Navigating the spring holidays, celebrations, and family events and all that they entail can be an emotional time especially when we add diabetes to the mix. We know how stressful managing diabetes can be so we are here to talk about some practical ways to handle this time in the most positive light possible. Here are some key things you can do to make the day more manageable.
- Start the morning with some form of physical activity. Take the dog for a walk, do a GlucoseZone workout, hit the gym, or whatever you like. Exercising in the morning will make you more insulin sensitive throughout the day, which means any food you eat will have less of an impact on your blood sugar levels. Since we usually eat richer foods during holidays and celebrations that we don’t normally eat day to day, exercise will help you be able to enjoy those foods without experiencing such a negative influence on blood sugar levels. Exercise will also give you more energy for the day and will put your mindset in a positive space, making the rest of the day much easier to handle.
- Eat breakfast. Many family gatherings are centered around eating a big meal that typically happens later in the day. Eating a good breakfast will keep you sated so that when you finally sit down to the meal you won’t feel so ravenous that you overeat or make less mindful food choices that you wouldn’t otherwise make. Eating breakfast also helps keep your blood sugars more stable throughout the course of the day. The last thing you want to do is experience a low blood sugar right before you sit down that causes you to eat everything in sight. You want to be able to sit down and truly enjoy the meal you’re about to eat. We recommend having a green juice first thing in the morning before your workout, and then have a good, balanced breakfast depending on your hunger level and when you will be eating your big meal.
- Test your blood sugar often throughout the day. We know testing blood sugar when you’d rather be spending time with family and friends can be a pain, but knowing your number will help you make good food choices, know how much insulin to take, and keep your blood sugars in a better range. There’s no judgment with your numbers—think of them as data points that allow you to make informed choices.
- When you do sit down to eat, fill half of your plate with vegetables and salad. They have the most nutrients and are the healthiest for all of us, diabetes or not.
- Try using a smaller size plate so you are more mindful of the amount of food you are eating. Also stay mindful of how much insulin you’ve injected to make sure you don’t go low in between courses of food.
- If you have diabetes and are not taking insulin, go for a walk after your meal. Going for a walk will help avoid any postprandial (after meal) spikes in blood glucose.
- If you are taking insulin, don’t take a walk immediately after eating because this could cause a low blood sugar episode. The only thing worse than a low blood sugar when you’re ravenous is a low blood sugar when you’re already stuffed. Follow the two hour rule: if you’ve injected fast acting insulin for a meal, wait two hours before beginning any physical activity.
- If you are on an insulin pump, you can use an extended bolus setting to help manage high carb and high fat meals. These meals tend to cause an extended release of glucose into the system for a longer period than two hours. You can replicate this if using shots by giving yourself insulin when you eat and then giving yourself insulin two to three hours later—again, make sure you are testing your blood sugar so you know where your number is.
- If you are on insulin or a hypoglycemic agent, speak with your health care provider about how medication will work with consuming alcohol. Make sure you are also eating food while drinking alcohol. Alcohol can have two different effects on blood sugar. It can lower blood sugar because it temporarily disables your liver’s ability to release stored blood sugar into the blood stream. Or it can raise blood sugar because of the high sugar content. Mixed drinks also have added sugar which will further raise blood sugar.
- If your family tries to offer advice on how to eat, thank them for their concern and let them know you’ve got this covered. Remember you are the expert on you and your diabetes. You can even share that you’ve found us in the GlucoseZone!
- Identify what foods you love and make you feel your best and which ones you can skip because they aren’t your favorites or don’t make you feel very good. If you enjoy holiday candy and other desserts, it’s ok to have them! Cover your food with insulin, test often, listen to your body, and remember it’s ok if you don’t get everything “right.”
Regardless of how you celebrate the springtime, the food we eat has such a huge impact not just on our diabetes but our also our mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well- being. Our food choices can influence how we feel about ourselves and how we interact with our loved ones. If we make the connection between the food we eat and the other parts of our health, we can use that to guide our decisions so that we can feel our best.
By: Lauren Szalkiewicz and LaurieAnn Scher, MS, RD, CDE