Tom Scott is part of a large, extended family that enjoys getting together for a potluck dinner every weekend. Since his recent diagnosis with Type 2 diabetes, however, Tom has found these gatherings more exhausting than enjoyable. It seems as though he faces an unlimited buffet of fat- and carbohydrate-rich foods every week, and if he overindulges, he sees the effects on his blood glucose levels. And although his family members mean well, he often feels as though they have become the “diabetes police,” watching what he eats and asking, “Are you sure you can have that?”
Tom shared his feelings about these family meals with his diabetes educator, who helped him brainstorm some ways to make the weekly family potluck healthier, more active, and less stressful. They also talked about how Tom might respond to family members who comment on or question what he is eating. Here are some of the ideas they came up with:
• Suggest some activities that will get people moving before or after the meal, such as playing active games, dancing, or taking a walk together.
• Don’t let the “diabetes police” ruin your day. In most cases, your family and friends mean well, but they don’t know every detail of your diabetes management plan, and they may not understand that your food choices depend in part on what activity you’ve just done or your current blood glucose level. Thank them for their concern and ask for their support in ways that are more helpful, such as being an exercise buddy or searching for wholesome recipes for the next get-together.
• If you feel up to it, use comments and questions from family members as an opportunity to educate them about how you manage your diabetes. A few words about the carbohydrate content of a favorite family dish may be just the information they need to improve their understanding of the way you control your blood glucose level.
• Try some slimmed-down recipes each week. Bring a tasty, diabetes-friendly dish to the potluck so you know you’ll have something to eat that fits into your meal plan. Make healthy foods look festive by using colorful ingredients.
• To save calories on beverages, prepare colorful, low-calorie thirst quenchers such as water with added slices of fruit or ice cubes made from 100% fruit juice.
Healthier get-togethers set a good example for the children in your family, and if there are kid-friendly activities to participate in, they may be more fun for them, too. Whether the kids are aware of it or not, the lifestyle changes you make to control your diabetes are also beneficial for reducing the risk for the younger generation.
For more ideas on how to make your family events fun, healthy, and active, check out the Choose My Plate “Happy and Healthy Celebrations” page, at www.choosemyplate.gov/Bday/celebrations.html