The holiday season provides plenty of temptations for everyone. But it’s particularly tough for those of us who have diabetes.
My blood sugar spikes just thinking about all those cookies full of carbohydrates, sugary candy and potluck dinners packed with all sorts of dishes I’m supposed to be avoiding.
We shouldn’t have to feel like a party pooper who can’t partake in the festivities. But we should be thinking about what we’re eating and try our best to keep our blood sugar under control.
Here are some things you can do to have fun and still stay healthy over the holidays.
1. Eat Something Healthy Before the Big Party
You’ll be able to control your cravings if you put something nutritious and filling in your stomach before you head to a holiday get-together.
Try eating a piece of fruit – like an apple. The skin of an apple can actually help keep you feeling full longer. You could also try making a spinach salad or eating some almonds. Those are foods known to help stabilize blood sugar.
Then when you get to the party – you can focus on socializing instead of bumming out about the food you shouldn’t eat.
2. Don’t Starve Yourself Beforehand
While it may seem logical – avoiding food all day just so you can pack in the calories at a holiday celebration is a bad idea.
That’s because over-indulging will almost certainly cause your blood sugar levels to spike. You’ll be so hungry if you skip a meal that you’ll be much more likely to overeat.
It’s a lot smarter to eat normally during the day, and enjoy yourself in moderation at the party.
3. Do Add Some Extra Exercise Afterwards
It’s a good idea to take the dog for a walk, hop on the treadmill, lift some weights or make an extra trip to the gym after you’ve had some holiday fun involving lots of food.
Exercise burns calories and lowers your blood sugar. That’s because your muscles are using up more glucose. Of course, if you’re taking insulin, you should be aware of any effect additional exercise may have.
Just don’t push yourself too hard. Intense exercise can actually cause a temporary spike in glucose levels because your body releases stress hormones that can raise your blood sugar.
4. Be Careful About Alcohol
Alcohol is a tricky subject for diabetics – and there will most likely be quite a few drinks at Christmas and New Year’s parties as well as other celebrations this time of year.
Alcohol can have a lowering effect on your blood sugar. That can be dangerous – partly because symptoms of low blood sugar can appear to be similar to someone who is drunk. You probably know the difference in how it feels. But you wouldn’t want to pass out from low blood sugar and have everyone think you were just really wasted.
For that reason – drink responsibly. You can also read what the American Diabetes Association has to say about diabetics and drinking.
You should also remember that while a lot of hard alcohol has little or no calories – drinks like beer, wine and many sweet holiday cocktails can be high in sugar and carbohydrates.
5. Avoid “Everyday Carbs” and Pick Out Your Favorites
When you’re looking over the spread of snacks – stay away from the stuff that’s not really “special.” You can eat crackers and pretzels whenever you want, so why would you load up on those items?
Instead – look for a couple of things you only get to enjoy during the holiday season. Put a modest amount of those dishes and treats on your plate. Then savor every bite. You may find you enjoy it even more when you know you need to limit yourself.
Also – there are almost always healthier snack choices like the veggie tray and the bowl of mixed nuts. Turn to those when you have the munchies.
Certain foods have a lower glycemic index (GI), which means the sugars are absorbed more slowly and steadily. That can help keep your glucose levels stable. Sweet potatoes are one classic holiday food with a low glycemic index.
- View a list of common foods and their GI at Diabetes.org
6. Bring Your Own Diabetic-Friendly Food and Drink
You’re not the only one with specific dietary restrictions. These days – it seems more people have them than not. Besides folks with diabetes, there are vegetarians and vegans, people who eat gluten free and all sorts of food allergies.
A potluck is the perfect opportunity to make a diabetic-friendly dish. But even if it’s not a potluck – your hosts probably won’t be offended if you offer to bring something to add to the party.
7. Check Your Glucose Levels More Often
You’re bound to make a few mistakes over the holidays. Keeping your blood sugar balanced is hard – so don’t get down on yourself.
Remember to bring your meter to holiday functions so you know whether you may need to take some extra insulin, or when you should stop eating. Keeping an eye on your glucose level is always a good idea – but it can be even more helpful when you deviate from your routine diet.
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How do you stay healthy over the holiday season? We want to hear your tips whether you’re a diabetic or not. Leave us a comment below!