Holiday Help for Diabetics
With Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year's around the corner, it's important to think ahead about how you'll handle holiday meals. And it’s especially important for people with diabetes to keep their blood-sugar levels in a healthy range by primarily eating healthful and delicious foods — like the lean proteins, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, and good fats (from foods like olive oil, nuts, and omega-3-rich fish) that are staples of the South Beach Diet lifestyle. These healthy tips will help you stay on track this season:
1. Prepare a dish for the party. Adhering to the healthy eating principles of the South Beach Diet whenever possible is the best way to avoid blood-sugar spikes. If your holiday gathering doesn't include South Beach Diet–friendly fare, consider bringing your own festive, seasonal dish for everyone to enjoy.
2. Drink in moderation. Alcohol and diabetes can be a dangerous mix if you aren't careful. Drinking on an empty stomach directly after administering insulin or shortly after taking glucose-lowering medications can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), a condition that can cause confusion, dizziness, or even loss of consciousness. (These are also symptoms of drinking too much.)
Be vigilant about only drinking with food to slow the absorption of alcohol, and be sure not to exceed the American Diabetes Association's recommended amounts of alcohol: one drink a day for women and two a day for men.
Also, people with complications stemming from diabetes, such as neuropathy (nerve damage) and high triglycerides (fats that circulate in the blood), should speak with their doctor about whether they should abstain from alcohol altogether. Finally, if you're taking medications to control diabetes, check with your doctor or pharmacist about whether the two can be safely mixed. As always, keep the South Beach Diet alcohol guidelines in mind: Skip alcohol if you're on Phase 1; otherwise stick with wine or other spirits. Also, be sure to use sugar-free mixers, like club soda, seltzer, or diet soda.
3. Stress less. For some, the frenzy of the holidays causes stress. And stress, while harmful for healthy people, is particularly detrimental for those with diabetes. Hormones released in response to stress may inhibit the body's ability to produce insulin, which, in turn, causes blood-sugar levels to soar. Manage your anxiety by carving out time for a relaxing activity — something as simple as flipping through a magazine or taking a walk may be enough — and prioritizing your "to do" list so you don't take on too much at once.
4. Get enough exercise. The time constraints of the holidays can make squeezing in a workout a challenge. Still, getting regular and consistent exercise — a minimum of 20 minutes of cardio interval training or core exercises most days of the week — is especially important if you have diabetes. If you're really pressed for time, make several short bouts of activity the goal.
5. Monitor your condition. Making healthy eating decisions is important for weight loss and maintenance, but as a diabetic it's especially important to make other healthy choices to maintain your blood-sugar levels. As always, be sure to monitor your blood sugar — especially before and after a big holiday meal — to ensure it's in the optimal range.
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