Celebrations and special occasions such as holidays are some of the most joyful and memorable times of the year. With loved ones gathering, music playing, and an abundance of food, it can be easy for anyone to get carried away with the festivities and overindulge. This is especially challenging for people living with diabetes. However, you don’t have to miss out on the fun with a bit of pre-party planning. Staying committed to your healthy eating goals and your blood glucose targets is possible, despite the abundance of choices available at gatherings. Here are a few tips for managing diabetes during special occasions to help you stay on track while still participating in the festivities.
Get your physical activity in - Start the day with your favorite exercise. Take a walk with a family member or someone from the party after your meal. Staying active during the holidays will help keep your glucose values in target range, which is a key goal in managing diabetes.
Plan ahead – Find out what’s on the menu in advance so you have an idea of what dishes you can enjoy that will satisfy you and keep your blood glucose in range without compromising your health journey.
Be choosy - Go for the dishes with baked or grilled lean meats, or fish for your protein intake that will help you feel satisfied. Breaded or fried meats and heavy sauces should be enjoyed in smaller quantities.
Fresh or steamed veggies are your friend – A good rule of thumb is to fill 1/2 of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli, carrots, and spinach. Watch out for foods that may seem healthy but are loaded with butter or cheese, like vegetables covered in sauce or casseroles. If you are cooking for the celebration, try using fresh herbs, spices and citrus zest for healthy flavorings instead of salt.
You CAN have dessert – Don’t deprive yourself. You can still satisfy your sweet tooth…in moderation, of course. Keep servings of foods that are high in sugar or fat small and when in doubt, go for fresh fruits. If you’re the chef, try reducing the sugar content of your recipes—your guests probably won’t notice the difference.
Eat high fiber grains - Steamed brown rice or whole grain breads like whole wheat and cornbread are a better choice for managing blood sugar. Keep in mind that starchy vegetables and grains should only take up about a ¼ of your plate. Foods high in fiber content have a lower impact on your blood sugar and keep you feeling full longer.
Stick to sugar-free beverages – Consuming sugar-free beverages like water, coffee, or unsweetened tea is best. Prefer an alcoholic drink? One drink per day for women and up to two per day for men may be OK. Check with your doctor to find the balance that is right for you. Remember, it’s important to stay hydrated and give your body the time it needs to metabolize your intake.
Say no to skipping meals - Consuming some of the foods you love during celebrations doesn’t mean you need to skip a meal before or later that day to make up for it. Skipping a meal could cause you to overeat later, as well as cause low blood sugar if you are at risk for it.
Continue to self-monitor – Don’t forget to check your blood sugar levels before you attend the gathering and after eating your meal. It’s important to follow your doctor’s plan for self-monitoring to stay within your target range.
With a little planning, making wise food choices during festive occasions is very possible. You can join in the fun and still stay on track. Bon appetit!