Making a List and Checking It Twice

The winter holidays are upon us. With them comes the usual stress of shopping, cooking, and cleaning, not to mention the very real possibility of expanding waistlines and extra pounds showing up on the bathroom scale. And, for people with diabetes, there’s often the extra worry of more erratic blood glucose levels — sometimes too high, sometimes too low, which can make you feel frustrated and tired.


I can’t do much to help you with your holiday shopping and preparations, but I can share some “nontraditional” pointers that might make it easier in terms of eating a little more healthfully and staying a little more active. And while I do believe that it’s OK to enjoy your favorite holiday treats (albeit in moderation), I realize that it’s hard for some people to stop at, say, just one holiday cookie or just one slice of roast beef. So, I’ve created a list of six simple (but hopefully helpful) tips that you might try to make holidays a little less stressful. You might even find that some of these tips are good to try all year round.

  • Chew a stick of gum for 20 minutes before eating. A study out of the University Rhode Island found that people who chewed sugarless gum 20 minutes before eating breakfast and then twice more during the three hours before they ate lunch felt less hungry and more energetic, and consumed 67 fewer calories at lunch. Sounds like this may be worth a try!
  • Boost your vitamin C intake. Consuming 500 milligrams or more of vitamin C on a regular basis can help you burn 30% more fat when you exercise. Focus on getting your vitamin C from eating at least three servings of fruits and vegetables, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, and broccoli.
  • Bottoms up with vegetable juice. Take a midafternoon break or start off your meal with a glass (8 ounces) of low-sodium vegetable juice. Here’s why: Drinking vegetable juice helped overweight people with metabolic syndrome lose more weight (4 pounds in 12 weeks) than non-juice drinkers. And people with borderline high blood pressure significantly lowered their blood pressure by drinking at least two cups of vegetable juice daily. Eight ounces of low-sodium V8 contains 50 calories, 10 grams of carbohydrate, and 140 milligrams of sodium.
  • Fit in a walk, no matter what. Think you don’t have willpower or the time? Not true. One study showed that some people really do have limited stores of willpower when it comes to exercise. But that can change by scheduling exercise into your day, working out with someone (even a trainer), exercising first thing in the morning, or being active when you’re in a good mood. The theory is that the more you actually exercise, the more you increase your willpower stores — and the more likely you’ll stick with a routine. So no excuses!
  • Mull over a glass of mulled wine. OK, maybe you’re not planning on serving mulled wine — but you might consider it. Mulled wine is a traditional holiday beverage and consists of heated red wine that’s been flavored with cinnamon sticks, vanilla, cloves, and citrus fruits. Sometimes sugar is added, but if you make your own, you can leave it out. Why mulled wine? The ingredients are actually quite good for you in that they can promote heart health and maybe keep your blood glucose from soaring. And it sure beats eggnog! No mulled wine? A glass of red wine can also help. But remember the guideline: no more than two servings per day for men, no more than one serving for women. If you don’t already drink alcohol, now’s probably not the time to start, either. By the way, four ounces of mulled wine has 140 calories and 0 grams of fat. Four ounces of eggnog has 170 calories and 10 grams of fat.
  • Capture the memories. Your meal memories, that is. Chances are you’ve got that camera out, so why not take a picture of your holiday meals before and after you eat them? Why? Well, they might look good in your photo album, but the real reason is that taking before and after pictures of meals can help you lose up to 5% of your weight, according to one study. Think of this as your virtual food record. And as long as the dog hasn’t snatched food off of your plate, pictures don’t lie. Don’t forget to download your photos, too.

Enjoy the holiday season!

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  • Will Ryan

    I really relate to the pressures of the holidays. In early December my wife and I went to Boston where I let myself over eat and under exercise. As you said in your post, I gained weight and my BG was out of control.

    Fortunately I got another chance to do it right last week in NYC. We did our annual trip to see the big tree in Rockefeller Center plus the great store windows. I had learned my lesson in Boston and was able to eat properly and walk a bunch. The result, I lost weight and BG remained in control. Yea!

    I also have a blog where I talk about living with diabetes. I call myself The Joyful Diabetic and my site is All visitors are welcome and I appreciate comments.

  • acampbell

    Thanks, Will. We tend to learn from experience, and you’ve shown that you can enjoy the holidays without paying the price, so to speak!

  • Alison J

    Did not think that the example of just stopping at one slice of roast beef was a great example of what constitutes weight gain if you eat more. Protein surely is good for low carbing and will not increase weight as will a ‘holiday'(?) cookie!

  • acampbell

    Remember that weight gain occurs when you consume more calories (even those from protein) than what you burn off. Studies comparing lower-carbohydrate versus lower-protein diets show that people lose about the same amount of weight over the course of a year on either type of diet, and recent research points to lower-carbohydrate diets increasing the risk of heart disease. I’m sorry you didn’t like my example. However, the point was that having extra helpings of any kind of holiday food (perhaps with the exception of vegetables) can lead to weight gain. And just for interest, a 4-ounce slice of roast beef contains 197 calories and 7 grams of fat. A Pepperidge Farm sugar cookie contains about 140 calories and 5 grams of fat. Yes, there’s more carbohydrate in the cookie, but the roast beef packs more calories.