keep within these readings.

Fasting blood glucose

4.4 - 7.9 mmol/L

Non-fasting blood glucose (2 hours after mealtime)

4.4 - 8.5 mmol/L

Source: Malaysia CPG Guideline: Management of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

If you are with insulin, it’s better to check few times per day.

Consider buying a blood glucose meter If you do not have one - it is comparatively inexpensive and allows you to monitor your glucose level effectively.

2

Separate snack time and proper meal time

Carbohydrate is the main thing that affects blood glucose. It is recommended to not eat the main meal with snacks to prevent a shoot-up in blood sugar.


You can have snacks around 2 hours after main meal. 

3

Opt for a savoury snack instead of a sweet

Opt for a lighter, healthier choice of snack like almonds, and cashew nuts. If you really have a strong desire towards sweet stuff, of course, you can have it.

However, remember note 1 - constantly checking your blood glucose. 

4

Make your own healthier version of the snack

You want to eat the snack, but are insecure about the sugar and fat used. Consider making your own Diwali tidbits.

> Instead of fried, try if you can make a baked version.
> Try cutting down the amount of sugar in half, or consider using an artificial sweetener.
> Replace regular flour with some low glycemic flour like almond flour or chickpea flour.

Besides enjoying a healthier version of snacks, making food with family is also one of the ways to celebrate Diwali. 

5

Do not eat while chatting

People tend to eat more when they are with others. This is because the focus was on conversation, not food. It is not a good habit, especially for those who have diseases like diabetes.

If it is avoidable, you can follow the following advice. 

6

Take your own portion

Instead of keep taking food from shared plates, you can take your own portion, and only eat food from your plate. Same goes to the snack, place them into a small bowl and avoid taking them from the container.

With this practice, you are able to know exactly how much you are eating. 

7

Enjoy the food slowly, with smaller bites

When we wolfed the food, we are barely just gulping and not enjoying the food. Try to reduce the speed of eating, and chew thoroughly, let the taste of food fill within your mouth.

Slow eating not only prevents you from overeating, but it is also a good tactic to prevent sugar spikes. 

8

Eat more fibre, of course!

Don’t forget to practice a healthy plate method, or “suku-suku separuh” when celebrating. You might forget as there are so many gourmets in front of you, but your blood sugar doesn’t.

Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. The veggies are best buddies to blood glucose, they never betray.

9

Include protein and eat them first

Include a moderate amount of protein in your meal. Eat them first as protein provide fullness and stops you from eating too many carbs.

The choice of protein is also key. Opt for a non-fried version, tandoori chicken instead of fried chicken, for example. 

10

Enjoy the snack with sugar-free tea

Do not forget to keep yourself hydrated. Make sure to drink at least 2 litres of water each day unless you have a certain medical condition that requires water restriction. Have a cup of sugar-free tea when having a sweet indulgence or a greasy meal.

Avoid sugary drinks, canned soft drinks, alcohol or even fruit juice. They might spike your blood sugar faster than the food. 

11

Maintain a regular meal time, avoid fasting and feasting

Talking about diabetes, we are always concerned about blood sugar spikes and ignore hypoglycemia (blood sugar lower than normal range).

This can happen when you are busy with Diwali stuff, like cleaning the house or entertaining your friends and relatives.

Hypoglycemia is as dangerous as hyperglycemia. Make sure you have a regular meal pattern like a non-festive period. Avoid a long time fasting and feasting in sudden. 

12

Dance! Dance! Dance! to stay active

Music and dance are huge factors that light up the celebration, do some dancing to blend into the atmosphere, and incorporate more activity at the same time.

If you are not a fan of dancing, having a walk with your family after dinner, and admiring the street lights is also a good choice. 

13

Do not forget to consume medicine if you need to

If you are on medicines or insulin, remember to take them on time. 

Bare in mind that food is only a part of the festive, it’s not all of it. Even though different region in India has own way to commemorating this festival, it comes to the agreement that the Festival of Light represents light over darkness and good over evil.

It is important to embrace the ideology of this festival, while food is just a form of expression. 

Struggle to control blood sugar?

Let us help. Talk to our dietitian now. 

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