Successfully managing diabetes can be a formidable challenge at any time of the year, but the holiday season brings even more obstacles into the mix. Between busy schedules, high-calorie meals and beverages, even people who take diabetes management seriously can have trouble keeping their management under control.
But while diabetes control can become more difficult as the year comes to a close, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In this article, we’ll share some valuable tips on how to stay healthy while enjoying the holiday season to the fullest.
Stay Healthy During the Holidays with These 6 Tips
1. Remember Portion Control
When you’re at an office party or visiting family members, you won’t be able to control what foods are on the menu. Because of this, it’s imperative to do what you can to avoid throwing your blood sugar out of balance. Portion control is a wonderful way to accomplish this goal – by only taking small amounts of fatty, high-carb foods, you’ll be able to taste them without the drawbacks.
On the other hand, you might find it tempting to avoid eating before a holiday party so you can “make up for it” by eating larger portions later. That is never a good idea since it significantly increases your risk of overeating. Instead, make sure to get some healthy protein and complex carbs before an event – even if it’s just a small snack like apple slices and natural peanut butter.
2. Take Time to Enjoy Your Food
The holiday season is closely associated with rich, flavorful foods you don’t get to eat during the rest of the year. That means you shouldn’t shovel down the dishes on your plate – try to truly savor each bite instead, especially if you’re eating controlled portions.
Eating slowly comes with health benefits for people living with Type 2 diabetes, too. People with type 2 diabetes who eat slowly are more likely to lose weight, according to a new study.
Scientists from Kyushu University Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Fukuoka, Japan found slower eating was linked with lower waist circumference and BMI.
They reviewed 59,717 people with type 2 diabetes between 2008 and 2013, with data collected from health checkups, including questions on their diet and lifestyle. One of these questions was how fast they rated their eating speed. A total of 21.5% of slow eaters were obese compared with 30% of those who ate at a normal speed, and 45% of fast eaters. Slow eaters also had a lower BMI compared to the other two groups.
As well as eating more slowly, those who didn’t snack after dinner and didn’t eat just before going to bed also had reduced BMI. Previous studies have also demonstrated benefits of eating slowly. Last year researchers reported that eating too fast could promote metabolic syndrome and obesity. The findings have been published in the journal BMJ Open.
3. Cut Calories with Chatter
Another great way to enjoy holiday parties without overeating is not to eat right away. Instead, ease into the event – grab a (low-sugar) drink and catch up with people you haven’t seen in a while. Chances are, renewing these connections will lift your mood while diverting your attention from what’s for dinner.
4. Keep Up on Your Diabetes Needs
No matter how busy you are during the holidays, you can’t afford to ignore the basics of diabetes management. Continue taking insulin and other medications as prescribed, along with checking your blood glucose levels regularly. In fact, you may want to check your blood sugar more often than usual at this time of year. That goes double for people who plan to adjust their insulin dose or drive a car.
5. Enjoy Alcohol in Moderation
From spiked eggnog at Christmas to champagne on New Year’s Eve, there’s no shortage of alcoholic beverages around during the holiday season. Many people with diabetes can continue to enjoy moderate amounts of alcohol – if they take a few simple steps first.
First of all, your diabetes needs to be under control before you drink. It’s also important not to drink on an empty stomach since alcohol can lower your blood sugar if you haven’t eaten recently. Some alcoholic drinks which are recommended for diabetes management include dry wines, light beer, and mixed drinks made without sugar.
6. Get Moving
It’s easy for anyone to overeat during the holiday season. Fortunately, the cure is simple – burn the extra fat or calories eaten with exercise! Even a brisk walk after your holiday meal can help you burn calories and lower your blood sugar.
Simple Substitutions Can Go a Long Way
Many of the tips listed above should help you when you’re attending someone else’s holiday event. However, if you’re hosting a party, you’ll have a higher level of control over what’s being served. These simple substitutions can help you deliver a diabetes-friendly menu that’s still delicious:
- Swap out butter in favor of unsaturated oils, like olive or canola oil.
- Use dairy substitutes like soy or nonfat/reduced-fat dairy.
- Serve lean cuts of meat, and remove the skin on poultry.
- Instead of frying menu items, bake, broil, or steam them.
- Cut out egg yolks to lower fat and cholesterol.
- Don’t season with fat – try herbs, spices, and tangy vegetables instead.
- For appetizers, offer roasted vegetables, fruits, and reduced-fat cheeses.
- Skip stuffing – as a substitute, serve grains like quinoa or wild rice.
- Bake sweet potatoes on their skins and season with roasted garlic and herbs.
- Try butternut or another winter squash as an alternative to potatoes.
- Use puree and broth-based soups instead of cream-based soups.
- Cut out sugar in your holiday recipes or replace it with diabetes-friendly sweeteners.
- Avoid making extra gravies and sauces – they can come with hidden sugars and fat.
- Make salads and vegetables a prominent part of your menu.
Enjoy the Holidays – ADS Can Help
While the holidays are a special time of year, you can’t truly appreciate them if you aren’t in good health. By following these steps, you’ll find it easier to manage your diabetes – and to focus on what truly matters.
If you have any questions about medication, nutrition, and continuous glucose monitoring this holiday season (or any other time), get in touch with our Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, Halle Elbling. And don’t ask Santa for crucial diabetes supplies like CGM systems and insulin – instead, order them online from ADS!