TMH Living Well: Eat mindfully during the holidays with diabetes |

TMH Living Well: Eat mindfully during the holidays with diabetes

The Memorial Hospital

Janet Lott, RN, wellness/diabetes coordinator at The Memorial Hospital.

Holidays are about celebrating friends and family but let's face it, they are also about eating. For diabetics, the focus on large portions and lots of sweet goodies can be challenging. Here are some tips to maintaining a healthy diet — and glucose control — during the holidays.

Mind your carbs and make a plan

It might seem like the only thing you need to avoid at holiday events are the trays of cookies, bars and chocolates. After all, diabetics simply can't have sugar, right? Wrong. Now, it's more about counting carbs.

So what's the difference? Carbohydrates, or carbs, include more than just sugars — they also include fibers and naturally occurring sugars in fruits, vegetables, dairy products and grains.

The first step of controlling your blood glucose levels is limiting carbohydrates in your diet. You don't have to eliminate carbohydrates, just eat less of them and become aware of what foods are high in carbohydrates so you know when to take just one bite versus a large serving. When it comes to Thanksgiving, high carb foods include stuffing, potatoes, yams, rolls, pie and drinks.

"It is important to remember that carbs turn into sugar in the blood stream. So if you are diabetic and you want a piece of pie or a pastry, then it is best to forgo the bread roll or mashed potatoes. Essentially, you need to navigate holiday meals with a game plan of moderation," said Janet Lott, RN, wellness/diabetes coordinator at The Memorial Hospital.

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Eating when you are diabetic is all about balance and planning. At a holiday party, plan out what you want to eat before starting in.

"Unfortunately, all the baked goodness that we are inundated with over the holidays can throw you into sugar overload. Be aware of how many carbohydrates you consume and focus on protein-packed foods to manage your hunger and sugar cravings," she added.

Drink in moderation

Raising a glass is a common occurrence during the holidays. Go right ahead, with a mental note to take sips instead of swigs and one glass instead of two or three. Alcohol contains sugar that's taken up quickly by your bloodstream.

"Alcohol is not completely off limits. Allow yourself to enjoy one alcoholic beverage and then switch to sparkling water with fresh citrus slices," Lott suggested.

Eat mindfully

The ultimate goal for diabetics is to eat three small meals and two snacks per day instead of three large meals. Portion control is important and takes a conscious effort to adopt. Lott is a fan of wellness advocate and author Dr. Mark Hyman who has written several books on blood sugar control.

"Dr. Hyman suggests eating mindfully. To do so, he advises the following which apply well to holiday meals: Before you start eating, pause and take deep breaths. Sit next to someone you find engaging. Eat slowly and really appreciate the smells and colors of your food. Now and then, put your fork down and assess your hunger level at different times during the meal. Finally, close the meal by saying something about being satisfied to signal to others that you are not interested in seconds," Lott concluded.

She also recommends finding opportunities to move around after the meal. Take a walk or offer to clean up dishes or play with the kids. The key is staying off the couch!

This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig — improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.

Want to learn more about eating with diabetes?

What: Diabetes education

Where: The Memorial Hospital — Medical Clinic, 785 Russell St.

More Info: Janet Lott, RN, wellness coordinator

Learning to eat with diabetes can be daunting. TMH offers wellness counseling to residents of northwestern Colorado with diabetes. Ask your doctor for a referral for nutritional counseling, or call the clinic to get started at 970-826-2429.