Are your holidays a time of joy and fun, or are they a time of guilt and high blood glucose levels? Many people who have diabetes debate whether they should eat high-sugar, high-fat foods. Many just give up and eat what they want and hope to gain some control after the holidays.
Some people do stay in control over the holidays and still manage to eat some of the extras. This requires planning and a willingness to test your blood glucose level more often to see how different foods, activities and stresses affect you.
First, talk to your medical team about your desire to experiment this year with a more liberal meal plan. Ask them for a target range of blood glucose values to reach before each meal and two hours afterward. Make a list of the foods that you fully expect to add to your diet, such as your favorite Christmas cookies. Then estimate how much of each you expect to eat. Maybe you did well during Thanksgiving, but you know you'll eat at least two cookies a day during the entire week of Christmas.
Books of food composition tables might help to estimate portion size and carbohydrate content. If the food has a nutrition facts label, you can figure that each 15 grams of carbohydrate in the amount you intend to eat can replace a starch, a fruit or a milk serving.
Then you might decide how you can either eat less of other carbohydrate-rich foods you normally eat or adjust your diabetes medication or activity to make up the difference in carbohydrates and calories. But, if you eat more instead of substituting the holiday food, you will take in more calories and might gain weight even if your blood glucose stays in the desired range.
It is important to test your blood glucose before and two hours after you eat the holiday foods. Be objective and see how each food actually affects you. Write down all that you ate and what your blood glucose readings were.
Also, note how much diabetes medicine you took before eating and how active you were around meal time. Then record whether you were more emotional during this time. Even excitement can release some of the stress hormones that can raise blood glucose levels.
You should notice patterns in your blood glucose control. For example, you might see that when you eat Aunt Joan's pie and just sit around watching football after dinner, your blood glucose goes over 200. But if you take a walk, your blood glucose is below 140 two hours later. You might even see that a higher fat snack or meal slows down how quickly your blood sugar rises even when you eat foods with equal amounts of carbohydrate.
Or you might find that if you take an extra unit or two of insulin before you eat the pie, your blood glucose also is below 140, even if you just sit around. Testing more often lets you know what really is happening and helps you handle any situation. This way, you are in control and you choose the food, activity and medication schedule that works best for you.
So, don't go blindly into this holiday season. Be realistic about your eating habits and make plans to really take charge of your diabetes.