by DR. JOY JACKSON
The holidays are upon us. In addition to the camaraderie of the upcoming holiday season, a common denominator people look forward to is the food. Amidst the temptation of sweet treats and hearty meals, living with type 2 diabetes can make the holidays difficult. According to a survey done by the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association in 2021, nearly 49 percent of those living with type 2 diabetes state that their condition is more difficult to manage during the fall and winter holiday season. In addition, only a little over half of those surveyed reported having control over dietary choices during the holidays. The most recent statistics in Polk County show that 15.4 percent of adults have been told they have diabetes compared to 11.7 percent of adults in Florida.
Managing diabetes every day is crucial to preventing serious complications such as heart disease, stroke, and chronic kidney disease. By practicing mindfulness and careful planning, it is possible to enjoy the holidays and keep blood sugar levels in check. As Polk County residents get ready for the holidays, here are some tips from us to you.
Make Healthy Choices
It’s good to remember that a diabetes meal plan should include more non starchy vegetables, focus on whole foods, and include fewer added sugars and refined grains. Remember that carbs are what raise blood sugar levels. Instead of avoiding foods you love, fit it into your plan by cutting back on carb-heavy foods elsewhere. Portion control is a cornerstone of successful diabetes management—opt for smaller portions of carb-heavy foods so you can enjoy a variety of dishes without causing drastic spikes in blood sugar levels.
Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks. Alcohol can lower blood sugar and cause interactions with your diabetes meds. Sugary drinks can raise blood sugar levels. Instead, stay hydrated and opt for water as much as possible.
Make a Plan
If you’re attending holiday dinners hosted by others, don’t hesitate to communicate your dietary needs ahead of time. Learn what kind of foods will be served at the celebrations you’re attending. If there are no accommodations made for you or you’re worried that you can’t eat the meals served at the events, prepare a diabetes-friendly meal that you can eat and take it with you.
Don’t skip meals to save up for a big holiday meal—it can lead to either low or high blood sugar levels. Stick to a regular meal structure even during the holidays.
If you overindulge during a meal, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on track during your next meal. Remember to practice mindful eating and pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues.
Take Your Meds
Don’t forget to take your medication as prescribed amidst the chaos of the holiday season. If you’re afraid that travel or a change in routine will make you forget, set an alarm as a reminder.
Regulate your blood sugar levels and promote overall well-being by maintaining your exercise routine. Include your family and friends in it! Go for a post-meal walk together or participate in games.
Check Your Blood Sugar
Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels is always vital, but especially during the holidays. Check it often, keep track of your readings, and adjust your diet as needed.
About the Author: Dr. Joy Jackson, an internal medicine physician, serves the community as director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County (DOH-Polk). For more information about DOH-Polk, visit mypolkhealth.org. Follow DOH-Polk on Twitter at twitter.com/FLHealthPolk.