Managing Your Diabetes During the Holidays

November is Diabetes Awareness Month and it’s also the kickoff to the holiday season. The most important focus of the holidays is spending time enjoying the company of friends and family, although the food is a very close second. Whether you or an aging loved one has diabetes, it can be especially difficult to manage the disease during this time of year. It requires self-control and some careful planning.

Diabetes requires dietary restrictions that are especially onerous when holiday sweets and carb-laden temptations are everywhere. Using some simple tips, diabetics can still enjoy the holidays and keep their blood sugar under control.

Lighten up recipes when possible. Sugar, carbs, and fats abound when it comes to the holidays. Reduce these when possible in recipes or use healthy alternatives. Cauliflower mashed potatoes, desserts made with natural, sugar-free sweeteners, fresh-baked sweet potatoes instead of sweet potato pie are all examples. If you’ve been invited to a party or a dinner, offer to bring a few healthy side dishes or appetizers.

Follow the plate rule. Imagine your plate is cut into 4 sections. Lean proteins take up a quarter, starchy carbs (grains, pasta, potatoes, etc.) should take another quarter, and green and non-starchy vegetables should take up the other half. This gives you a taste of everything you want to eat while following portion control and keeping those blood sugar levels in check. You can learn more about the plate method here.

Get your steps in. Regular exercise is important – it can improve blood sugar, decrease the risk of heart disease, and help you lose weight. Stick to your exercise regime during the holiday; it’s even more important during times when you may be over-eating or eating richer foods. Just 30 minutes, 5 times a week can be helpful – you can even break it into 2 or 3 shorter workouts if needed – a quick walk before and after you eat can help with digestion. And remember, it's important to check your sugar levels prior to vigorous exercise.

Plan ahead. If you know you are going to a small party or dinner, ask about the menu in advance so you’ll know what to expect. Make sure you don’t skip meals ahead of holiday celebrations either as it can cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate. Enjoying a light snack prior to a gathering can prevent you from overeating or binging on carbs and sweets. Finding the food table too tempting and can’t resist going back for seconds, thirds, or more? Find a spot to mingle as far from the food table as possible.

Stay hydrated. Many people overeat or load up on really sweet or salty foods simply because they are not hydrated enough. Drinking plenty of water can help you feel fuller and lessen your desire to overindulge.

Check your blood sugar often. It’s easy to get thrown off your routine during the holidays, so check your blood sugar levels more often than not. The only way to know how your holiday eating is affecting your blood sugar is to check it regularly. A few extra checks can alert you to any potential problems.

Get enough sleep and avoid stress. Yes, the holidays can be stressful and there is A LOT going on but getting plenty of sleep can help you cope with extra stress – meditation, yoga, and relaxation time can also be a big help to keep your stress levels at a minimum.

Living with diabetes, especially during the holidays, is challenging but it can be effectively managed. For some great information and resources from the American Diabetes Association on seniors and living with diabetes, CLICK HERE.

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