The holidays are a time for getting together with family and friends — and the carbs in those family feasts and party foods can add up quickly.
“Eating right is the biggest challenge for people with diabetes 365 days a year, but it’s harder around the holidays,” says Michael McDonnell, M.D., an internal medicine provider at Little Company of Mary (LCM) Hospital. Internal medicine providers focus on preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases in adults, including diabetes.
There is a lot of temptation to let healthy eating habits slide this time of year. “People with diabetes can have an occasional treat,” says Dr. McDonnell. “The problem occurs when you have an ornament exchange on Thursday and a friend’s party on Friday and the company party on Saturday. Before long, you’ve thrown in the towel.”
Luckily, surrender isn’t your only option. Here are some tips for keeping healthy habits on track over the holidays.
Challenge #1 – You have no control over the menu.
Maybe the family holiday dinner is at your sister’s house this year. The menu served may not bear much resemblance to your diabetes eating plan.
Suggestion: “Before you go, eat healthy food at home,” says LCM internal medicine provider Charles Lawler, M.D. “That way, when you get to the dinner or party, you can sample the treats but you won’t need to make a meal of them.”
Challenge #2 – You feel left out if you don’t eat what everyone else does.
Many holiday traditions center around food and drink. “To feel connected to the whole thing, you may feel like you have to participate in all the eating and drinking,” says Dr. McDonnell.
Suggestion: Focus on enjoying the company of family and friends. If you struggle with your willpower around food, Dr. McDonnell suggests giving yourself a pep talk along these lines: “I can do this. I know what to do, because it’s the same thing I work on doing the other 11 months of the year. I am going to follow my normal routine and eat healthy foods in moderation.”
Challenge #3 – You’re extra busy, so you put exercise on the back burner.
Your schedule may be stuffed with holiday activities. It’s tempting to skip your usual workout or aerobics class.
Suggestion: “Put exercise on your calendar, just like you would a party or doctor’s appointment,” says Debbie Murray, R.N., M.S.N., C.D.E., B.C.-A.D.M., coordinator of the LCM Diabetes Center.
BONUS TIP: DON’T FORGET YOUR CHECKUPS AND TESTS!
“It’s important to keep follow-up appointments with your doctor and get recommended tests, such as A1C tests,” adds Dr. Lawler. Also, don’t let the hustle and bustle of the season distract you from your self-care regimen, including taking medication as prescribed and checking your blood sugar levels.
Sign up for a Diabetes Support Group! Looking for information and support to help you live well with diabetes? Check out the Diabetes Tool Kit and Diabetes Support Group at LCM. Meetings are led by a diabetes educator and open to those with diabetes or prediabetes, as well as their family members.
“The meetings are really friendly and informal,” says Murray. “We discuss whatever people are interested in that day — and frequently that means food.” Other popular topics include exercise, new medicines and continuous glucose monitoring.
Meetings are free, and no doctor’s orders are needed to participate. Registration is required; go to www.LCMH.org/calendar for details.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lawler or Dr. McDonnell, call 708-857-4410.