by Carrie Quimby
Diabetes is a disease that results in high levels of sugar, or glucose, in your blood because not enough of the hormone insulin is made or used correctly. If you have diabetes, you know that the holidays can be an especially tricky time of year to manage your health as tempting treats are everywhere and exercise plans get stuck on the back burner. Having diabetes shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the festivities of the holidays. With some planning and a little work, you can stay healthy and happy at holiday gatherings with friends and family while controlling your diabetes.
PLAN AHEAD. Avoid getting too hungry by eating a healthy snack before you attend a party or dinner. You will be more inclined to pick healthy choices and eat slowly. Bring something healthy for the buffet, such as a raw or cooked vegetable dish, low fat protein, or fresh fruit. Fill your plate half full of vegetables first so there will be less room for higher calorie/carbohydrate foods. Shop for groceries regularly to keep plenty of healthy go-to items stocked in your cupboards and fridge for tight meal schedules.
EAT RIGHT – and regularly – three meals daily. If there is longer than 3 or 4 hours between meals, include a healthy snack, which will keep your blood sugar levels stable and prevent you from getting overly hungry. Keep most of your grains WHOLE, aim for 3-4 servings of fruit and 4-5 servings of vegetables each day. Choose lean protein foods over high fat burgers, sausage, and cheese. Keep fluids calorie- and carbohydrate-free except for 2-3 glasses of low fat milk.
WATCH THE SWEET TREATS. Carbohydrates (commonly called “carbs”) that have been refined – sugar and white flour – have the biggest effect on blood sugar. Enjoy them in moderation in a balanced meal by substituting for the other carbohydrates already in your meal plan. Most sweets have a large amount of carbs in a small serving, so portion size is very important. Search for healthier versions of your favorite recipes – “Recipes for Healthy Living” on the American Diabetes Association’s web site is one of the many internet resources.
DON’T OVERDO the SPIRITS of the season. Alcohol can cause blood sugar to drop and can make you feel sleepy, dizzy, or confused. These symptoms can occur any time after imbibing, even up to 12 hours later. If you are going to drink, check your blood glucose level first to make sure it is not low, and check again before going to bed.
EXERCISE! Now is not the time to take a holiday from your usual physical activity routine. Being more active helps lower your blood sugar, and exercise helps reduce feelings of stress. If you struggle to find the time to fit in your regular workout, keep activity levels high within your daily routine – park far away from the door, take a walk around the block when picking up the mail, take a few laps around the shopping mall, take the stairs, hide the remote, or help build a snowman. Try taking 10 minutes for shorter spurts of activity a few times during the day. They add up and are just as effective as 30 or 40 minutes of continuous activity.
CAN YOU FOOL MOTHER NATURE? What about increasing your insulin to “cover” the added carbs from a meal? More carbohydrates and calories consumed can easily contribute to holiday weight gain. Most of us are unsuccessful at losing the few pounds we gain between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and over several years the added pounds become significant. So no, you cannot fool Mother Nature. In fact, even trying to do so can contribute to additional health risks. Being sensible is the best approach.
Carrie Quimby, RD, CD, is part of BMH’s Nutrition Services staff and is a registered dietician with certificates of training in Adult, Childhood and Adolescent Weight Management.