My husband has diabetes and I know it's really hard for him to get through the holidays. Do you have any suggestions to make the holidays a little easier for him?
According to Mary Meck Higgins, a human nutrition specialist with Kansas State University Research and Extension, diabetes can be controlled during the holidays if individuals heed recommendations of health care professionals.
Keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible makes a big difference in risk for health complications. Controlling blood sugar can help him have more energy and feel better.
Higgins recommends to shift the focus away from food during the holidays. Rather, try to center your attention more on social aspects of spending quality time with friends and family. Focus on participating in an activity, caroling for instance, watching a sporting event or getting involved in a group board game. Food can contribute to a festive party, but people - and our relationships with them - are usually what is most remembered.
Individuals should follow their usual eating schedule and space meals and snacks regularly, instead of skipping meals. Eating small portion sizes of certain foods, monitoring blood sugar levels and exercising often throughout the holidays are other requirements in successfully managing diabetes.
Here are some useful ideas for party-goers who have diabetes:
- Plan by choosing lower-fat, lower-calorie foods at other times the day of the party, to help balance the party food.
- Exercise before the party. Ask your health care team for specific information on how to make these adjustments.
- Look over all of the food selections before choosing any food item to eat. Ask about ingredients used in recipes.
- Choose only a limited amount of enticing foods, indulging in a select few high-fat high-sugar foods with very small portions and single servings. Count all foods towards a personal prescribed meal plan.
- Fill up on healthful non-starchy vegetables, then go for the whole grains and fresh fruits. Drink a sugar-free beverage.
- Take an especially nutritious, low-calorie food to share with the group.
- Eat slowly. Take the time to chew and enjoy food, and pay attention to what you eat. This also will allow time for your stomach to signal that it is full.
- If you drink at all, limit your alcohol intake to one small drink for women and two for men. Drink it slowly with a meal or snack.
Other ideas may include:
- Reduce temptation by storing sweets, snacks and leftovers out of sight or give them away.
- Practice intentional eating where individuals remain aware of food selections and portion sizes for the meal or snack. This is where you attend to your eating activity. If you don't have time to pay attention to what you are eating, then delay eating until you do have time to pay it attention. This will help prevent unconsciously overeating.
As a host at holiday parties, here are some added recommendations:
- Do not pressure guests to overindulge on food if they eat just a small portion.
- Serve foods, such as fruit, nuts, pretzels or a fresh vegetable tray, to be enjoyed whenever guests need to eat. Medications may require a person to eat a snack sooner than the meal can be served.
- In planning the menu, a rule of thumb to follow is to provide one-fourth to one-third of the meal as protein foods, and two-thirds to three-fourths of the meal as carbohydrate foods. Consider offering a buffet rather than a served meal. Guests can choose their selections and control the portion size of each food. People with diabetes generally are advised to fill most of their plate with vegetables, whole grains, and unsweetened fruits, with smaller portions of low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods, and very small amounts, if any, of alcohol-containing, high-fat or high-sugar foods.
- Serve a variety of sugar-free beverages, including water.
- Limit butter, oil, cream or cheese added to any food items. Provide fat-free cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, salad dressings or other toppings as choices.
- Provide a choice of low-sugar low-fat desserts. For example, substitute artificial sweeteners for part or all of the sugar used in recipes. Using artificial sweeteners will decrease the carbohydrate content of the food, allowing your guests to eat more carbohydrates in the rest of their meal.
- Invite guests to bring a suitable favorite dessert to share with everyone.
As Mary Higgins said, "For most people with diabetes, hardly any foods must be totally avoided. Blood sugar control is assisted by eating a diet that is consistent from day to day in its carbohydrate content. Certain foods must be reserved as special treats, in moderate portions as a part of a meal plan. Consult your health care team for specific advice."