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Living with Diabetes: A Holiday Survival Guide
By Connie Frazier, RD, LDN, CDE

Do you want to enjoy the holidays and still keep your diabetes (and your weight) under control? Managing diabetes during the holidays can be a challenge. These survival strategies can help you accomplish your wellness goals.

Winning Strategies:

  • Eat regular meals instead of skipping meals. Space meals four to five hours apart to help control your blood glucose levels and to prevent overeating.
  • Space carbohydrates throughout the day. Rather than having a large portion of mashed potatoes, stuffing, roll and pie, skip the roll, control portions and save the small piece of pie for a snack.
  • Eat slowly. It generally takes 20 minutes for the brain to receive the signal that the stomach is satisfied. Put your fork down between bites and enjoy the mealtime conversation.
  • Look for healthful holiday recipes in diabetes cookbooks, magazines and web sites such as www.joslin.org (Joslin Diabetes Center) and www.diabetes.org (American Diabetes Association).

Party Survival Strategies:

  • Plan for the party ahead of time. To prevent overeating, eat a small snack before you go, such as a piece of fruit and cheese, a few crackers with peanut butter or a handful of nuts.
  • Bring a healthy dish to the event such as a heart healthy casserole or hummus with pita bread.
  • Survey the buffet table and choose smaller servings of “special holiday treats.”
  • Instead of “grazing” over time at the party, put the food you plan to eat on a small plate. As a result, you’ll be more aware of choices and portions.
  • Enlist the support of a buddy. Support systems can help you stay on track with healthy eating and physical activity.
  • Socialize with friends away from the buffet table.
  • If you’re hosting the party, send your guests home with a “doggy bag” of holiday leftovers and goodies.
  • Monitor your blood sugar regularly to make sure your blood glucose is within your target range.

Ways to change ingredients in recipes to lower fat and sugar. It is possible to enjoy your favorite holiday fare without all of the calories, fat and sugar:

  • Decrease the amount of fats and sugar in recipes by 1/3 to1/2 of the specified amount.
  • To enhance the sweet flavor, use cinnamon, vanilla or nutmeg.
  • Substitute two egg whites or an egg substitute for each egg in recipes.
  • Use evaporated skim milk for cream.
  • Use unsweetened applesauce in place of some oil in the baked goods.
  • Roast veggies with a small amount of olive oil and herbs rather than rich sauces.

Be smart about alcohol use:

  • Check with your health care provider about how to drink alcohol safely.
  • If you choose to drink, limit alcohol to one to two drinks per occasion.
  • Drink alcohol with food to reduce the risk of low blood sugar.
  • Consider nonalcoholic beverages such as seltzer water with a twist of lemon or lime.

Keep Active:

  • Plan activities like walks, hikes, skating, sledding or dances with family and friends.
  • Have active parties such as caroling, house decorating or walks to see neighborhood decorations.
  • Set aside time each day for physical activity. A brisk walk around the neighborhood or around the mall can lower stress and blood sugar.

Set yourself up for success with your diabetes care during the holidays by choosing realistic goals. It is all about progress, not perfection. Here’s to the holidays. Enjoy!

Connie Frazier is with the Joslin Diabetes Center, Allegheny Health Network. To learn more about the Joslin Diabetes Center, Allegheny Health Network, visit the website http://www.wpahs.org/specialties/diabetes or call (412) 315-3520.

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