How not to overeat as you celebrate the holidays
As anyone with diabetes knows, sticking to a healthful, well-balanced meal plan can be tough. But there is perhaps no tougher time of year to do so than during the holidays.
Coworkers bring holiday cookies to the office. Invitations stack up — for dinners with friends and family, parties and other events. From Halloween straight through Valentine’s Day, it seems that almost everywhere we go, somebody’s put out a candy dish.
But Certified Diabetes Educators (CDEs) say the steps that follow can help you combat the constant temptation around you.
CHANGE YOUR MINDSET
“I think a lot of people go into the holiday season expecting to overeat,” says Martha McKittrick, RD, CDE, a nutritionist in New York City. “They go into it with the mindset that the holidays are a time to eat sweets. You can imagine not doing that.”
To do so, maintain as much of your normal, daily routine as possible, she advises. That includes not changing the time you eat, how much you sleep or your physical fitness regimen — whenever possible.
“When people are busy around the holidays, the first thing I see go is sleep, and then you don’t get your exercise in,” she observes. “You end up skipping meals.”
DON’T GO TO PARTIES ON AN EMPTY STOMACH
Cravings are aggravated by hunger, warns McKittrick. Eating properly during regular mealtimes will make it less tempting to overeat at social events. She also recommends eating a full, healthy breakfast on holidays such as Thanksgiving to prevent overeating during the big meal later on.
“Try not to change you healthy eating plan too much,” she says. “If you don’t have enough protein and healthy fat, you’re going to be more likely to get into the sweets.”
Uma Sridhar, RD, CDE, of Nutrition Consult LLC in Ashburn, VA, suggests having a small meal or snack at home before heading to holiday events.
“I recommend that people with diabetes eat a bowl of salad, some non-carbohydrate foods, so they are not too hungry when they get to the party,” she says.
MAKE YOUR CARBS COUNT
When filling your plate at holiday events, choose carefully, says Sridhar.
If you have diabetes, you should already be accustomed to keeping track of your carbohydrate intake and balancing your plate with one-half non-starchy vegetables (cucumbers, carrots, celery, tomatoes or the green leafy type), one-quarter protein (three to four ounces of meat) and one-quarter carbs (usually whole grains, such as brown rice, or potatoes).
If you really want those cookies or a slice of cake for dessert, drop the rice or potatoes and have those sweets in their place, suggests Sridhar. “Try to eat more of the non-carb foods and save your carbs for your favorite dessert.”
“You don’t have to deprive yourself one-hundred percent,” agrees McKittrick. “Pick and choose what’s important to you and do this for something special. If you really want a holiday treat, you can find a way to fit it in.”
PREPARE FOOD YOU KNOW YOU CAN EAT
Many times guests are expected to bring a dish to a holiday party. Or perhaps you’re the one hosting. In either case, making foods you know fit into your meal plan can reduce the temptation to eat those that don’t.
“If the party is at your house, you can make a dessert or holiday cookies with healthy ingredients, or less sugar,” suggests McKittrick. “Have diabetes-friendly foods around that the whole family can enjoy.”
“You have control over the foods you prepare, but not control over what others prepare,” adds Sridhar. “Bring non-carb foods such as salad or chicken or meat dishes. That way, if you have leftovers, you know you can still eat that food.”
“Beverages increase your sugar level,” warns Sridhar. “They include simple sugars that spike your blood glucose levels. Water is the perfect way to keep you hydrated, replenished, and it keeps appetite in check. Add a splash of flavor with a jigger of fresh cucumber, lime slices, mint or a sprig of rosemary. Be creative! Sparkling waters come in a vast variety of flavors and are calorie-free with no artificial sweeteners.”
WALK IT OFF
Exercise — before or after eating — is another way to lessen the extra calories people consume during the holidays.
“Before you even start the day, do some kind of physical activity,” suggests McKittrick. “It doesn’t have to be intense. It can get you into the mindset of feeling healthy and you’ll go into the meal with a little bit lower blood sugar.”
“Most people gain weight during the holiday season,” notes Sridhar. “After-meal walks lower post-meal blood sugars and increase energy by getting muscles activated. And just ten minutes of walking after meals can make a big difference.”
Finally, don’t hesitate to ask for help from family and friends.
“Get some family support on board,” advises McKittrick. “If your husband keeps bringing home boxes of chocolate, ask that they be kept out of view. In the office, you can’t say, ‘Don’t bring in the cookies,’ but at home you can ask for support and ask that there aren’t a lot of these foods around to tempt you.”