Spring is here and everyone is happy to see longer, warmer days. Garden parties and barbecues are a great way to celebrate the season. Enjoy the seasonal pleasures without guilt when you prepare an original springtime diabetes meal from appetizer to dessert.

  • Appetizers keep timely guests satisfied while you wait for the later ones to arrive. Now that spring has sprung, you can have your party outdoors. Skewers are an ideal finger food because you don’t need to bother with plates and utensils. Serve up apricot glazed shrimp on skewers to kick off your springtime meal. For a party of eight, purchase 3 pounds of large shrimp that are peeled and de-veined, or do it yourself. Put cooking spray on a broiler pan and pre-heat the broiler. Mix 2/3 cup of sugar-free apricot spread with 3 tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of ground ginger and 2 teaspoons of sesame oil. Put the shrimp and 1″ inch chunks of fresh pineapple alternately on kabob sticks. Brush the shrimp and pineapple with apricot glaze, broil for 3 minutes, turn and glaze again then broil for another 3 minutes. Add a dash more apricot glaze and serve.
  • mealKeep the salad simple, crunchy and healthy. Mix baby romaine lettuce, chicory, endive and spinach in equal parts to fill a large salad bowl. Cut three tomatoes and one cucumber into thin slices, and then toss into the greens. Dice 1/2 of an onion and 1 hard cooked egg to sprinkle over the top of the salad. Serve with Walden farms salad dressing, one of the many diabetic foods with plenty of flavor but no calories, sugar or salt. Try the honey mustard and ranch to please any palate.
  • For the main course, serve Greek-inspired burgers and grilled chicken with avocados. Both can be prepared on the grill on a sunny spring day. For the burgers, mix two pounds of 90 percent lean or higher ground beef with 4 tablespoons of feta cheese, 2 minced garlic cloves and 4 tablespoons of fresh parsley. Shape into burgers and grill until cooked to taste. Serve on a split whole wheat bun, lined on one side with fresh spinach leaves with a slice of fresh tomato on the other. The second dish is even easier. Use two pounds of lean, thin-sliced chicken breasts. Sprinkle both sides with dried garlic and rosemary then grill. Serve on a bed of arugula with slices of avocado.
  • Top off your spring dinner party with a tantalizing dessert. Serve 3/4 cup of fresh, warm fruit topped with two tablespoons of part-skim, low fat ricotta and top it off with a tablespoon of toasted, slivered almonds in a fancy dessert cup. Try fruits such as cherries, blueberries and raspberries. Simply put them in the microwave or toaster for a minute or two to warm them up. Another idea is sliced apples baked for a few minutes in the oven with a dash of cinnamon. Offer a variety of fruit options topped with ricotta and almonds for a sweet treat that won’t make your blood sugar climb.
  • Beverages are an important part of any springtime meal. Serve a large pitcher of ice water, filled with slices of lemon, lime and topped with several sprigs of mint. Put out bottles or cans of flavored, sugar-free sparkling water and diet soda. If your guests want to drink alcohol, have sugar free mixers to keep down calories and blood sugars. Have diet colas available to mix with rum or sugar free tonic water to mix with vodka or gin. Add fresh lemon, lime or orange slices as a colorful garnish to your beverages. You can also serve light beer. Keep in mind women are limited to one alcoholic drink while men can have two if under age 65. One drink means 1 1/2 ounces of distilled spirits, 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer. With dessert, serve an herbal tea such as chamomile and sage. Both are known to help lower blood sugar levels.

When your guests see this impressive menu, they won’t even know it is diabetes-friendly. These delicious dishes are simple to prepare and make you look like a gourmet chef. Healthy spring eating can be tasty and easy with a bit of thought and the right foods on-hand.