This is a guest post by Kristen Nichols Heitman, MPH, an epidemiologist in the Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch in the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases in the National Center for Emerging Zoonotic and Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She received a Master of Public Health (MPH) with a concentration in epidemiology from Georgia State University.
During the holidays, there are many obstacles to managing diabetes. The holidays are filled with traveling, activities with loved ones, parties and more. Temptations are everywhere and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be hard. When you have diabetes, it is important to monitor your blood glucose level. High blood glucose levels can lead to long-term complications if you don’t get treatment, such as heart disease nerve damage, vision problems, poor circulation, and kidney disease. Low blood glucose levels can cause complications as well, such as confusion, weakness, dizziness, jitteriness, sweating, and in serious, severe cases, seizures and coma. By planning in advance, you can keep your diabetes management on track. Here are 10 tips on how to manage this chronic condition during the holidays:
1. Routinely scheduled mealtimes may be disrupted. Plan to have snacks available to eat during your usual mealtime to keep your blood sugar steady.
2. Stay on top of your blood sugar. Plan to check it more often than normal during the holidays.
3. Stay active. Plan a family activity, such as hiking, walking or a game of touch football to compensate for eating more than normal. Exercise is a great way to lower blood sugar levels.
4. Alter your favorite recipes to make them healthier. Instead of using sour cream, try Greek yogurt. Steam your vegetables instead of sautéing. Use less sugar or sugar-free sweetener in your favorite dessert. Making small adjustments can make a big difference.
5. Snack on fresh vegetables while you’re waiting to eat. This will help you maintain a healthy blood glucose level. Also, you will not be as hungry and will be less likely to indulge in high-calorie foods or sugary desserts.
6. Enjoy your favorites; pass on the rest. If there are certain dishes you can’t get any other time of year, have a small portion and eat slowly to savor it. Try to resist going back for seconds. Do you really want that dessert? Try sharing one portion with someone. Don’t feel like you have to sample everything on the table. Traditional holiday foods are high in carbohydrates.
7. Plan to eat the same amount of carbohydrates that you normally would for a meal. If you want to indulge in a dessert, plan to eat fewer carbs during your meal.
8. Drink alcohol in moderation and make sure you eat something before drinking to prevent low glucose levels later. Be careful because alcohol can interact with some diabetes medications. Avoid mixers such as sugary fruit juices, syrups, and sodas. Try mixing with a squeeze of citrus juice and soda water.
9. Did you overindulge? Step away from the food and spend time with your family. Monitor your blood glucose levels and make a plan to get back on track. Don’t skip meals to make up for overeating.
10. Aim to get 7–8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep loss can make it harder to control your blood sugar. If you’re sleep-deprived, you’ll also be more likely to eat more and prefer high-fat, high-sugar foods.
Remember, the holidays are about spending time with your loved ones. Focus less on food and more on having fun!
American Diabetes Association: “Fitting in Sweets”
American Diabetes Association: “Planning Ahead”
The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors’ affiliated institutions.