What tips can you offer a person with diabetes for navigating holiday meals and parties? What should they look for and what should they avoid?
Holidays are a time to enjoy family, friends, traditions and favorite foods. Having diabetes can sometimes pose challenges during this time of year, though, as you struggle to maintain a balance between savoring that homemade pumpkin pie and keeping your blood glucose on an even keel. Fortunately, there are some ways to have your cake (or pie) and eat it too, all the while keeping your diabetes under control. One of the keys to navigating the holidays – without gaining weight or watching your blood glucose levels go sky-high – is to plan ahead. Map out a strategy. Here’s how: - Snack smartly. Never go to a party or a dinner hungry. Eat a small snack that contains some carbohydrate and some protein before you go, such as an apple with peanut butter, or a few whole grain crackers and light string cheese. The snack will take the edge off of your appetite and also keep your blood glucose from going too low if your meal is served later than usual. - Fill up on fiber. Focus on choosing lower-calorie and/or higher-fiber foods, especially salads, vegetables and lean protein foods, like shrimp cocktail, for example. Also, start off your meal with a bowl of broth-based soup. - Plan out your plate. Aim to fill half of your plate with vegetables, a quarter of your plate with a lean protein, like turkey, ham or roast beef, and the other quarter of your plate with a carb food such as potato, rice, stuffing or pasta. - Keep your distance. Socialize away from the buffet table. Those tasty appetizers won’t be so easy to pop in your mouth if you’re not standing right next to them. - Go easy on the “holiday spirits.” Most people with diabetes can safely drink alcohol, but be aware that alcoholic beverages contain calories and, if you take glucose-lowering medication like insulin, you increase the risk of low blood glucose. If you drink, limit yourself to one or two drinks, choose wisely (wine, champagne and light beer are good options) and avoid drinking on an empty stomach. - Stay on track. Keep tabs on yourself over the holidays by checking your blood glucose more than usual, writing down your food intake, weighing yourself once a week, and periodically trying on a pair of slim-fitting pants to gauge how you’re doing. They’ll keep you honest – if you can’t zip or button your pants, it may be time to cut back a bit! - Get a move on. Don’t let physical activity fall by the wayside. Walking, snow shoeing, skating or skiing are great ways to stay in shape, burn calories, lower stress and manage your blood glucose.