Sweet Holiday Tips for Diabetics
With care and moderation, people with diabetes can indulge, too
By R. Morgan Griffin
Reviewed By Michael Smith, MD
For diabetics, the holiday season is fraught with temptations. Candy is everywhere. Your well-meaning co-workers bring in plates of cookies that taunt you from the break room. You've got invitations to party after party where it seems like the foods were chosen either to test your will or spite you.
But before you decide to give everyone a piece of coal and hibernate through the holidays, you should know that being diabetic doesn't mean you have to give up your favorite seasonal foods.
During the holidays, don't deprive yourself for heaven's sake," says Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic "Recipe Doctor" and author of Tell Me What to Eat if I Have Diabetes: Nutrition You Can Live With.
Joining in the Fun
Although sweets are often considered a diabetic's worst enemy, managing diabetes is more complicated than simply avoiding sugar. For instance, other carbohydrates -- like a serving of mashed potatoes -- can cause a surge in blood sugar just like a candy bar. It's the total number of carbohydrates that counts and not the form you're eating them in. Fat, which abounds in holiday cooking, should also be kept to a minimum.
So what should you be eating during the holidays? "As at any time of the year, you should be eating a healthy, balanced diet low in saturated fat," says Gene Barrett, MD, of the department of internal medicine at the University of Virginia. He also stresses that you should be getting a good amount of fiber and complex carbohydrates.
That can be tricky during the holidays. But neither Barrett or Magee says you need to eliminate foods, since a good meal plan balances different types of foods and outlaws none.
While the holidays are a time when you have less control over what food is put in front of you, you've still got control over what you actually choose to eat. Don't allow the usual high-fat and high-sugar holiday party fare to take you by surprise. If you're going to a party or a holiday meal, go prepared.
Once you're at a holiday meal or party, overeating is pretty easy to do, especially since the rest of the guests are often overindulging. However, Magee and Barrett tell WebMD that you shouldn't let yourself lose control.
Sticking to the Plan
Staying in control may be difficult and exhausting during the holidays, especially when no one else is. Holidays are trying times for many, and the extra hassle of having to always be so careful about what you eat may get you down, or make you feel cut off from others. However, using some of the tips above will help you enjoy the holidays along with everyone else.
In addition, it's worth remembering that the consequences of going off your meal plan are often not only long-term, but immediate. "When diabetics are off their program," says Magee, "whether their blood sugar is up or down, they know it. They feel sick."
So even though planning ahead may sometimes be a chore, having a healthy holiday is the best way to assure a festive one.
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