Lynda Johnson, R.D., Nutrition & Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension
Holiday celebrations are all about food, and this can be very challenging for individuals dealing with diabetes. Holiday stress and bountiful food can wreak havoc, leading to impulse eating and risky blood sugar levels. To manage your diabetes through the holidays, stick to your diet and routine as much as possible, plan ahead and follow these tips:
- Monitor your blood sugar – Maintain your routine of checking your blood sugars and monitor more closely if eating frequently or at irregular times.
- Eat before the party – To avoid overeating, eat sensibly during the day before a party. Otherwise you arrive so hungry that it’s hard to maintain control. It’s always important to spread your carbohydrates evenly throughout the day to better manage diabetes.
- Be choosy – Look over the food offerings and don’t waste calories and carbohydrates on foods that you could eat anytime. Save space in your meal plan for “special” holiday treats. Some people find it helpful to keep a food journal during the holidays to help track carbohydrates and avoid overeating.
- Downsize portion sizes – Trim down your portions especially if you are not certain about ingredients in a tempting casserole or dessert. Control the amount you eat by either limiting yourself to one trip through the buffet line, or make the first trip primarily vegetables and salad, then your second helpings could be small portions of heartier, richer fare.
- Bring a healthy dish to share – Contribute a vegetable dish that contains little or no carbohydrates to ensure that you will have at least one good option. Others will appreciate the low-calorie option as well. Consider revising a favorite holiday recipe by substituting lower-calorie ingredients. For example, instead of fried onions in the green bean casserole, add roasted, caramelized onions and lower-fat mushroom sauce. For dessert, use sugar-free gelatins or puddings.
- Keep eating in perspective – Focus on the fun, not the food. Enjoy connecting with family and friends during the holiday gatherings. Spend your time in conversation rather than thinking about what’s on your plate. It’s often helpful to keep your back to the buffet table, or move to another part of the room.
- Stay active and get plenty of rest – Holiday stress and fatigue can be reduced with adequate sleep and exercise. Physical activity, like walking or lifting weights, will reduce your stress, burn calories and help control blood sugar. Lack of sleep can influence your hunger and increase stress.