Holidays can present special challenges for those who live with diabetes, particularly as people look for ways to either avoid temptation or make better choices while they navigate all the indulgences of the season.
Whether it’s dealing with busy schedules, extra stress, family gatherings or holiday eating, the holiday season brings many extra gatherings, social events and shopping, which leave us with even less time for healthy lifestyle habits such as exercise.
Towards the end of the year, many people really do celebrate a holiday “season” with multiple holidays occurring from October to January, many of which have a heavy focus on foods that are often high in sugar, sodium, fat and calories. Since research shows that weight gained during the holidays doesn’t usually come off later in the year, it’s important to focus on “weight maintenance”through quality diets and physical activity during the holidays.
This not only helps our waistlines, but also helps us manage other health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
With that in mind, Jenny Lobb, a specialist with Ohio State Extension Service, and other food and nutrition experts offer the following tips to help you enjoy the holidays while managing your diabetes:
• Manage your stress. Stress causes our bodies to stay in a constant state of “fight or flight.” In response, our bodies release hormones that affect the way our bodies release and use glucose. This can cause blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels to remain high and be more difficult to manage. Exercising, relaxing, meditating and yoga with deep breathing exercises are good.
• Don’t take a holiday break from physical activity. A regular exercise program improves blood sugars, decreases the risk of heart disease and helps you lose weight. Thirty minutes a day five times a week is good. Every day is better. You don’t have to do it all at once. Break it up throughout the day.
• Plan ahead. Stick to your healthy meal plan, plan menus in advance and take diabetes-friendly foods to gatherings.
• When eating a holiday meal, try to consume only the amount of carbohydrates that you’d normally consume, and don’t skip meals or snacks earlier in the day to “save” carbs for later. This will make your blood glucose more difficult to control.
• Keep desserts in check. Share a dessert, make desserts that you’ve modified to be healthy or politely decline dessert when you know you’ve reached your limit.
• Watch your meal portion sizes.
Kathy Smith is a Texas A&M AgriLife extension agent.