We all have different holiday traditions. I’ll bet that despite any differences your traditions, like mine growing up, were centered on cooking and eating. As a teen, after seeing my Grandmother’s challenges with Type 2 Diabetes, I became an MS, RD, CDN, CDE – ultimately specializing in patients with diabetes at the Friedman Diabetes Institute. That alphabet of acronyms that usually follows my name these days simply means that I know a lot about diabetes and can help you, with diabetes or not, to ride the holiday train and navigate those fast-approaching plates of food, healthfully.
Next stop: Thanksgiving!
I can honestly say I have always looked forward to this time of year and can’t believe how quickly it arrives. It’s like we’re on a fast train with a lot of quick stops. Yet the choices we make through this stop-and-go-go-go time of year can have a lasting impact on our health. We all know that Thanksgiving dinner is a carbohydrate heavy meal. It’s important to know how to navigate the meal so you can enjoy the season without feeling deprived.
Here are five Thanksgiving tips:
1) Build a better plate - Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables like string beans, a leafy green salad and Brussels sprouts. Fill a quarter of your plate with lean protein like turkey without the skin, or even tofurky (for the vegetarians). Fill the final quarter of your plate with carbohydrates.
2) Avoid too much Fuel - You probably know that “carbohydrates” means the stuffing and potatoes – but it also includes bread, milk, yogurt, fruit, and starches such as pasta, rice, crackers, peas, corn and sweets. A tough one to limit at Thanksgiving, I know, but very necessary especially if you have diabetes. It means having very small portions of carbohydrates. Large portions won’t work, especially if you have diabetes or if you want to stay alert – read: awake through the festivities.
3) Special Stop for Diabetics - If you take insulin, be sure to bolus enough insulin to cover the carbohydrates you plan on eating. Carbohydrates are the types of foods that have the biggest effect on blood sugar. When you have diabetes it’s not that you cannot have carbohydrates, it’s just that you want to have a moderate amount of them with each meal.
4) Keep the Train Rolling - I like to go running with friends on Thanksgiving morning before the feast and football begins. It’s become our new tradition. If you have diabetes, get your friends and family to go on a walk after the meal as this will help to lower post-prandial blood sugar and that’s good for all people, diabetes or not! This is the time of year when you definitely want to get physical activity. It’s suggested to do about 30-60 minutes of physical activity daily. Not only will this help to lower blood sugar it will help to manage holiday stress.
5) Enjoy the Journey Mindfully - worried about weight gain or your health? Think of it this way: indulge on the actual holiday, not three weeks before and three weeks after the holiday. Even though most offices, homes, and grocery stores will be over-stuffed with holiday treats for weeks, it doesn’t mean that your stomach has to be as well.
Whether you have diabetes or not, it’s important to know that you can still enjoy Thanksgiving and the holiday season without tipping the scale and making your blood sugar soar to the North Pole. Of course, be sure to take your medications and practice portion control with your meals. And most important of all, enjoy the ride!