QUESTION: I was recently diagnosed with diabetes and am not sure how to manage my disease as I go through the holiday season. Do you have any tips on what steps I can take to navigate through the holidays while keeping my diabetes in check?
ANSWER: 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, said Jenny Lobb, a family and consumer sciences educator for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).
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, she said.
“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,” Lobb said. “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, Lobb and other CFAES food and nutrition experts offer the following tips to help you enjoy the holidays while managing your diabetes:
– Cut stress and stay active. 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. One way to deal with that is through physical activity, which helps reduce stress and helps our bodies control blood glucose. Go for a walk after eating a holiday meal, or clear the table after the meal. This will get you active and prevent mindless munching.
– 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.
Lastly, if you want even more information on how to manage diabetes during the holidays, OSU Extension offers a Take Charge of Your Diabetes During the Holidays class, where you’ll learn how to prepare holiday favorites that are both nutritious and delicious; participate in live cooking demonstrations; sample healthy versions of holiday favorites; and take home recipes to try at your holiday celebrations.
This free class is held at the Franklin County office of OSU Extension, at the Kunz-Brundige Franklin County Extension Building, 2548 Carmack Road, Columbus, Ohio, at CFAES’ Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory. Registration by Nov. 30 is required. Contact Lobb at 614-292-7775 or [email protected] to reserve your spot.
Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line writer Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or [email protected]