November 15, 2023 by Keely Knopp
Festive gatherings and delicious meals abound during the holiday season, but it’s important to strike the right balance between celebration and health. This November, during National Diabetes Month, remember to prioritize your well-being and make mindful choices, even amidst carbohydrate-heavy holiday cheer. Read on to find a few helpful tips for making the holidays a bit healthier — without missing out on any of the fun.
Try the Diabetes Plate Method
According to the American Diabetes Association, all healthy eating plans have a few things in common: fruits and vegetables, lean meats and plant-based sources of protein, less added sugar and fewer processed foods. This Thanksgiving, consider trying out the Diabetes Plate Method, which helps you create balanced portions that manage blood sugar.
First, fill half your plate with nonstarchy vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, carrots, celery, eggplant, mushrooms, okra, green beans, peppers, salad greens or squash. (Remember: Steer clear of sugar-laden casseroles or anything heavily glazed.) Then, fill one-quarter of your plate with lean protein, like turkey. Next, fill the remaining quarter with carbohydrates — grains, potatoes, pumpkin, beans, dairy products — which have the greatest effect on blood sugar. Limiting carbs to just a quarter of your plate can help keep blood sugars from rising too high after meals.
Keep Portion Size in Mind
Of course, managing your one-quarter plate portions on Thanksgiving — a day when dishes are piled sky-high with homemade sides and sweets — might be tricky. Instead, keep these visual reminders for one serving of carbs handy: Two tablespoons of cranberry sauce is the size of a golf ball. A quarter-cup of stuffing is the size of one large egg. A half-cup of mashed potatoes or green bean casserole is the size of a computer mouse.
Practice Mindful Eating
Before grabbing a snack or going in for seconds, try to assess your hunger level. Are you actually hungry? Many people snack while socializing out of habit, so it’s good to check in with your body’s needs. While eating, chew slowly and try to savor every bite. Eating too quickly can easily lead to overindulgence, as it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register fullness. Also, don’t forget to check your blood sugar levels one to two hours after eating.
Choose Smart Substitutes
Modify traditional recipes with healthier ingredients or swap in protein-rich foods that will fill you up on fewer calories. For example, try mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. Use reduced sugar cranberry chutney instead of cranberry sauce. Make mini-desserts in shot glasses rather than tempting guests with large slices of pie. For diabetic-friendly recipes and holiday meal ideas, visit diabetesfoodhub.org.
Don’t let the holiday hustle and bustle disrupt your exercise routine. Staying active is crucial for managing diabetes and maintaining overall health. Plan family activities that involve movement, such as a post-dinner walk or a friendly game of touch football. Encourage your loved ones to join in, making fitness a fun and inclusive part of the celebration.
Be Mindful of Alcohol Intake
Alcoholic beverages are often part of holiday celebrations, but it’s crucial to consume them in moderation. Excessive alcohol can lead to spikes or drops in blood sugar levels, so if you choose to indulge, do so responsibly. Consider drinking a “light” alternative to your beverage of choice or dilute your drink with water or seltzer.
Monitor with Mercy
Embracing health and wellness is, perhaps, the best way to give thanks to your body this holiday season — and Mercy is here to help. Stop by your nearest Mercy Urgent Care location and treat yourself to a wellness check. Test for diabetes, check your blood pressure or speak to one of our knowledgeable medical practitioners to learn how to better manage your health.