5 Tips for Holiday Eating If You Have Diabetes
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
One of the great things about life is that there is always a reason to spend time with family and friends and celebrate - the holidays, Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, weddings, baby showers, graduations, vacations, birthdays and the list goes on.
And what this sometimes mean is that year-round we may be tempted to eat too much food and overindulge with the booze. We may also travel more for both business and leisure and sometimes traveling is not conducive to healthy eating. For example, it is not always easy to locate healthy food in the airport or on an airplane.
So it’s up to us to be proactive and make sure that we are eating healthily throughout the year and not overindulge so that weight gain takes over. I recently posted a holiday eating guide outlining healthy swaps you can make with some of your favorite treats.
Remember, it’s not about deprivation. Instead, it is identifying the good foods that you can substitute for otherwise unwise choices. For example, you can swap whole wheat bread for white bread and fruit purees for sugar.
And recently, I came across a guide provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that offers holiday eating tips specifically catered to people who have diabetes.
This is very helpful and important information, considering that the CDC reports that more than 30 million Americans have diabetes (about 1 in 10), and 90 to 95 percent of them have type 2 diabetes.
In managing diabetes, it is a wise idea to control blood sugar levels.
“While it’s always important to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, new research shows that better control during the first year [of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes] can reduce the future risk for complications, including kidney disease, eye disease, stroke, heart failure and poor circulation to the limbs,” according to UChicago Medicine.
Below are a few key takeaways from the CDC’s holiday eating guide for diabetics:
- “Holiday-Proof Your Plan.”
This does not mean that you have to miss out on all the fun. Help your body maintain stable blood sugar levels by eating as close as possible to your usual mealtimes. If you are attending a dinner party where dinner is being served earlier or later than usual for you, have a snack at your normal mealtime and then eat a bit lighter at the party. Also don’t forget to bring a healthy dish such as roasted veggies or a colorful salad.
If you know you want to indulge in some sweets (in moderation of course), cut back on other carbs such as potatoes and bread. Many may not realize that these carbs can raise blood sugar levels even though they may not taste sweet.
Never skip meals to save calories for feasting. This is a sure way to lose control of your blood sugar levels.
- “Outsmart the Buffet.”
This is one of my favorite tips, because, honestly, buffets are traps for failure. Buffets are all about excess and definitely do not help us practice moderation. But there is a way to enjoy the buffet without going overboard and raising your blood sugar levels too much.
Start with veggies. It’s likely that you will be very hungry when first approaching the buffet. So “take the edge off” by first having some nutrient-dense, water-rich veggies. This way you will be less likely to over do it on the unhealthy buffet items.
Be selective at the buffet. You don’t have to try everything! Go for the foods you know you really like (in moderation). Eat slowly and drink water. It may take at least 20 minutes for your brain to process that you are full.
It is also imperative for diabetics to monitor their alcohol consumption, as beer, wine and liquor can all raise your blood sugar levels.
- “Fit in Favorites.”
This tip piggybacks off of the previous one. If you know you must have your best friend’s famous homemade chocolate chip cookies that he or she makes every year, then fit this into your meal plan. Understand that if you are going to have these cookies, you probably should not have a soda or a piece of cake.
- “Keep Moving.”
This is so important. Working out and losing weight has been proven to help fight type 2 diabetes. And what’s so great about exercise, is that you don’t have to do it all at once to reap the benefits. A 10 minute walk or jog up a few flights of stairs can really help. Just keep moving periodically throughout the day and avoid sitting for too long.
Also be mindful of these specific nutrients that may help properly fuel your body for physical activity and help your body recover post workout.
- “Get Your Zzz’s.”
I personally think everyone (diabetic or not) should make one of their New Year’s resolutions to sleep more. So many Americans are sleep deprived and have no idea how much this affects their health.
“Sleep loss can make it harder to manage your blood sugar, and when you’re sleep deprived you’ll tend to eat more and prefer high-fat, high-sugar food. Aim for 7 to 8 hours per night to guard against mindless eating,” reports the CDC.
So there you have it. These tips provided by the CDC can also apply to people who are not diabetic. They are all healthy suggestions that promote moderation (not deprivation) and nutritious but enjoyable eating.
If you have diabetes, check out these pH Labs blogs for more proactive tips and helpful information.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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