The holiday season can be a confusing and overwhelming time when you’re at-risk for developing diabetes or living with diabetes. Monitoring blood sugar levels is important for your health, and you want to enjoy holiday festivities. The good news is healthy eating during the holidays is possible with a little planning and extra support. Here are five strategies on how to balance blood sugar levels during the holidays.
Plan for Virtual Holiday Parties
As social distancing and travel restrictions continue, sitting around the big table with lots of family might not be possible this holiday season. Thankfully, many of us are already familiar with virtual events and my guess is we will see virtual holiday parties and dinners.
The good news is digital get-togethers give you more flexibility to choose foods that help you balance blood sugar levels. Plan for your appetizers, meal, and drinks to be foods you know help you feel good inside and out.
If you’re hosting the holiday gathering, give attendees a detailed plan. When should everyone have their holiday meal ready? Who will be in charge of mealtime traditions, like toasting? A little preparation as an attendee or as a host can help reduce stress levels, which can help prevent blood sugar spikes.
Make Recipe Modifications
Balancing blood sugar levels means choosing foods that pack lots of nutrients. Holiday recipes may need some modifying to help make them more diabetes-friendly. For example, go half cauliflower and half potatoes in your mashed potatoes. Or try out different spices to help reduce the amount of salt.
Using sugar substitutes in baked goods may also reduce blood sugar swings. Keep in mind different sweeteners, including white sugar, affect the gastrointestinal tract differently. Try different sugar sweeteners in small amounts to figure out which type is right for you.
Also try making foods using a different cooking method to reduce the amount of saturated fat. Air fryers reduce the amount of oil needed to crisp up foods or use low-sodium broth instead of oil to brown foods.
Use Caution with Alcohol
A primary function of the liver is to store glycogen. Alcohol affects how the liver uses glycogen and how it processes blood sugar. This process can cause highs or lows depending on how much you have had to drink and eat. For this reason, be cautious about drinking alcohol. It’s helpful to check blood glucose levels before parties or events to make sure you’re not starting with low blood sugar.
Drinking alcohol can also interact with some diabetes medications. It also can influence how effectively the medication works. For example, some medications lower blood glucose levels by prompting the pancreas to make more insulin. Since alcohol can also drop blood sugar levels, this can lead to hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, which is a medical emergency. Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist to understand how your medications may interact with alcoholic beverages.
Don’t Skip Meals
There isn’t one specific diet that fits every person. Instead, use meal planning and diabetes-friendly diets to figure out the best approach for you. A good rule of thumb through the holidays is to not skip regular meals to make up for other meals.
Often we find holiday events are later than our normal eating time, but we don’t want to eat knowing there’s food at the event. Instead of going to the event hungry, eat a snack and drink some water.
Mindful eating encourages you to eat in response to hunger and fullness signals. This eating style means taking the time to be aware of what your body needs and what you’re eating to satisfy your hunger.
Start with slowing down when you’re eating. Some research suggests that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to catch up with your stomach to let you know that you’re full. One way to slow down is to ask yourself how hungry am I? Then, when you’re about halfway through your meal, ask yourself the question again. When you’ve finished eating, ask yourself how full you feel. Note how much food you ate to help you figure out your personal needs.
Final Thoughts on Staying Healthy During Holidays
Holiday traditions often include food because food can be a means of connecting us with others. This year should be no different. With a little planning, you can enjoy the holidays and stay healthy while monitoring blood sugar.