Chow Line: Holidays and diabetes management

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My husband has diabetes and we’re not sure what that means for him with all the holiday meals and celebrations we’re anticipating this month. Do you have any tips on how he can manage his diabetes through the holidays?

With some 34.2 million Americans who have diabetes and some 88 million who have prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having an understanding of how to manage the disease is key to healthy living for millions of people nationwide.

And the holidays can present additional challenges for those who live with diabetes, particularly as people look for ways to either avoid temptation or make better choices while they navigate all the indulgences of the season, said Jenny Lobb, a family and consumer sciences educator for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

Because your question is very similar to another that was asked in a previous “Chow Line” column, it’s best answered by reissuing that column here.

Whether it’s dealing with busy schedules, extra stress, shopping, or eating rich, decadent foods, the holiday season can leave us with even less time for healthy lifestyle habits such as exercise, Lobb said. 

“Towards the end of the year, many people really do celebrate a holiday ‘season,’ with multiple holidays occurring from October to January, many of which have a heavy focus on foods that are often high in sugar, sodium, fat, and calories,” Lobb said. “Since research shows that weight gained during the holidays doesn’t usually come off later in the year, it’s important to focus on ‘weight maintenance’ through quality diets and physical activity during the holidays.  

“This not only helps our waistlines, but also helps us manage other health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.”

With that in mind, Lobb and other CFAES food and nutrition experts offer the following tips to help you enjoy the holidays while managing your diabetes:

  • Cut stress and stay active. Stress causes our bodies to stay in a constant state of “fight or flight.” In response, our bodies release hormones that affect the way our bodies release and use glucose. This can cause blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels to remain high and be more difficult to manage. One way to deal with that is through physical activity, which helps reduce stress and helps our bodies control blood glucose. Go for a walk after eating a holiday meal, or clear the table after the meal. This will get you active and prevent mindless munching.
  • Plan ahead. Stick to your healthy meal plan and plan menus with diabetes-friendly foods in advance.
  • When eating a holiday meal, try to consume only the amount of carbohydrates that you’d normally consume, and don’t skip meals or snacks earlier in the day to “save” carbs for later. This will make your blood glucose more difficult to control.
  • Keep desserts in check. Make desserts that you’ve modified to be healthy or skip dessert when you know you’ve reached your limit.

And lastly, Lobb says, “it’s important to watch your meal portion sizes.”

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line writer Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was originally reviewed by Jenny Lobb, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.

For more information contact: 
Tracy Turner
614-688-1067
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Jenny Lobb
Family and Consumer Sciences 
OSU Extension