With the holiday season in full swing, we all need to eat healthy, but the holidays can be especially daunting if you have diabetes.
Not only does someone with diabetes have to be concerned about what food to eat, they also have to manage the stress that accompanies the holiday season. It also can affect their health.
Holidays are about being with our family, friends and the ones we love, and though these gatherings are often centered on food and snacks, there are many ways you can make healthy choices to keep your blood sugar stable.
The most important part in managing the holidays is planning and preparation. If you are planning a meal at your home, you have more control. If you will be a guest at someone else’s home, you can ask them what they are serving and bring a low-carb dish or snack that fits into your meal plan.
If you have diabetes and take insulin or medication that lowers your blood sugar, you may have to adjust the dose or time you take it. It is a good idea to eat a small breakfast or snack early in the day to keep you blood sugar stable. Saving your carbs for later in the day is not recommended. If you skip meals, it is harder to manage your blood sugar.
If your meal is later in the day, the American Diabetes Association suggests you eat meals about four to five hours apart. Research has shown that when you fast more than 12 hours, your body tends to store the first meal as mostly fat. So break that fast with a small meal or snack, such as a piece of fruit or a cheese stick or your choice of carbohydrate and protein.
I always bring a fresh vegetable plate with a low fat dill dip with tomatoes, celery, green or red peppers, carrots, broccoli, or cauliflower as an appetizer to snack on. Or I bring fresh fruit with small pieces of grapes, melon, small chunks of pineapple, apple or pears on a skewer. It’s fun to eat and it is healthy.
But food is not the only concern for people with diabetes. The holidays can be a very busy and stressful time of year. When stress builds up, it causes the release of “fight or flight” hormones, like adrenaline. Most hormones work against insulin and can increase blood glucose.
Keep things simple. Spend time with family and try not to pay too much attention to the holiday hype around gifts and food. If there is food at the table, keep your portions smaller and don’t overdo it. And if you do, get back on track with your eating plan the next day.
Keep yourself organized, planning your meals ahead of time and allocating time for rest as well as physical activity. Organize a game of touch football or get the family to go skating. Walking works the best as most everyone can do it. Exercise also lowers your blood sugar.
Remember you’re in charge of what you eat and how much. You can find more than 4,000 diabetic recipes at www.dLife.com and cooking demos with dLife Chefs. Listen to dLife on CNBC every Sunday 6-6:30 p.m.
Jacquelyn McKernan is the diabetes educator at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital.