Thanksgiving is just around the corner! If you have Type 2 diabetes, the holiday season might be even more difficult to navigate while keeping health in mind, as gatherings tend to revolve around big meals and indulgent sweets. For most, managing type 2 diabetes during this team means changes, but it doesn’t have to mean less fun! Taking control of your health by planning ahead and making a couple small lifestyle alterations to help keep your holidays focused on friends, families and festivities, rather than just the food on your plate.
Preparing for the Day
I often hear people talk about skipping meals in anticipation for a large Thanksgiving Day meal. However, skipping meals will leave you hungry and more prone to accidentally overeat once you see the dinner spread. There’s no need to restrict yourself—consider instead snacking before the main meal on something like a salad or Greek yogurt to avoid feeling ravenous by the end of the day. Furthermore, before the main meal, try drinking a large cup of water to fill yourself up and prevent making choices on an empty stomach.
Make time in the morning, before cooking gets too hectic and guests start to arrive, to fit in some exercise. Not only will it help set you on a path to making healthy decisions throughout the day, and increase your energy from the start, but it can also be a great way to see family and catch up with old friends! Invite people on a walk, run, bike ride or game of football in the park. It doesn’t take much to get moving—especially when you can use it to make memories.
Finally, even with careful planning, it’s easier to find your blood sugar at abnormally high levels during holidays with endless food and plenty of distractions. Remember to monitor you blood sugar numbers regularly and keep these extra factors in mind. At the end of the day, your health is in your hands, and finding support and solutions is up to you!
Portions and “Invisible” Calories
In general, no food is a bad food. Instead, you need to consider the portion sizes of what you are eating. Fill your plate up first with vegetables and fruit—and no, that doesn’t mean apple pie! However, a good amount of the food we eat on holidays is not while we are sitting down at the table. Instead it’s the handful of snacks we take here and there as we pass the chip bowl, the taste of the mashed potatoes as it’s being cooked (which slowly turns into a serving!) and yes, the alcohol.
Not only do certain drinks, such as beer, contain a high amount of carbohydrates, but consumption of alcohol also can cause a drop in blood glucose. Checking your blood sugar before the hours after drinking is important to monitoring your health and preventing the effects of hypoglycemia. Diabetes or not, drink responsibly—consider mixing drinks with lower-calorie options such as seltzer, and avoid driving right after drinking.
Finally, how many times have you gotten to a party and filled yourself with the snack spread before the meal has even begun? I know I’m guilty of it, and I know I’m not alone. We are more likely to mindlessly eat while we are chatting with friends and family, and watching the football game with snacks in front of us.
Imagine this: you walk through the kitchen on the way to check on the turkey and you grab a handful of chips by the door to munch on. On the way out you grab another handful. You go through the room again to talk to Aunt Kathy and you grab another handful without thinking—nothing wrong with that…right? Well, before you know it, you have eaten three or four times the recommended serving size of chips without realizing it.
Mindless eating is one of the hardest habits to break because you have to become mindful of it. Try putting the snacks in an area set away from high-traffic zones in the house. This way, guests have to actually decide to go up to the table and get food instead of grabbing at what is conveniently in front of them. Further, swap out a plate for a napkin—less space means a smaller chance of eating more than you need or want!
In the end, the holidays should be a time for celebration, reflection and relaxation. With diabetes, it is vital to stay on top of your health in order to manage symptoms and sometimes reduce reliance on certain medications. However, if you end up missing your goals slightly on a day such as Thanksgiving, remember that it is just a day. Tomorrow is another chance to eat healthier, exercise more and get back on track.
The holidays don’t have to be a time to dread added responsibility or fear the consequences of traditions. Instead, get your family and friends involved and plan ahead to create new traditions that will benefit everyone!
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