November has become the official kickoff to the holiday season. November also is American Diabetes Month. For those people living with diabetes, the holidays are especially challenging. Use the following tips to enjoy the season and be healthy while you do it.
• Exercise. Physical activity lowers blood glucose levels. Plan ahead to keep your exercise routine. You may have extra time off from work or school this time of year, so take advantage of that time and use it for physical activity. Sign up for a fun event, such as a 5K race or walk that raises money for a good cause. When the snow starts to fall organize a family sledding party or ski trip. Cleaning and putting up holiday decorations also counts! Consider it multi-tasking — working in exercise and getting your house ready for guests.
• Continue to count carbohydrates. Because carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels, pay attention to the carbohydrate content of foods and stick with your carb counting plan as much as possible. Be choosy about what you eat. Enjoy your favorite holiday foods and skip the ordinary food. Saying “no thank you” to the dinner roll or plain mashed potatoes will allow you to enjoy a small serving of pumpkin pie or cranberry stuffing without over-indulging in carbs. When you’re faced with a buffet line, make your first trip a trial run so you know how to fill your plate. Skip the ho-hum foods and eat the special occasion foods only offered this time of year. When you’re invited to bring something to the party, make it a veggie tray with your favorite holiday dip. You can nibble on low carb vegetables as an appetizer and not have to adjust your mealtime carbohydrates.
• Choose carbohydrate-free beverages. Calories and carbohydrates from liquids add up quickly and don’t offer the same full feeling that food does. Calorie-free powdered drink mixes can be a good substitute for fruit juices in punch recipes. For example, instead of using pineapple juice or orange juice in your favorite recipe, mix up a pitcher of pineapple orange drink mix and substitute it for the juice.
• Limit alcohol. The American Diabetes Association recommends that if you drink alcoholic beverages, women should have no more than one drink per day and men should stick to no more than two drinks per day. People with diabetes who are on insulin and some medications are at risk for low blood sugar if they drink without eating food. Be sure to have a healthy appetizer with your drink, or wait until dinner so that you are not drinking on an empty stomach. If you choose to drink alcohol, light beer, wine spritzers (white or red wine mixed with club soda), dry red or white wine or a mixed drink with distilled spirits and a low calorie mixer like club soda and diet pop are the most sensible choices.
Holiday meals and traditions don’t have to interrupt your diabetes control. With some planning the holidays can be happy and healthy!