T’is the season for food, drink…and stress. It’s possible, though, to enjoy yourself and still control your diabetes.
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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Living with type 2 diabetes can be challenging year-round, but the holidays can turn everyday life into a minefield. Offices suddenly sprout holiday parties, evenings bring dinner invites, and while running errands, you may suddenly encounter a plate of cookies at the bank teller’s window. It all adds up to unhealthy stress. It’s no wonder that more than half of diabetes patients who responded to a recent online poll on the website Patients Like Me said that the holiday season is the most difficult time when it comes to controlling their blood sugar.
The solution? Smart strategies that will enable you to manage both your holiday eating and your blood glucose levels, says Amy Campbell, MS, RD, CDE, a certified diabetes educator and manager of clinical services at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.
“The most important thing is to have a game plan,” Campbell says. “You need to have a strategy and plan ahead, and that way you can make savvy choices.”
Diabetes and the Holidays: The Golden Rules
Whatever calorie-laden holiday situation you might encounter, some general rules can be applied:
- Never go anywhere hungry. Whether you’re navigating supermarket aisles filled with holiday food samples or you’re off to a holiday party, it’s wise to eat a healthy diabetes-friendly snack before you leave home. Try two peanut butter-filled celery sticks, a 6-ounce container of Greek-style yogurt, or a handful of almonds.
- Watch what you drink. A small amount of alcohol isn’t bad in itself, but remember that if you’re on insulinand drinking alcohol, your blood sugar may fall too low. Make iced water or club soda your drink of choice. If you do imbibe, don’t do it on an empty stomach, and alternate an alcoholic beverage with a non-alcoholic one.
- Make smart substitutions. High-sugar foods like cake, candy, and cookies will make blood glucose spike, so don’t just add them to everything else on your plate — substitute small amounts of sweetsfor other carbohydrates on your meal plan. For instance, if you want a small slice of pumpkin pie, pass on the dinner rolls when they come around.With obesity and lack of physical activity as
Party Planning for Specific Situations
Follow these strategies when you’re faced with holiday temptations:
- At a buffet. Dealing with a buffetmay seem more difficult at first because you’re faced with lots of tempting choices, but you’re also at an advantage because you can quickly survey what’s available. Take a plate and mentally divide it in two. Fill half with lots of healthy choices, like salad, steamed vegetables, and whole grains. Then fill the other half of the plate with a small portion of the foods you find particularly tempting.
- At holiday parties. Typically, parties feature cocktails and an array of hors d’oeuvres that are either passed around on platters or placed on a table or sideboard. If the goodies are stationary, treat the offerings like the buffet — survey the situation, fill up on veggies and other healthy choices, and leave a little room for special treats. If servers are walking by with hors d’oeuvres, that’s a bit more challenging because you don’t know what’s coming next. One strategy is to pass up every other offering; another is to take the first few that come by, put them on a plate, and eat them more leisurely.
- At holiday dinners.If the hosts are close friends or family members, ask them ahead of time what they are serving and volunteer to bring along one diabetes-friendly dish — that way you’ll know there will be something you can enjoy.
And here’s one more trick from Campbell: “We all tend to mirror the behavior of others, so when you’re at a party, sit with someone who eats slowly, and you’re likely to do the same.”