Juicy turkey dressed with gravy and cranberry sauce. Creamy, garlic mashed potatoes, decadent chocolate treats, and your grandmother’s famous buttery, sugar-coated Christmas cookies. Is your mouth watering yet? Is your blood sugar trending upward and your waistline growing outward?
The holiday season is upon us, so as you’re dreaming of savory holiday dishes, take a moment to tuck these 10 holiday survival tips under your Santa hat. And keep in mind, the holiday season should be festive, which means it may be a time for some people to focus on weight maintenance rather than weight loss.
- Meal planning is key. Consider the timing of the holiday meal and how you will adjust. Avoid skipping meals. You may require a snack at your regular meal time to avoid low blood sugar.
- Try to eat the same number of carbohydrates at the holiday meal that would normally be eaten at that lunch time or dinner time meal.
- Concerned with access to low carb/low calorie foods at the family gathering? Offer to bring a dish.
- Fit sweet treats into your meal plan. Substitute dessert carbohydrates for part of your meal time carbs and/or share your dessert with another guest. Offer to bring a healthier dessert such as baked apples with cinnamon.
- Healthier versions of holiday staple dishes can help cut down the calories, fat and carbohydrates. For example: replace whole milk or heavy cream with 2%, 1%, or skim milk, steam vegetables instead of sauté, replace half of the sugar in a recipe with a sugar substitute, replace some of the oils in a recipe with applesauce, and use extracts, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin spice in place of some of the sugar.
- Portion control: use smaller plates and serving utensils, avoid going back for seconds, and eat a nutritious snack prior to attending the party so you will not be tempted to overeat. Remember, if you don’t love it, don’t put it in your mouth! Be mindful your hunger and fullness cues; eat when you are hungry and stop eating when you are full.
- Avoid filling your plate with high-calorie foods. Instead, choose low-calorie items such as lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, salads and other non-starchy vegetables.
- Alcohol can result in low blood sugar so drink alcohol with a meal or a snack and only when your blood sugar levels are under control. Some ideas for healthier drinks are: liquor with diet tonic, wine spritzer with zero sugar seltzer water or mulled wine. Be mindful of how much you are drinking. Limit alcohol to 1-2 beverages.
- Beware of honey glazed items, cranberry sauce and icing/frosting which can contain additional carbohydrates that may raise your blood sugar levels.
- Stay active. Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Try exercising in the morning before a big holiday dinner and/or head out with family for a walk around the neighborhood after the big meal.
Lastly, remember that the holiday season is not just about food. Focus on spending time with family and friends and on the gift of giving. Have a warm, balanced and happy holiday season!
By Erin Brasch, MS RD LD, St. Francis Diabetes Treatment Center