Ten Tips for Living with Diabetes During the Holidays

If you are one of the 30+ million Americans who have been diagnosed with diabetes, you know that the holidays are perhaps the most difficult time of year to manage blood sugar levels. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, holiday parties and family get togethers offer plenty of opportunities to indulge in delicious foods that are loaded with carbs and fat. Give in to temptation and you know the results- end up with high blood sugar levels, increase your risk of heart disease and feel lousy too.

Stay in better control of your blood sugar levels this holiday season with these ten tips.

  1. Shrink Portions. An obvious solution to eating fewer carbs during the holidays is to reduce portion sizes. Take half the amount of food you would normally get and go back for seconds if you are still hungry. You may find that you are just as content when you eat less.  

  2. Eat Your Veggies First. Non-starchy vegetables like lettuce, celery, peppers, and green beans fill you up without adding a lot of carbohydrates or calories. Bring a fresh veggie tray to holiday gatherings, or, if you are hosting, swap out the traditional vegetable casseroles with steamed or roasted veggie alternatives.  

  3. Drizzle it with Vinegar. While the evidence is not conclusive, some research suggests that 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar before a meal can lower post-meal blood sugar levels in people with insulin resistance and in those with type 2 diabetes. A pre-dinner salad drizzled with oil and vinegar is an easy way to naturally incorporate vinegar and get a serving of non-starchy veggies before the big meal.  

  4. Fill up on Fiber. Fiber has been shown to help control blood sugars, lower cholesterol levels and may help with weight loss. Aim for 7-12 grams at each meal by filling half your plate with vegetables and choosing whole grains. Be sure to eat the edible peel on fruits and vegetables to get the most fiber.  

  5. Be Picky. Enjoy small amounts of those special foods that are offered only during the holiday season, but pass the plate on those foods that you can have any time of the year, like rolls, chips, and cookies. And, if a food doesn’t meet or exceed your taste expectations, don’t waste carbs or calories on it!  

  6. Watch out for Beverage Calories. Holiday beverages like eggnog, punch, alcoholic drinks and soda are high in carbohydrates and calories and do little to fill you up. If you have diabetes, it may be best to simply avoid these drinks. Instead, quench your thirst with calorie-free drinks, like water, regular tea, and diet soda. Or, look for healthier beverage recipes that include festive spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves to help you get in the spirit of the holidays without sabotaging your health.  

  7. Be Label Savvy. Sugar-free doesn’t mean carbohydrate-free, so always check the nutrition facts panel for the serving size, the number of carbohydrates per serving and the amount of saturated fat. Make sure the values are in line with your personalized nutrition plan. A registered dietitian can help you create a plan if you don’t have one.  

  8. Get Moving. A 30-minute exercise session can improve insulin resistance for up to two days. The more you exercise, the greater the effect. Walk an extra lap around the mall before and after your holiday shopping. Ride a stationary bike while watching holiday specials. Organize a group to go caroling around the neighborhood or walk to see the lights. Getting regular physical activity also helps reduce holiday stress, burns off extra calories, and keeps your muscles toned. Aim for 30-60 minutes daily.

  9. Check Blood Sugars Often. A blood glucose monitor is a device that checks blood sugar levels through a drop of blood collected from a finger stick. Ideally, the best way to learn how your food choices impact your blood sugar is to check your blood sugar in the morning when you wake, before eating and about two hours after your first bite. During the hectic holiday season, it is especially important to check blood sugar levels frequently and nutrition adjustments as needed. Ask your doctor or pharmacist or a certified diabetes educator for help in selecting the best blood glucose monitor for you.  

  10. Take Your Medications as Directed. Diabetes management is a combination of nutrition, exercise and medication. Always take your medications as directed. And if you are traveling, don’t forget to pack them! If you have questions, ask your doctor, pharmacist or a certified diabetes educator.  

If you would like to meet with a Registered Dietitian to learn more about nutrition and its impact on your health, including diabetes, please email nutritionservices@amfamfit.com.

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Pam Speich is the Director of Nutrition Services at American Family Fitness and the Registered Dietitian at the Short Pump American Family Fitness location. She graduated from Carson Newman College with a Bachelor of Science Degree with Honors in Foods and Nutrition with an Emphasis in Dietetics. She completed her Dietetic Internship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and earned the credentials Registered Dietitian in 2000. In March 2018, Pam became a certified personal trainer.  

Pam’s experience includes nutrition counseling, wellness program development, public speaking, wellness research and writing, sales and marketing, and food labeling. Her areas of nutrition specialty include weight loss, heart healthy diets, diabetes, celiac disease, food allergies and intolerances, and low thyroid conditions.  What Pam loves most about being a dietitian is the opportunity to witness lives changed for the better through the power of food.

When Pam is not at the club, you are likely to find her at a sporting event with one or more of her three boys, traveling with her husband, or working on a home improvement project.

Nutrition appointments with Pam are available at Short Pump on Tuesday mornings, Wednesday mornings, Thursday evenings and Friday mornings. Appointments at VCC are available on Saturday afternoons. To schedule, contact: nutritionservices@amfamfit.com

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