By: Laurie Edwards for Diabetes1
For many people living with diabetes, the holiday season and its emphasis on rich foods and treats can be somewhat overwhelming – how can you participate in the many festivities of the season without losing control over your blood sugar? Luckily, there are several simple steps you can take to prepare for the temptation and eat healthy foods that taste good.
The emotional component that accompanies the holiday season is a huge factor in the stress that so many people with diabetes experience. For example, in a 2006 survey commissioned by the American Association of Diabetes Educators, people with type 2 diabetes identified emotional triggers such as not being able to eat what everyone else around them consumed and having their diet monitored by family members as having a negative impact on their health.
Having a happy, low-stress holiday season
Consider speaking with a dietitian or nutritionist before the holiday season begins. He or she can help you work out healthier versions of traditional favorites and account for those treats you really want.
Be selective. You don’t have to forgo everything, so choose what food matters to you most, plan for it and enjoy it. Moderation is key.
Don’t be afraid to speak up and communicate your needs when menus are being planned. Calmly assure well-meaning relatives that you have things under control and don’t need to be “watched.”
In addition, only 50 percent of people surveyed said their family and friends took their diabetes into consideration when planning meals and special holiday occasions. Since emotional stress can wreak havoc on blood sugars, it's important to prevent this cycle from starting.
So what are the keys to an enjoyable holiday season? Planning ahead and being creative about recipes and routines is essential.
Even if you are not hosting the big meal, there is a lot you can do to manage your diabetes. Discuss the meal plan ahead of time with your family or friends and offer to bring something you know you can eat. Consider low-fat alternatives to traditional foods, like using reduced fat sour cream or cheese in recipes. Steamed fresh vegetables are a crisp, colorful addition to buttery, sautéed vegetable dishes.
Sweets are often a big part of the holiday spread, and you don’t have to miss out on your favorite baked goods and treats. Consider splitting a dessert with someone to limit the serving size. You can also offer to bring low-sugar desserts like cookies made with sugar substitute, baked apples, or sugar-free pudding.
If you want a piece of that famous pie a relative makes, build the indulgence into your plan. Whether that means eating less at other points in the meal, increasing your exercise, adjusting insulin or some combination of all of these things, if you think before you splurge, you don’t have to go without.
The holiday season is packed with parties, functions, and travel. Take charge of your schedule so it doesn’t overshadow your diabetes management. If you know you will be out and eating late certain nights, plan for that accordingly – don’t wait until you get too low. If waits in airports or long car trips are part of your holiday plans, bring healthy snacks with you for the journey.
Maintaining stable blood sugar may require some advanced planning and attention to detail, but doing so allows you to participate in the holiday season without putting your health – or your relationships – in jeopardy.