The holidays are a time of anticipation: of giving and receiving, of reuniting with loved ones, of mouthwatering treats we savor just once a year. Individuals with diabetes may have added anticipation during this season, when established eating habits and schedules can go topsy-turvy. Fortunately, with the right tools and a dash of preparation, holiday indulgence and well-managed diabetes can indeed coexist.
Read on for a few essential tips to maintaining your best health throughout the season.
Holiday meals can fall at unusual times of the day, so be sure to adjust your meal times and amounts for the entire day in advance. Before the big meal, have a healthy snack to prevent overeating and to keep your blood sugar in balance — especially if dinner isn’t quite on time. If exercise is part of your normal routine, find a way to fit that physical activity into your day: for example, a brisk, social evening walk with family can be an invigorating alternative to that after-dinner daze.
Being prepared is a big part of managing diabeteseffectively. You may also consider asking your host in advance about the menu: knowing what to expect can help you focus on your favorites and keep from taking a little too much of everything. If you’re anxious about finding enough healthy foods among the many delicacies, ask if you or a family member can bring a light and savory dish to add to the feast.
Gatherings like these are often an invitation to graze: drinks, hors d’oeuvres, desserts, cookies, and sweets are plentiful, and they can add up without you noticing. Throughout the celebration, keep tabs on your eating by:
- Sitting at a distance from snack bowls and appetizer platters
- Drinking low-calorie, non-alcoholic beverages
- Substituting fresh fruit for a sugary dessert
Before serving yourself, survey the table for those really rich holiday specialties, especially dishes that are high in carbohydrates (like stuffing or mashed potatoes) or chock full of fats (like cheese, butter, or sour cream). Take a modest portion of one or two can’t-miss dishes, and pass on the rest. Watching your carbohydrate intake in particular is vital for managing your blood sugar — aim to eat the same total amount as any normal day.
Make adjustments to keep your meal as healthy as you’re able: for example, use a light touch with sauces or gravies, or grab a slice of turkey, but without the skin. If variety is what you crave, you can make each serving a mini-portion. Or if a taste of a certain cookie or pie is what you want above all else, consider “saving” this for your treat, trading it for healthier choices at dinnertime.
Fill your plate wisely
As you are planning ahead, picture a dinner plate and imagine how you will fill it to make a balanced, healthy meal. Reserve a little room for those favorite indulgences, but devote most of the space to healthier options. Overall, the plate should have ample vegetables (1/2 of plate), lean meat (1/4 of plate), and starches (1/4 of plate). Using a resource like Residential Home Health’s Diabetes Nutrition Placemat can help you plan appropriate foods as well as portion sizes, putting you in control and prepared to enjoy your holiday celebration to the fullest.