As joyful and festive as it is, the holiday season is always a difficult time to try to manage your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. It's not easy to say "no" to cake, cookies, candy and other blood sugar nightmares. And you don't have to. You can eat whatever you want, within reason, as long as you follow five simple tips.
1. Plan ahead
Planning ahead is the most important part of managing your blood sugar.
- The American Diabetes Association recommends that you start preparing for the holidays a week ahead of time by watching your diet closely to keep blood sugar levels steady. This will make up for any indulgences, allowing you to enjoy that piece of cake -- guilt-free.
- Though it's a little difficult to follow this tip during December, a month when the festivities are plentiful, you can still plan ahead by controlling your blood sugar between indulgences. If you have to attend a big family dinner, for instance, eat a sensible breakfast and lunch, and then limit the carbs at dinner time.
2. Keep a regular eating schedule
According to WebMD, following a regular eating schedule, with meals spaced about four to six hours apart, keeps blood sugar levels steady. Spacing carbohydrates evenly throughout the day also helps. Though this rule might crimp your holiday eating plans, there are many ways for you to do this.
- Don't skip meals in anticipation of an upcoming holiday dinner, as this causes a drop in blood sugar levels. To manage your blood sugar, eat regular meals leading up to the dinner. Then, eat a regular amount of carbohydrates.
- Try not to eat sugary goodies on an empty stomach, as this causes blood sugar levels to rise. Eating them with a meal slows the absorption of glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream, keeping blood sugar steady.
- Don't go back for seconds, as eating too much can raise your blood sugar. To curb your hunger, eat slowly. It takes your brain about 20 minutes to send a signal to the stomach that you're full. Give it that time. Remember, you can eat anything as long as you pace yourself and eat small portions.
3. Eat healthy foods
Although the holidays are times to indulge in the goodies you've missed all year long, it is better for your blood sugar if you try to eat properly most of the time. Here are some easy ways to control your hunger and your craving for dessert.
- Put your food on a small plate. It tricks your mind into thinking you've eaten a bigger meal, and you won't have hunger pangs, either.
- Eat vegetables or drink a large glass of water before dinner, both of which reduce hunger.
4. Maintain an exercise routine
Regular exercise is not only good for your physical fitness and your mood, but it also helps you manage your blood sugar, according to the American Diabetes Association. Exercise need not be boring, however, as there are many activities you can do during the holidays that don't feel like exercise. These include:
- Shopping at the mall, which requires a lot of walking.
- Attending football games with friends and family. Climbing up and down bleachers provides a good workout.
- Going ice skating
- Shoveling snow
5. Get plenty of sleep
The excitement of the holidays causes many people to stay up late at night, getting little sleep. But it's not a good plan for diabetics. Fatigue causes cravings for fatty, sugary foods, and if you indulge you'll raise your blood sugar. To prevent this problem, try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night.
Though these tips seem long and tedious, they just boil down to planning your meals around holiday fare and eating in moderation. And make sure to check your blood sugar regularly. If it runs a little high, adjust your meals or your insulin accordingly.