The holidays are here which means a lot of tempting food and treats that we don’t normally have. This is a particular challenge for diabetics to navigate. With a few strategies in place, you can keep your blood sugar levels stable and still enjoy holiday treats.
1. Maintain your schedule. Schedules seem to go out the window during the holiday season as we are pulled in more and various directions than normal. Try to keep your routine as close as normal but especially try to not skip meals, eat breakfast, take your insulin/medications at the same time you normally do, and maintain (or implement!) your exercise routine.
2. Plan ahead. We know what foods are going to be at the holiday table, office party, or neighborhood potluck. This makes your ability to plan your food intake that much easier. Include your sweets as a part of your carbohydrate budget, NOT in addition to. For example, for dinner choose the salad (the green, leafy kind, not the shimmering gelatin creation), side vegetables (preferably those that are the main attraction, not the sauce), and the meat/protein. Skip the dinner rolls and save that carb for the pecan pie.
3. Drink more water. This is a good rule for life, end of story. However, for our purposes here, up that ante even more. The typical family will consume more sugar, sodium, additives and preservatives during the holidays than other times of the year. For diabetics especially, the addition of sweets, punch, eggnog, and other holiday beverages can have serious consequences. Instead of having a full glass of a holiday beverage, have a taste and then have a glass of water or club soda with lemon.
4. Limit alcohol intake. The temptations and prevalence of alcohol during the holidays significantly increases. Diabetics need to be more mindful of this and strategize ahead of the party or dinner. Women should consume no more than one alcoholic beverage per day, men two. Keep the mixers to the no-sugar option. i.e. neat, on the rocks, or with club soda and lemon/lime. Don’t drink on an empty stomach and research your best diabetic-friendly alcoholic drinks.
5. Check your blood sugar more frequently during the holidays, especially before driving or exercising (even more important if your activities are higher-risk, such as skiing). Consult your doctor to help you make allowances for the changes in your eating and medication schedule.
6. Stay active. If your schedule doesn’t allow longer exercise sessions, break it down into manageable chunks of time. We all can fit in a brisk 10-15 minute walk. Do that 2-3 times a day and your body—and blood sugar levels—will thank you.
7. Practice gratitude and mindfulness. Focusing on what’s truly important to each of us and not solely on the food helps us savor the moments, the experiences, as well as the taste. Savoring your favorite foods, one bite at a time, helps us slow down, maintain our portion sizes, and feel better about our choices.
By keeping these strategies in mind, you can enjoy the holiday season while still maintaining your health. That is, after all, our most precious gift.