Diabetes and Holiday Eating

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Why is it important to watch what you eat with diabetes?

If you have diabetes, what you eat can greatly impact your overall health and how you feel. Fortunately, managing your nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be done by making simple, sustainable changes to your diet.

Moderation is the key for successful nutrition management. A few additional guidelines are to keep it simple; aim for three, similarly-sized meals that are spaced throughout the day; choose complex carbohydrates over refined ones and aim for minimal added sugar in foods.

Is there a dietary plan someone with diabetes should follow?

MyPlate – The great thing about this one is the flexibility it offers – it’s easy to adjust to patient preferences and different cultural norms. The method includes using a 9-inch plate and filling half the plate with vegetables, a quarter with lean protein and a quarter with a complex carbohydrate. It’s an easy visual whether you are on-the-go or at home.

Mediterranean diet – This eating pattern is frequently touted for being heart-healthy. It has the bonus of improving blood sugar metabolism. The diet focuses on eating primarily vegetables and fruit; lean protein, such as fish; whole grains and extra virgin olive oil.

Counting carbs – This method is a more advanced way of managing nutrition but can be especially beneficial for someone who takes insulin. An overall reduction in carbohydrate intake for individuals with diabetes can lead to significant improvement in blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c over time.

How should someone with diabetes navigate holiday parties and dinners?

The holidays present a challenge for everyone when it comes to healthy eating, but especially for those with diabetes.

The Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists offers these tips for a healthier holiday:

  • Have a healthy snack before you go
  • Pick low calorie/low carb beverages:  Look up your favorite drink and be aware of the calories and carb content. You might want to also look at other options that might be healthier. If you are going to have a mixed drink, be sure it is mixed in a diet soda. Also pace yourself and space the drinks out over a period of time.
  • Incorporate Exercise or Activity:  Park at one end of the shopping center or mall and walk back and forth. Make several trips to the car to unload your packages. Suggest that friends get together for activities – skating, bowling, dancing or cross country skiing if possible.
  • Practice Mindful Eating:  Pay close attention to how food makes us feel physically and encourages us to eat for physical hunger rather than emotional needs. Mindful Eating encourages one to focus on how good our food tastes and to try an eliminate distractions while eating.
  • Bring the veggies:  A great way to prevent yourself from overeating is to fill half of your holiday plate with non-starchy vegetables- think green beans, salad, Brussels sprouts, carrots or maybe broccoli. While these yummy foods are nutritional powerhouses, they are very low in calories which helps you to balance out some of the juicier foods on your plate.
  • Develop some non-food family traditions this year: Often so much of the holiday is focused around food- from the grand meal to cookie decorations to holiday parties with an endless number of appetizers and treats! This year, consider inviting your family out for a Thanksgiving day football game or walk. Maybe start a tradition of Christmas eve game night. Find joy in non-food forms of family bonding to help prevent overindulgence this year.