The holidays, and the array of treats that come with the festivities, can be a time where people with diabetes are tempted to stray from their meal plans. With careful planning, however, they can still partake of their favorite treats.
"The patients will say that they can't have this or that, or they might get frustrated, especially around the holidays. If they are able to keep their meals in balance and enjoy their treats in moderation, I tell them that they should be able to enjoy their favorite foods," said Michelle Fundingsland, clinical dietitian for Trinity Health's Center for Diabetes Education.
Fundingsland said that people with diabetes should continue to follow their meal plans, by eating the same amount of carbohydrates that they usually do. By taking away some of the items they usually eat, they can make extra room in their diet for their favorite holiday treat.
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Michelle Fundingsland, clinical dietitian for Trinity Health’s Center for Diabetes Education, explains portion sizes. With the right planning, she said, diabetics can maintain a healthy diet and still participate in holiday festivities.
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - An example of a well-balanced plate is shown, with half vegetables, a quarter protein, and a quarter carbohydrates.
"If you're eating a certain amount of carbohydrates, you have to take away some of those portions to add in that cookie or that piece of pie," she said. "If you want to add in your sweet potatoes, stuffing, or rice pudding during the meal, you should take smaller portions if you want to have dessert."
People with diabetes should be wary of foods that have carbohydrates and are concentrated with sugar, since one tablespoon of sugar equals out to be 15 grams of carbohydrates.
"Pies and cookies have concentrated ingredients in them, so people should pay attention to their portion sizes of foods like these for their carbohydrate counting. On average, one medium cookie has about 15 grams of carbohydrates," Fundingsland said.
"For snacks, I usually suggest having something that has less than 30 grams of carbohydrates, plus a protein. On a regular day I would say an apple and peanut butter, or half of a meat sandwich. But for the holidays, you could substitute a cookie and peanuts," she added.
Friends and family members can make holiday treats that are divided up into smaller portions, or serve items separately instead of together, to make it easier for people with diabetes to choose their portions and stick to their meal plans.
In addition to foods, people with diabetes should also take planning steps and omit items from their meal plan if they want to consume beverages that contain carbohydrates, such as hot cocoa or apple cider.
"If you're having drinks that have calories and carbs, you shouldn't add in that cookie or bar if you are following a meal plan, so having sugar-free bever-ages available can come in handy," Fundingsland said.
Learning how to keep meals balanced can help people with diabetes in making their meal choices as well.
"I'm always teaching the plate method of balancing meals," Fundingsland said. "Half a plate of veggies, a quarter protein, a quarter carbohydrate and balanced with a fruit and a serving of milk is a balanced meal. The carb portion of the meal will digest quickly and raise your blood sugar fast, but the other foods will digest more slowly. A balanced plate can balance your blood sugar out, and you get all the food groups and nutrition, too."
Fundingsland said that increasing activity levels can also help people with diabetes regulate their blood sugar over the holidays.
"If you fit your foods into your meal plan and exchange one thing for another, such as a cookie instead of your usual piece of fruit, your blood sugar should be OK. Or, you could up your activity level and go for that extra walk if you're eating more," she said.
Even if people with diabetes over indulge a bit on the holidays, one single high blood sugar reading doesn't mean they are completely off track.
"If you do have a spike in blood sugar, make sure that you're always taking your medication at the prescribed dose and at the proper time," Fundingsland said. "We also encourage activity and proper hydration. You can get back on track for next time."
"If you only have one day where it raises too high, and it's not what you're doing most often, you don't have to worry so much," she said.