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8 Tips for Celebrating Special Occasions With Type 2 Diabetes
Plan Ahead to Enjoy Healthy Celebrations
Birthdays, holidays, family reunions — these occasions are usually full of joy and good cheer. But if you have type 2 diabetes, you may feel less than festive, especially when food and drinks are at the center of the celebrations.
“Social get-togethers can be challenging for many of those living with type 2 diabetes,” says Jessica Crandall, RD, CDE, the general manager at Denver Wellness and Nutrition Center-Sodexo and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Many of my clients feel a loss of control. Since the food is being prepared by others, they may not know what is in the meal or how it was prepared.” But special occasions don’t have to be a source of stress. If you come prepared, you’ll enjoy the festivities without fretting over your diabetes diet.
Check In With Your Host
“I usually encourage my clients to talk to the host prior to the event — ask what you can bring and what is being prepared,” Crandall says. If the spread sounds like it doesn’t jibe with your usual diabetes diet, leaving you with limited options, offer to bring a healthy dish to share with the group. Simply explain how important it is for you to keep your blood sugar under control as part of your overall diabetes management plan.
Have a Pre-Party Nosh
Snack before you party, Crandall says, as “you likely will overeat if you are hungry.” Opt for something small yet filling, adds Angela Ginn-Meadow, RD, CDE, diabetes education coordinator at University of Maryland Medical Center's Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology in Baltimore and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Some healthy options: yogurt, a piece of fruit, or a small handful of nuts.
And don’t skip meals on the day of the party to save calories. “Keep carbohydrates consistent throughout the day, and try to stick to your usual timing of meals,” Ginn-Meadow says.
Make Mindful Choices
Be sure to tally up appetizers and drinks — these calories and carbohydrates can quickly add up. Focus on drinking water and stay away from sugary sodas and juices, Crandall says.
If you do decide to consume alcohol, make sure to drink it with food. Opt for a light beer or a wine spritzer, and avoid any concoction made with syrup. And know your limits: one drink for women, two for men, the American Diabetes Association advises.
For appetizers, try to stick with healthy choices; for example, go for the veggies and hummus rather than calorie-laden fried foods.
Sidestep the Sauces
Many traditional holiday dishes can cut into an entire day’s worth of carbohydrates in just one sitting. Try to avoid foods with heavy sauces or gravies and those likely to contain tons of butter, mayonnaise, or cheese, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. Skip the ham with sugary glaze or turkey swimming with gravy, and choose lean, skinless meats instead. Be leery of sodium-packed vegetable dishes, too.
Be a Picky Eater
Before you fill your plate, do a lap around the table to survey the foods and decide on what you’ll get (and what you’ll skip). Then position yourself at the end of the buffet line so you’ll be less inclined to go back through for seconds, Crandall says.
Separate Your Plate
Visualize sections on your dinner plate to help you control portions, Crandall advises. Fill half with veggies, one quarter with protein, and the final quarter with carbohydrates. It can be hard to resist your favorite foods, but you can sample them smartly: Take just a small serving and, when you eat, chew slowly and really savor each bite so that you feel more satisfied, Ginn-Meadow says.
Step Away From the Buffet
Create a strategy to help you stick to your diabetes diet and avoid extra helpings of food. A good rule of thumb: Stay at least an arm’s length away from the buffet table to prevent mindless nibbling, Ginn-Meadow suggests.
Mingling can also help prevent too much snacking. Or ask a friend to step outside for a walk to get away from the food and combat some of those extra calories and carbs, Crandall says.
Above all, focus on friends and family, not the food. And if you do overdo it, don’t stress. Just get back on track at the next meal, she adds.
Enjoy a (Small) Sweet Treat
Try to pass on the desserts, but if you see one that’s too delicious to skip, savor two bites and stop. And be a little forgiving — it’s a special occasion, after all.
“If you eat more carbs than planned, don't beat yourself up,” Crandall says. The amount of carbohydrate is more important than the type when it comes to affecting your blood sugar, according to the American Diabetes Association. So you can cut back on the starches on your dinner plate to allow for a small dessert, Ginn-Meadow suggests.
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