Planning, Activity Make Holidays Manageable for Diabetic Patients
November marks the official beginning of a wide variety of holidays and festivities geared around family and celebrations. But the focus on food and eating during this season can make the celebration challenging, especially for individuals and families dealing with diabetes.
Remember that holiday meals and traditions don’t have to disrupt diabetes control. With a little preparation, you’ll be ready to face any holiday head-on and still enjoy it.
“There are many steps diabetics and their families can take to keep the holidays festive and healthy. Managing diabetes during the holidays can be very easy and family get-togethers and parties can still be enjoyed; it simply involves a little planning and regular activity to stay on track,” said Ronald Charles, MD, vice president of medical affairs for Buckeye Community Health Plan.
Dr. Charles offers the follow suggestions that can keep diabetes in check during the holidays.
Think about the timing of your meal
During the holidays, we often eat large meals at odd times. For example, Thanksgiving dinner may be served in the middle of the afternoon. Plan in advance for how you will handle making changes if a meal does not line up with your regular meal schedule.
If you take insulin injections or a pill that lowers blood glucose, have a snack at your normal meal time to prevent a low blood glucose reaction. Check with your healthcare team about how to manage extra snacks.
Be physically active
The best way to compensate for eating a little more than usual is to be active. Start a new tradition that involves moving around away from the food. Take a walk with the whole family or play Frisbee, soccer, or touch football with your children, grandchildren, or the neighborhood kids.
Nibble on healthy foods while you are cooking or waiting to eat
Make sure the foods you choose won’t sabotage blood glucose levels before the meal. Bring a platter of raw or blanched veggies with your favorite low-calorie dip or have a few small pieces of low-fat cheese. Stay away from high-calorie or fried appetizers.
Planning, Activity Make Holidays Manageable
“You won’t have to worry about what will be served if you bring food that fits into your plan. Offer to bring your favorite diabetes-friendly dish. If you count carbohydrates, check the recipe’s nutrition facts so you know the serving size and how many carbs it has,” Dr. Charles said.
Make selective food choices
Many traditional holiday foods are high in carbohydrates: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and other desserts. Don’t feel like you have to sample everything on the table.
Have a reasonable portion of your favorites and pass on the rest. If stuffing is your favorite, pass on rolls. High carbohydrate foods are plentiful at holiday parties and feasts. If you really want to try everything, make your portions small. Approach your total carbohydrate intake like it’s a regular day.
Eat your vegetables
The vegetable selection on holiday menus is usually limited, and often involves calorie-laden butter and sauces. Colorful, healthy vegetable dishes add flavor and nutrition to the holiday table. Offer to bring a green salad or a side of steamed veggies that have been seasoned. Non-starchy veggies are low in carbohydrates and calories and will keep you from overeating other high-calorie and high-fat foods on the table.
Drink in moderation
If you drink alcohol, remember to eat first to prevent low blood glucose levels later. Whether it’s a glass of red wine, egg nog, or a beer, holiday drinks can add a significant amount of calories to your holiday intake. Limit alcoholic beverages to one drink for women and two drinks for men.
Don’t give up if you overindulge
If you eat more carbohydrates or food than you planned, don’t think you have failed. Stop eating for the night and focus on spending the rest of your time with the people around you. Include extra exercise, monitor your blood glucose levels, and get back on track with your usual eating habits the next day.
For additional information and tips on managing diabetes during the holidays, visit the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov/features/diabetesmanagement/ or the American Diabetes Association diabetes.org.