STRATEGIES FOR MANAGING DIABETES THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS
Food plays a central role in many celebrations, particularly at holiday time when we tend to eat richer foods and often larger portions. Additionally, party spreads are often buffet-style, encouraging grazing and making it easier to lose track of what and how much we eat. But with the right attitude and strategies, navigating the holidays with diabetes can be accomplished without stress and anxiety.
WHAT CAN I DO TO KEEP ON TRACK?
Some people try to eat very little during the day, before attending a party later that evening. Unfortunately, this is a poor strategy as arriving very hungry is likely to result in overeating.
Instead, eat a healthy meal plan during the day and add a small snack before arriving. This will reduce hunger and the chances of overindulging. Then go ahead and allow yourself small portions of the rich party foods.
Be prepared. Try to arrive with an approximate idea of how many carbs you will eat. Do the best you can, and avoid feeling guilty, recognizing that you are likely to consume more than planned.
One way to account for extra calories and keep your glucose levels in check is to incorporate activity into your schedule. Try to get in a 30-minute walk before you go out. It may help offset those extra calories as well as dampen your appetite. Dancing is another way to incorporate more activity while keeping in with the holiday spirit.
Avoid drinking your calories. Alcohol not only adds calories but may play havoc with blood sugar. It also lowers inhibitions, making it easier to overindulge. Stick with a glass of wine or opt for a diet soda or flavored seltzer water or mocktail.
FOCUS ON FIBER
Fiber is great for managing blood glucose. It helps to slow the absorption of sugar following a meal. Look for foods high in fiber as you peruse the party spread.
-Fill up on raw vegetables. Avocados or guacamole and hummus are great dips. They provide healthy fat and are good sources of dietary fiber.
-Pistachios and almonds are low in carbs and high in protein and fiber.
-Popcorn is a diabetic-friendly snack. Without added butter, it is low in calories and provides about 15 grams of fiber in a one-cup serving.
-While not adding much fiber, fresh shrimp is another diabetic-friendly snack with negligible carbs and quality protein.
-Chips and salsa aren’t a bad choice. Most salsas don’t have added sugar. Offer to bring a bag of 100% whole grain chips to increase the fiber.
OFFER TO BRING A DISH (OR TWO)
There are lots of ways to modify recipes to make them diabetic-friendly. Experiment with some of your holiday favorites to lighten them up and reduce their blood sugar impact.
-In baked goods, applesauce or other fruit purees are excellent substitutions for butter. This not only helps lower calories and fat but adds nutrients and fiber.
-Fruit purees can also be added to cocoa powder when making recipes that call for melted chocolate.
-Reduce the amount of sugar called for in a recipe. Most often it won’t be missed and you end up with the same result. You can also try adding cinnamon, or vanilla to increase sweetness and enhance flavor.
Here are some lower-carb party recipes from the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Food Hub. Try one or two of these at your next party:
–Cheesy Cauliflower Tots have only 80 calories and 9 grams total carbohydrates in one serving or 5 tots.
–Spinach and Artichoke Dip is made with Laughing Cow® Light Garlic and Herb Cheese, frozen artichokes, and frozen spinach. Two tablespoons contain only 40 calories and 3 grams total carbohydrates.
–No-Bake Peanut Butter and Chocolate Bites are made with granulated sugar-substitute and mini chocolate chips. Each bite has only 40 calories and 4.5 grams of total carbohydrates.
–Baked Cinnamon Stuffed Apples are sweetened with brown sugar-substitute and cinnamon. One-half apple has 145 calories and 26 grams total carbohydrates. The oatmeal and chopped pecans add 3 grams of fiber.
IT’S NOT ONLY ABOUT THE FOOD
Add some non-food activities to the menu. They are a good way to divert attention from the food table, at least for a little while.
Try bringing back some of the things you enjoyed as a child or start new traditions with your family and friends.
-Get out board games or a deck of cards. Play round robin tournaments.
-Play Pictionary and charades with teams.
-Pull out photo albums or home movies for some sentimental nostalgia.
-Have a dance party.
-Go outside and have a build-a-snowman contest.
-Plan a craft and provide all the supplies for DIY ornaments or wreath decorating.
-Put on some favorite tunes and have a karaoke night.
-Have a jigsaw puzzle set up on a side table.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The holiday season is upon us, but no need to panic. Just get yourself armed and ready, and aim to succeed.
Have a plan in place, but allow yourself some leeway, and don’t give up if you get off track. A small misstep doesn’t mean the whole evening is lost. Remember to focus on the high fiber foods and sneak in some exercise ahead of time.
Bring a diabetic-friendly snack or dessert. Drink smart by drinking slowly and on a full stomach. Alcohol not only affects your blood sugar but also lowers inhibitions and makes it harder to stay on track.
If you are hosting, add non-food activities to the menu. These add a distraction from eating and may burn calories as well.
Most importantly, the holidays are meant for celebrating. While it’s important to be mindful of what you eat and your blood sugars, if you slip up, know that you can bounce back.
If you would like help with navigating the holidays with diabetes, contact us at 240-449-3094 to make an appointment with one of our diabetes educators or registered dietitians.