The holiday season spanning November to January is a special time for many. Whenever you celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or New Year’s holidays there will be lavish festivities featuring buffets groaning with food. Families will unite around the dining table to enjoy the many wonderful dishes and special holiday treats traditionally served.
The hyper-abundance of rich foods, beverages and desserts can wreak havoc on the diets of most during the holidays. If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, holiday dining can pose considerable challenges. Diabetes is a disorder that leads to high glucose or sugar levels in the blood when the body produces little or no insulin – the chemical the body uses to break down sugars in the blood. Roughly 90% of diabetics have what’s called type 2 diabetes. The body’s cells are insulin resistant, and the disease is managed with careful meal planning, exercise and medication when needed. Pre-diabetes occurs when the blood glucose level is higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be classified as diabetes. Many traditional holiday dishes are loaded with the very fats, sugars, salt and alcohol diabetics are working to minimize. How to cope? Here are six tips for enjoying the food-laden holidays with diabetes.
#1 - Plan for Best Results
Let’s face facts: you will eat. But your diabetic meal plan takes no holidays. With diabetes you must have a strategy in place to cope with the deluge of delights before you indulge. Work with your dietician and your doctor to develop a plan, and then stick to the plan. If you must sample some of Aunt Hilda’s famed dessert, know what food trades you must make to do so. Maybe you'll need to adjust your medication. Or add extra walks to your daily routine (see tip #5). Work with your diabetes team to come up with a plan that meets your needs.
#2 - Never Go Hungry
During the holidays lots of people go to parties ravenous. No wonder they overeat. Ensure you have a balanced breakfast and lunch the day of the party. Eat a small yogurt or other healthy snack before you arrive.
#3 - Eat the Stuff That’s Good for You
Start with the healthy stuff – the veggie platter, fresh salads – first, before choosing the fried, creamed, cheese-filled, processed, high-fat goodies and desserts.
#4 - Focus on Friends and Family Before Food
Too often we mindlessly munch while distracted or mesmerized by good conversation, a movie or the football game and we never realize just how much we’ve really consumed. With diabetes, you’ve got to track your food intake. The holidays are a time to celebrate family and friends. Put the food down, and give your companions your full attention. There’s plenty of time to eat later.
#5 - Step It Up
Walking after a meal is perhaps the most important thing you can do during the holidays for diabetes. In fact it’s something everyone can do during the holidays, diabetic or not. A nice long postprandial constitutional about one hour after a meal will help lower your blood sugars and reduce any stresses of the season. Invite your loved ones along and enjoy their company. You could be helping them to stave off diabetes.
#6 - Always Monitor Your Blood Sugars
Don’t skip testing during the holidays. Make sure that your blood sugars stay in check. Sometimes even the best laid eating plans go awry because you can’t always know exactly what went into that food you ate. Also, make sure someone at the gathering knows you have diabetes. If your blood sugars drop too low and you become hypoglycemic someone should be able to recognize you need help.
Above all, relax, enjoy your family and the fun times. Take some time out for yourself. Use these six tips to help you stay healthy during the holidays with diabetes.
Health writer Cydne Kaelin is a wife, niece and granddaughter of diabetics. Visit http://www.naturaldiabetesremedy.com for more tips on holidays and diabetes