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Enjoy holiday feasts while managing diabetes

For people with diabetes, the holidays can be a stressful and hard-to-navigate time of year. Sweet treats, high-calorie meals, and gatherings that disrupt regular routines may make it hard to stay on track with a diabetes management plan. Below are a few tips for making health a priority while still enjoying this festive season.

  1. Don’t skip meals.

The average American consumes 4,500 calories during a typical Thanksgiving. While it may seem wise to try to skip breakfast or lunch to save room and calories for later, this strategy is a mistake. First, you’ll be ravenous by the time you get to the table, setting yourself up to overeat. Second, your pancreas has to work overtime when you binge eat. It’s better to eat a healthy breakfast—or at least have some snacks before the meal starts. Drinking water in between meals can help you feel full and lower calorie consumption.

  1. Control your portions—and carbs.

No food needs to be off limits when you manage your portion sizes. Fill your plate with things you like while also balancing all of the food groups. From mashed potatoes to stuffing to rolls, carbohydrates abound on Thanksgiving, so be sure to add protein and healthy fats to your plate. Eat some turkey or add almonds to the green beans. Another trick is to put your fork down between bites. Savor the meal. You only get it once a year!

  1. Keep an eye on alcohol.

If you plan to indulge in alcoholic beverages, be sure to limit your intake. According to Dietary Guidelines for America, the recommended intake is one drink for women, two drinks for men. Be sure to check with your physician to see what amount they suggest for your particular health situation. If you are at risk for low blood sugar, you should consume alcohol with food to avoid the risks of hypoglycemia. Individuals taking insulin or pills such as glimepiride, glipizide, or glyburide should be particularly careful.

  1. Manage expectations.

Remember that nobody is perfect! If you don’t follow your eating goals on the holidays, start fresh the next day. What you do 80 to 90 percent of the time for diabetes health management is what is most important.

Overall, the holidays are a time to focus on your friends and family. Enjoy yourself and connect with people you haven’t seen in a while. These small moments are one of the most treasured gifts of the season and are good for your mental and physical health, too.

Kelly Slater is a registered nurse and certified diabetes care and education specialist at Vancouver Clinic. She manages the clinic’s Diabetes Education program, which offers patients education, nutritional services, continuous glucose monitoring and insulin pump training, and other resources.