5 Ways to Deal With Diabetes During the Holidays

Turkey Day is on its way. Here, how to enjoy holiday delights and still stay healthy when you have diabetes.

Make sleep a priority. Don’t let the hectic holidays cause you to skimp on sleep, because studies show people who get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep a night are more likely to be obese. Moreover, being tired may also make it tougher to control your blood sugar because you may be more likely to make unhealthy choices, such as reaching for sugary or carb-heavy treats, for a quick energy hit. In fact, just two days of sleep restriction leads to higher glucose and lower insulin levels, along with 30 percent more cravings for calorie- and carbohydrate-dense foods (definitely not helpful when you’re faced with a holiday buffet), according to a study in the journal Sleep Medicine Clinics.

Keep stress in check. “The added demands of the holidays can be stressful, and stress impacts blood glucose levels,” explains Julie Pike, RD, CDE, who works in the Youth Diabetes Prevention Clinic at Indiana University Health. When you’re feeling frazzled, the stress hormone known as cortisol rises, which has been linked to insulin resistance. Pausing for even a minute to take some deep, slow breaths can help lower cortisol levels naturally. Or try doing some yoga poses, such as resting in child’s pose. Research shows that yoga releases the neurotransmitter linked to lower anxiety levels known as GABA.

Plan a splurge. It’s okay to indulge in some treats in small portions, because making a food forbidden, such as pumpkin pie, might only make you want it more. Then, if you do finally give in, you’re more likely to over-indulge because your will power is sapped. “The secret is to use portion control and don’t feel guilty,” says Pike. “If you’re having a higher fat or calorie treat, then plan to fill up the rest of your plate with lower calorie foods, such as vegetables, to balance the meal.” Classic portion-control advice applies at holiday time: Avoid coming to a party hungry so you don’t reach for the first treat you see; fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with meat, and a quarter with grains; and fill up on healthy appetizers first such as salad so you have less room for the sugary and fatty eats.

Make a smart swap. You probably already know that filling up on fiber and protein-rich foods help you feel full longer and keep your blood sugar levels from spiking. Here are a few ideas to keep your glucose and appetite in check:

Instead of: Onion Dip
Choose: Hummus. Hummus has more protein and less fat than many dips, which tend to be made with sour-cream. Just keep in mind that hummus is not a low-calorie food, so use portion control. Pair with fresh veggies for an extra boost of fiber.

Instead of: White potatoes
Choose: Sweet potatoes. A medium-size baked sweet potato has 60 fewer calories and an extra gram of fiber compared to the white tubers. If you’re doing the cooking, try baking sliced sweet potato wedges drizzled with olive oil at 425 degrees until slightly browned, and then sprinkle with sea salt.

Instead of: Apple pie topped with ice cream
Choose: A baked apple: Simply core, add juice and a cinnamon stick, and bake until tender. Top with low-fat Greek yogurt.

Instead of: Stuffing cooked in the bird
Choose: The baked kind to save fat and calories. Try baking in muffin tins for instant portion control. Also, replace each whole egg with two egg whites and save 30 calories per serving. Other good-for-you tricks are preparing with barley instead of bread for a high-fiber, whole grain alternative, and using turkey sausage instead of pork.

Get a move on. Don’t let exercise fall to the bottom of your to-do list when the holidays hit. “It’s very important to maintain an exercise routine to help keep your blood sugar, weight, and stress levels all in check,” says Pike. To start the day on a healthy note before your to-do list takes over, try doing just 15-minutes of intervals when you first wake up, such as combining jumping rope with jumping jacks and pushups. Then, go for a brisk walk with your family after a holiday meal for a bonding experience that is also good for your waistline.