“If you are someone who is not in good control of your diabetes throughout the year, the holiday season can really make your situation worse,” Laila Tabatabai, an endocrinologist with Houston Methodist Hospital, says in a news release from the hospital. “If you are not mindful, eating foods with too many carbohydrates or sugars can send your blood sugar levels into a dangerously high range."
An abundance of high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods, parties with alcohol, desserts, food gifts and a change in routine that often doesn't allow time for exercise during the holiday season are some of the challenges that make it difficult for diabetics to maintain healthy blood sugar levels during the holidays.
The American Association of Diabetes Educators says in a news release that the best way to meet these challenges is to plan ahead.
“With the holidays coming, take some time to think about how you’ll deal with the events, the family you’ll be visiting and all of the to-dos,” Joan Bardsley, president of the group, said in its release. “By planning ahead you can enjoy the fun and still be healthy.”
The diabetes educators offer some tips on how to plan for these challenges:
- Make a healthy eating contract before attending a big meal, write down some goals and stick to them.
- Plan your plate: fill half of your plate with veggies, one-quarter with carbs (whole grain if possible), and one quarter with lean meat
- Avoid dark meat and remove any skin from your meat before eating
- Avoid gravy, and if you must have it, use only a little.
- Check with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to have alcohol as it can interfere with some medications, including insulin. Sparkling water with a lime twist is a nice alternative.
- If alcohol is allowed, limit your intake. Have one glass of wine per party and skip the mixed drinks, which have more carbs. Or have a spritzer, half sparkling water and half wine. If drinking alcohol, make sure you eat, to avoid low blood sugar.
- Stay active during the holidays. Involve the family in activities that gets everyone up and moving, volunteer or sign up for a holiday run or walk.
- Minimize stress. Make time to unwind and relax.
- See a diabetes educator; they can help you make a plan for the holidays.
Tabatabai also suggested to be selective in the foods you choose to eat, only eating the special holiday dishes instead of everything; to bring a healthy dish that you enjoy; to avoid "white" carbohydrates such as potatoes; to limit portion sizes and to make sure family and friends are aware of your diabetes so that they can accommodate your food choices.
The AADE also offers these tips on traveling with diabetes:
- Bring extra medication and supplies if you are traveling.
- Pack two weeks worth of medication and supplies for one week of travel in case of travel delays or lost supplies. Make sure you include insulin, syringes, testing strips, insulin pump supplies, a first-aid kit, glucagon emergency kit, etc.
- Bring a prescription from your doctor for insulin or oral medication in case of emergency.
- If you are traveling by air, keep your medications and supplies with you at all times.