More than 25 million people in the United States have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. If you’re among them, you know that maintaining a steady blood sugar is a daily balancing act.
But it’s the holidays! Coworkers bring platters of cookies to work. Holiday parties tempt you with rich, indulgent food. And at family get-togethers, you see wonderful favorites that you’ve loved since childhood.
Yes, you should enjoy holiday treats, but you have to be smart about it.
Andrea Dunn, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with the Cleveland Clinic, has some suggestions to help you:
1. Stick to your schedule
Even on your holiday off days from work, try to get up, eat, exercise and take your diabetes and any other medications about the same time as you usually do.
2. Check your blood sugar frequently
If you are taking insulin or medications that lower your blood sugar, check your blood sugar more frequently during the holidays, especially before driving a car or adjusting your insulin doses. Make allowances for the changes in your work and exercise schedules as well as your eating opportunities.
3. Budget your sweets and treats
To keep your blood sugars from skyrocketing, include sweets and treats as part of your carbohydrate budget — not in addition to it. Choose the meat and side vegetables and salad at dinner to “save” carbohydrates for Aunt Emily’s nut roll that only gets made for the holidays.
4. Watch your alcohol intake
Moderate alcohol intake can have a blood sugar-lowering effect, so don’t drink on an empty stomach. Be sure to check your blood sugar more frequently after drinking. Recommendations for alcohol for those with diabetes are no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two per day for men. (One drink equals 4 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, 1 ounce of distilled spirits.)
5. Be ‘party-smart’
If you’re going to a holiday dinner, ask if you can bring a dish — one lower in calories and fat — such as a vegetable tray or vegetable-based appetizers. Also, if you’re attending an appetizer party, don’t go hungry. Take the edge off beforehand by eating a small snack, like a small apple and 2 tablespoons of nuts or whole grain bread with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.
At the party, enjoy some of the vegetable-based appetizers first, then the meat or cheese appetizers. Place your appetizers on your napkin instead of a plate and you’ll be less likely to overfill it. Another tip: don’t stand near the buffet table or food when talking at a party. Move to another part of the room so you won’t be tempted to over eat what is nearby. It’s also important to stay hydrated. Drink water or club soda with a lime or lemon twist. Keep a calorie-free drink in your hand to keep your hands busy.
6. Remember the reason for the season
Put the focus on family and friends and not on food. Enjoy what you do eat. Savor each bite! Most important, remember to include time for exercise, meals and relaxation. The holidays will only be great if you’re in good health to enjoy them.
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