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Managing Diabetes Over The Holidays

By Debby Johnson, RD, LD, CDE

For many, the holiday season invokes memories of family and friends taking a moment away from the hectic world to enjoy each other’s company. Images of cornucopia centerpieces, Christmas trees and the popping of champagne bottles abound every corner. Then there is the food—roasted turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, the list goes on and on. This is the very meaning of comfort food. For those with diabetes, the holidays can bring about different memories and emotions. With large helpings of wonderful food, odd meal times and wide assortments of dessert, it can be challenging and frustrating to managing blood glucose levels. Having to remind family members yet again that “it’s not that you can’t eat a big slice of grandma’s famous pie, it’s that you choose not to in order to keep your body healthy” can be emotionally draining.  Experiencing this year after year can turn what was once a cherished holiday into a time of dread. As a Certified Diabetes Educator and diabetes coaches at Fit4D.com, a personalized diabetes coaching service, I know this does not have to be the case.  To help those with diabetes we have provided some tips that will help empower you to take back the holiday season as a time of joy:

     
  • Planning ahead is key. With all the wonderful holiday food to choose from, be sure to have your plate planned out in advance to avoid letting your taste buds take over. This includes desserts. Find out recipes and carbohydrate content of foods ahead of time. You might find that you can fit in a little sliver of every favorite holiday dessert into your meal and still stay on track.
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  • Try to plan holiday meals around your normal meal times instead of snack times.
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  • Keep your carbohydrates spread out throughout the day—don’t save them all for one meal.  Remember that your body likes consistency with carbohydrates to process the glucose efficiently and work properly with your medications.  Pack some leftovers and enjoy the holiday meal again the next day.
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  • Take a walk after your meal to re-energize and help your body digest and burn off extra calories from the variety of holiday foods.
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  • Keeping your blood glucose and weight management goals in mind, try not to go to any holiday parties or events on an empty stomach. An empty stomach increases your chances of overeating and losing track of the carbs and calories.
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  • Appetizers, such as broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and celery, are great low carb, low calorie options. If you are able to bring an appetizer to a get-together, present some fresh veggies and light dip. This will save your carbs for the main event, the meal. Keep in mind that sausage and cheese are meats and have a minimal effect on blood glucose levels when eaten in moderation, but they are full of saturated fat and calories, so try to keep the portions small.
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  • If you choose to drink during the holidays, please be safe with regards to carbs, calories, medication and general wellness.  The recommendation for men is 2 drinks, and 1 drink for women per day.  One drink is equal to 1 beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of spirits. Some alcoholic beverages contain carbohydrates, especially when mixed with sweet mixers, such as margaritas or soda based drinks, so they need to be included into your meal plan. Be sure to wear medication identification, and never drink on an empty stomach. Alcohol also does not mix well with some medications, so please check with your healthcare provider before drinking. Limiting your alcohol intake will save you calories and not impact blood glucose levels as much.
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  • Successful holiday meal planning is all about preparation and balance, so enjoy your holiday season and contact the coaches at Fit4D.com for help with planning.