Holiday Food and Diabetes

At my house the holidays have always been about family feasts, especially around Thanksgiving. I have found these to be the most difficult times to have diabetes. How can it be possible to enjoy a holiday while worrying about blood sugar readings?

After many years of battles lost over pecan pie and Christmas candy, I have made peace with Type 2 diabetes by admitting that I will occasionally indulge in things that are not diabetes friendly. But I also have a plan to keep the damage to a minimum.

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Here are some of the strategies I have found helpful:

When shopping for holiday meals, never shop hungry. Around the holidays you can make a meal off the free samples in the grocery aisles. It is easier to say “no thank you” to the nice ladies if you munched on a protein snack before you hit the stores. Chewing gum is also a good way to avoid snacking as you shop.

No matter what you see, stick to your list. Desserts and candies do not look nearly as good if you are not hungry. It is amazing how much less impulse buying you do when you eat and drink before you shop.

Party time
Were you invited somewhere for a party? Are they having a meal at work? Go prepared. It might be wise to eat a healthy snack before the party so that you do not arrive hungry.

Bring a diabetes-friendly dessert or vegetable platter with dip. Avoid the breaded, deep-fried foods and creamy casseroles. Load your plate with lots of small bites of different things. It will fill you up faster.

Move away from the food table, and get into a conversation. Drink diet soda or a hot beverage, something that is not loaded with sugar.

Remember too that alcoholic beverages are OK in moderation, but drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or drinking alcohol without eating carbohydrate-containing food can potentially cause your blood sugar levels to drop dangerously low.

Feasts
For Thanksgiving dinner you could choose to eat sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, which will lower the glycemic load (the impact of the food on blood sugar) of the meal. I love the stuffing but eat a smaller portion than I used to. Green beans and raw vegetables are always on the table at my house.

If you decide to eat a piece of pie, make it a small portion. Leave the crust on your plate to lower the impact on your blood sugar. It is true that the first two or three bites taste the best, so you don’t have to eat it all to enjoy it.

There are delicious sugar-free substitutes for every kind of candy. They still have carbohydrates and calories in them, though not as many as the sugary kinds. (Watch out for the ones made with maltitol, though, because they produce gas and diarrhea if you eat very much.)

The most important thing I have learned about the holidays is to make them about the people more than the food. Feasts will always be about eating, but when I concentrate on enjoying the company of family and friends, everything else is easier.

If you decide to indulge in things that are not diabetes friendly, pick one or two that you really want. Do not just go crazy because it is a holiday. The depression and regret later are not worth the price.

Afterward, do not beat yourself up about any “mistakes.” Start where you are and move on. Most especially, I hope you find many things to be thankful for this holiday season.

There are lots of tasks to juggle when you have diabetes, but a variety of apps can make many of them easier. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more about some helpful high-tech tools from nurse David Spero.