Say Yes (Without Stress)
to Temptations of the Feast (Part 1)
Does your favorite belt or pair of jeans tighten just thinking about the cocktails, pigs in blankets, and bite-sized potato pancakes (and let’s not forget cookies and pies) you’ll encounter at countless gatherings this holiday season? It’s hard enough, even if you’re in relatively good health, to eat (and drink) moderately and mindfully when everything looks and tastes so good, but having diabetes can make it feel like an even greater challenge—one that might lead you to just say no when it comes to invitations to celebrate with others.
If you have diabetes, you’re not alone—according to the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet, diabetes affects 8.3 percent of the U.S. population, or 25.8 million people (18.8 million diagnosed, and another 7 million undiagnosed). Another 1 in 3 (79 million) American adults are estimated to have prediabetes. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death and the leading cause of kidney failure and new cases of blindness.
Fortunately, diet plays a key role in helping maintain healthy blood sugar levels in those with or at risk for diabetes.
In honor of American Diabetes Month, I interviewed Connie Brown Riggs a registered dietitian, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, certified diabetes educator, and author to help those with (or at risk for) diabetes manage their many holiday get-togethers.
Brown-Riggs believes there’s no place for an ‘all or nothing’ mindset at holiday gatherings. She says, “Depriving yourself of special foods or feeling guilty when you enjoy them isn't part of a healthy eating strategy. If you plan ahead, you can enjoy small portions of the traditional holiday foods you really want—even when you have diabetes.”
Here are 4 of Brown-Riggs’ top tips to help those with (or at risk for) diabetes enjoy the holidays without feeling guilty or deprived, and at the same time, control blood sugar levels and prevent weight gain:
- Mind your carbs. Knowing your daily carbohydrate budget and how much of that budget you plan to spend at each meal is key. Prior to a holiday get-together, look up the carbohydrate content of an appropriate portion of holiday fare you enjoy to help you more easily stay within your budget when you’re at the event.
- Step away from the appetizers. When you arrive at a holiday dinner or party, instead of picking on appetizers here and there (which makes it easy to overindulge), place them on a small plate and stick to that portion.
- Slow down, you eat too fast! Put your fork down between bites and savor the taste of food and enjoy the companionship during a meal or get-together. Eating slowly can also help you feel full faster and stop eating before that bloated and stuffed-up feeling ensue.
- Drink to your health. Instead of reaching for a second glass of eggnog for 300 calories, try sparkling water, seltzer or diet soda. Champagne, wine and alcoholic drinks pack in a lot of calories and can cause unexpected low blood glucose levels.
When all else fails….
Brown-Riggs encourages all her patients—including those with diabetes--to keep the ~40 day holiday season in perspective. She advises her patients to aim for more ‘good days’ than ‘bad days’ and to always accentuate the positive. “At the end of the day, if people indulge only 4 or 5 days out of 40, they’re still ahead of the game,” says Brown-Riggs.
If you have diabetes, how do you handle holiday get-togethers?
Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, is a nationally recognized registered dietitian and award-winning author of "Nutrition At Your Fingertips," "Feed Your Family Right!," and "So What Can I Eat?!." She is also a past national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. For more information, go to www.elisazied.com. Sign up for the free weekly ZIED GUIDE™ newsletter for nutrition tips and news you can use (go to right side of home page at elisazied.com). Follow Elisa on Twitter/elisazied and on Facebook.