For diabetics and families whose members are dealing with the condition, The holiday season can be the most challenging time of the year. But don’t be dismayed, a bit of planning will make your season brighter and help keep your loved one healthy. Start by involving your relative or friend in deciding which events to attend, what foods to prepare and ways to maintain a smooth schedule to avoid blood sugar ups and downs.
Plan for fun
Focus on the enjoyment and the people who will be at each gathering. Perhaps renew some memories about previous good times. Think about timing of each new event and how that might affect your loved one’s routine. Help plan meals around the events so he or she is not hungry on arrival and tempted to indulge in a food binge. Also, remind him or her that skipping a regular meal to save room for a feast is a risky move that could make it hard to maintain blood sugar levels and prevent them from enjoying themselves.
Reap the healthy harvest
For each event, if possible, ask the host or hostess about the menu so you can plan accordingly. If you are hosting or able to bring a dish, prepare healthy alternatives offered by the fresh fruits and vegetables of the season – apples, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes, etc. And include cinnamon in your recipes since it can help regulate blood sugar. Use plant-based sweeteners such as stevia or fruit juice when applicable. Avoid artificial sweeteners since some recent studies show they can raise blood sugar, according to the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov).
Try to make planning more interesting by including your loved one in it so they can look forward to enjoying some favorites and/or participating in preparation if they are able. And if alcohol is part of the party, work on food trade outs – like adding more veggies — so your loved one or friend can enjoy a glass of wine if they like. For ideas on menu planning, visit www.diabetes.org/food-planning
Keep on schedule
A healthy lifestyle includes getting enough rest, participating in exercise or activity, and keeping on target with meds. Staying on top of these in the hustle and bustle of holidays is hard enough for anyone, but critical for diabetics. Encourage your loved one to stay on track with sleep times and any exercise they are able to do. Work with them or their home care provider to set up reminders for medication and activity. If they have a cellphone, use it to schedule reminder notices. And if the phone has the capability, have each reminder play a different holiday tune to brighten things up.
The holidays are a time to enjoy family, friends and all that is joyful for us. Although diabetes is a serious condition that needs consistent attention, by helping your friends and loved ones set up a good schedule and plan for holiday gatherings, you’ll both be able to count your blessings for what your special person is still able to do.