Tips for Managing Diabetes During Thanksgiving and Throughout the Holiday Season

Managing diabetes is a combination of science and art. You’ve got to know the facts, the dos and don’ts, the triggers, the signals, and the corrective steps you can take to regain your balance. Then you’ve got to integrate all that knowledge into your routine, so you can be healthy, active and happy. But, because managing blood sugar can be so complex, many diabetics can feel alienated during the holidays or, what’s potentially worse, decide to play too fast and loose with their dietary restrictions. That’s why, as Thanksgiving approaches, it’s good to have a plan that allows you reasonable latitude, so you can enjoy the festivities, your company, and even the food. Here are a few strategies you can use to amplify your holiday fun while limiting any risks to your health.

1.  Play the Host

Hosting Thanksgiving gives you greater control over food options. This way you can cut down on the amount of sugar and fat in the meal by:

  • Using skim milk in mashed potatoes
  • Skimming the fat scrupulously from the drippings before making your gravy
  • Making fresh cranberry sauce with a nonnutritive sweetener
  • Making the stuffing in a casserole rather than in the bird to cut down on fat
  • Steaming and or roasting vegetables instead of sautéing them in butter or cream sauce
  • Preparing at least one dessert that’s appropriate for you

Inviting a diabetic friend or relative to dine with you can give you a degree of emotional support. That friend might also be able to help a bit with preparation. As host, you can also plan an activity between dinner and dessert, so everyone has to take a break from eating and drinking.

However, there are downsides to hosting, such as:

  • Over-exertion — Pushing beyond your limits can be ruinous for your blood sugar, which can bring your preparation and/or meal to a screeching halt. Pace yourself and make sure you have ample assistance.
  • Forgetting to eat — If you’re cooking all day, you might forget to take in enough food to balance your sugar. Consider setting an alarm to enforce break times.
  • Disappointing your guests — You don’t want your guests to feel like they’re being deprived because of your condition. So, don’t be too austere; provide traditional appetizers, sides and desserts that you wouldn’t dare touch. There are many great recipes available online for novel side dishes that both you and your guests can enjoy, but encourage your guests to bring their favorites as well.

By planning ahead and involving a few of your guests in the preparations, you can pull off a sumptuous meal that gives you just the right amount of leeway, doesn’t totally derail your diet, and satisfies your friends and family.

2. Be a savvy guest

When you’re invited to Thanksgiving, or any holiday meal, you don’t want to make demands of your host, but neither do you want to compromise your health. Steps you can take include:

  • Eating a good breakfast and a light lunch before attending.
  • Offering to bring a side dish that everyone can enjoy, but is compatible with your diet
  • Avoiding the sugars and carbs while eating plenty of vegetables
  • Choosing white meat over dark because there’s less fat
  • Choosing pumpkin pie over pecan, so you take in less sugar
  • Waiting until the meal to have wine. You might also consider having a spritzer to slow down your alcohol intake.
  • Eating your dinner slowly.
  • Taking a walk or at least stepping out into the fresh air between dinner and dessert.

A little advanced planning can eliminate any anxiety you might have about your dietary requirements, so you can better enjoy the festivities.

3. Don’t let the stress get to you

Holidays can be stressful for many folks for a variety of reasons. It can be helpful to make a list of your stressers and think of a strategy for dealing with each. These can include:

  • Hectic pace — Decorating the home, scheduling events, baking and cooking can be time-consuming. You might also have business deadlines placed before the start of the holiday season. When holiday chores and rituals crowd out your schedule, it’s easy to forget elements of your daily routine that help you stay balanced: meal schedule, portion control, exercise, meditation, relaxation, and sound sleep. Starting your holiday preparation earlier can allow you to pace yourself, so you don’t lose effective tools that keep you on the top of your game.
  • Family dynamics — When families get together, mature adults can suddenly feel like they’re being forced back into the childhood roles they long-ago grew out of. Suddenly the old coping mechanisms come back and we’re tempted to rekindle bad habits. This can include over-indulging with food, sweets or cocktails. By taking the time to mentally prepare for triggering remarks, requests, or conduct, you can come up with a positive strategy that alleviates the pressure, allowing you to be you.
  • Politics at the table — Every family seems to have that one relative who insists on bringing up politics, religion, or another taboo subject. Getting trapped in an uncomfortable discussion when you’re trying to relax can be unnerving. Attempting to be the peacemaker between arguing relatives can place you in even a worse bind. Again, mental preparation can help you distance yourself emotionally from topics of discussion, so you don’t get drawn into heated debates.

When it comes to avoiding stress, there is no substitute for advanced planning. But even if you get a late start, don’t give into the temptation to “wing it.” Take a few moments to sit down with pen and paper. Often, the mere process of listing concerns and considering your options will suggest solutions and give you peace of mind.

4. Rediscover the Roots of Thanksgiving

The first Thanksgiving had a dual purpose: to show gratitude for a bountiful harvest and strengthen the bonds of affection with new friends. If Thanksgiving has become more of a chore, an obligation, or an excuse to binge, it’s time to rekindle the spirit of that first celebration. Here are some activities that might help you place the focus of the holiday where it belongs:

  • Take time early in the day for a religious observance. If formal religion is not your thing, take a peaceful walk in a natural setting and soak in the beauty of creation.
  • Write individual place cards for each of your guests, with a short expression of why you’re thankful for them in your life
  • Create a photo board with pictures of times you’ve enjoyed with your various guests, or ask your guests to bring a “good times” photo of themselves they’d like to put on display.
  • Manage your cooking schedule so you have time to greet each of your guests personally
  • Keep the television off (Fat chance with three football games back-to-back-to-back!)
  • Pipe in background music that has special significance for your guests
  • Get your children involved. Have the kids create some artwork, such as placemats, napkin rings, greeting cards, a family tree, and place card holders, or have them put on a Thanksgiving pageant between dinner and dessert.
  • Look online for creative activities and icebreakers that are appropriate for your crowd.

Every holiday should be about the love of family and friends. Placing the emphasis on those relationships, rather than food consumption, will make it easier to maintain your healthy lifestyle.

The common thread throughout all these strategies is advanced planning. If you haven’t got a proven fool-proof, food-proof, family-proof plan you can rely on, it could be helpful to consult a Wellbeing Coach. Our coaches take a holistic approach to diabetes management, and can assist in developing a plan and gathering the support you need to implement it successfully.

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All information contained on this website are for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended to be taken as medical or other health advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or a qualified medical professional. IN THE CASE OF A MEDICAL EMERGENCY OR SUICIDAL THOUGHTS, IMMEDIATELY CALL 911.

Victoria Craze

Victoria Craze is the co-founder of Wellbeing Coaches. She holds a coaching certification from Wellcoaches School and has coached more than 500 individuals on their journeys to achieving optimal wellbeing. Victoria began her career in the business field and spent three decades working in marketing before becoming trained and certified as a health, wellness, and life coach nearly a decade ago. Prior to founding Wellbeing Coaches, she worked with HMC HealthWorks where she developed new wellness coaching procedures and policies, created new training manuals, and managed a team of coaches. Today, she leads Wellbeing Coaches and continues to coach clients from around the world.

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