How to Maintain Weight and Blood Sugars During the Holiday Season

Five Easy to Follow Tips to Keep you on Track

Turkey, cranberries and Christmas cracker on table
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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Some of my patients beg to differ, because they can't tolerate being tempted with sweets, treats, drinks, and heavy meals. It seems as though this time of year has everyone “falling off the wagon.” Unfortunately, if you are one of the millions of people coping with diabetes, this is not an option for you. Is it really unfortunate though? I say, no. Binge eating can lead to moodiness, lethargy and weight gain.

I am constantly telling my patients that we should all eat as though we have diabetes – moderate carbohydrates, high fiber, low saturated fat and lots of color. The good news is that during the holidays, the options are endless – and you can still enjoy some indulgences without worrying about painstakingly high blood sugars. 

Eat lots of color: 

Colorful foods like fruits and vegetables add volume, fiber and very little calories. You’ll want to load up on them – particularly non-starchy vegetables. Aim to fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies like broccoli, spinach, peppers, cauliflower, carrots, etc. By doing so, you’ll feel full without having to worry about spiking your blood sugars. Non-starchy vegetables will only cost you 5g of carbohydrate per 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked. Other good ways to make sure your getting in your daily dose of veggies is to start your meal with a salad or low-sodium vegetable based soup.

And if you are attending a cocktail holiday party snack on vegetable crudite with hummus, guacamole or low-fat dip. As for fruit, avoid dried fruits as these yield 15g of carbohydrate in a two tablespoon serving. Choose whole fruit or fresh berries and limit your servings to about two-to-three max per day.

(One serving is one small piece, 1 cup of berries, ½ banana or ½ cup mixed fruit).

Make it count:

Haven’t had pumpkin pie since last year and it’s your favorite? Go for it! Have a sliver and enjoy each bite! Avoid loading up on bread, potatoes, stuffing and pie, because you’ll find yourself with soaring blood sugars and a sick tummy. Instead, pick treats that are indeed treats; childhood favorites or foods you would never ever make. You will find that you’ll leave the table satisfied and happy. And, two hours later your sugar will hopefully be in range if you managed your portion properly. Whatever you pick, remember to keep it to portion controlled.

Bring your own:

When I used to counsel young children with Type 1 diabetes, I hated telling them to bring their own food, because it felt so isolating. In certain situations, however, it works. If you are going to a dinner party where you feel comfortable bringing something and you know there won’t be many options for you – go for it! I always like to bring things I like to eat.

You can even bring a low-calorie version of an old-time favorite. It’s a good way to get others to jump on the healthy eating bandwagon. I love hearing people say, “Wow, this is low-calorie – you would never know!”

Move, move, move:

Exercise is the cheapest and perhaps the most fun way to lower blood sugars. It is also one of the most effective methods. Physical activity helps to lower blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity. Think of insulin as the “gate keeper” - it allows sugar into the cell so that it can be used for energy. By increasing insulin sensitivity, glucose or sugar is driven out of the blood stream and into the cells to use as energy. If you are accustomed to eating a fixed carbohydrate meal and decide to have a dessert or go for another helping of potatoes – your blood sugars are likely to spike. Walking after a meal or doing more physical activity on a day when you know you will indulge with help to prevent major blood sugars spikes. By no means is exercise a license to eat whatever you want during the holiday season, but it does give you some wiggle room and will help you to maintain your weight. Aim to do a minimum of 30 minutes daily on most days of the week.

Don’t stress:

If you are entering into the holiday season thinking you are going to lose twenty pounds, you are likely putting too much pressure on yourself. Let the goal be weight maintenance. Less stress equals less eating! If you are stressed just because of the holiday season – get the triggers out of the house. Don’t buy the chocolate, ice cream or other goodies. Chances are - if you don’t have access your less likely to look for it.

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