Whether you or a family member is dealing with diabetes, simple strategies can help everyone get the most out of the season, says registered dietitian and epidemiologist Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, president of health care and education at the American Diabetes.
For the person with diabetes
- Don’t “bank” your calories or carbs. In other words, don’t save them all for one meal. The key to managing special occasions is to stick to your normal schedule as much as possible to avoid blood-glucose fluctuations.
- Control portions. Diabetes doesn’t mean having to forgo your favorite foods, Mayer-Davis says: “Portion control helps people accommodate different situations.”
- Prepare for tough challenges. Have a comeback for folks who may urge you to eat more than you want. “For instance, tell Grandma you’re really working on your health, but her casserole is too good to pass up, so you took a small portion instead,” Mayer-Davis suggests.
For well-meaning family
- Be open to new traditions. So your loved one wants to take a walk instead of watching the big game? Don’t fight it. “Families should be respectful that it’s important for people with diabetes to manage their disease with diet and physical activity. It is really just as important to their health as how they manage their medication,” Mayer-Davis says.
- Don’t make assumptions. “People assume that people with diabetes can’t eat carbs, but it’s very individual,” Mayer-Davis says. Many adjust their meds so they can indulge.
- Talk about it. If you’re not sure how to approach family gatherings with the needs of someone with diabetes in mind, have a conversation a few weeks ahead of time. “People really appreciate when someone respectfully says, ‘I know what you’re going through, and is there anything I can do to make things easier?’” Mayer-Davis says.
For the holiday hostess
- Serve healthy snacks. Options like fiber-packed nuts, veggies and whole grain crackers can help keep people with diabetes from getting too hungry and blood glucose levels from getting too low.
- Consider timing. Holiday meals are often at odd hours, which can wreak havoc with blood glucose levels. Check with your guest to see if there are concerns about timing.
- Put movement on the menu. After dinner, and before dessert, get everyone outside to toss the football or take a walk. Or start off the day by taking part in one of the many Turkey Trot run/walk events around the country.