‘Make a game plan’: Here’s how to manage diabetes during the holiday season

dfwnewsa | December 9, 2023 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

‘Make a game plan’: Here’s how to manage diabetes during the holiday season

Betsy Richter-Gifford is a diabetes care and education specialist with Texas Health Resources. Richter-Gifford has been living with Type 1 diabetes since she was 14 months old. (David Moreno | Fort Worth Report)
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As someone living with Type 1 diabetes, Betsy Richter-Gifford knows it can be a challenge to manage the chronic disease. 

She has to self-manage to ensure she stays healthy. 

“You are constantly juggling factors that impact your blood glucose levels in order to maintain blood glucose levels in the target range,” she said. 

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Richter-Gifford, who serves as a diabetes care and education specialist with Texas Health Resources, knows it can be even more difficult to manage diabetes, specifically Type 2, during one specific time of the year: the winter holidays. 

When you’re busy, it’s easy to neglect your diabetes self-care, she said. 

Difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes: caused by an autoimmune reaction which stops your body from making insulin. It can be diagnosed at any age. If you have Type 1 diabetes, you need to take insulin every day to survive. Between 5-10% of people diagnosed with diabetes have Type 1. Currently there is no way to prevent it.

Type 2 diabetes: the body doesn’t use insulin well and can’t keep blood sugar at normal levels. It develops over years. About 90-95% of people with diabetes have Type 2. It can be prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes, including losing weight, eating healthy food and being active. 

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(Source | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Of people living with Type 2 diabetes, 49% said managing their condition during a fall and winter holiday season is more difficult than any other times of the year, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Here is what Tarrant County residents can do to manage their diabetes during the holidays: 

‘Make a game plan’

Maintaining self-care habits residents have established during the year is important, since family gatherings and parties can disrupt their daily routine and any diabetes meal plan they usually adhere to. Strategy is key, said Richter-Gifford. 

“I will encourage my patients to make a game plan before they go, if they must navigate a situation where they know the food is going to be difficult for them,” she said. 

Some people will find it helpful to eat before they go. Still, it’s important not to skip meals, since that makes it harder to manage your blood sugar levels. 

If access to diabetic-friendly food becomes difficult, diabetics should enjoy the holiday foods they love in moderation rather than completely restricting them. You can eat pumpkin pie instead of pecan pie; that choice will cut calories and sugar by at least a third. 

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“It’s also important to give yourself grace. No one is perfect so don’t be hard on yourself, focus instead on getting back on track with your self-management goals,” Richter-Gifford said.

Try to avoid or limit the amount of alcohol you intake. Alcohol can also lower blood sugar and interact with diabetes medicines. 

Families who have members living with diabetes should consider offering healthy options at any holiday feast. 

What are some diabetic-friendly holiday recipes?

In order to be diabetic-friendly, the recipe should contain less than 30 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Here are a few suggestions for healthier menu choices.

Appetizers: edamame hummus, mini turkey meatballs, spinach and goat cheese tartlets, a scallop and shrimp cocktail 

Soups and salads: chopped salad with lemon and dill, butternut squash soup, broccoli cheddar soup, herbed tomato salad

Main dishes and sides: ratatouille; orange-glazed baked ham, chicken paillard; mushroom stuffed pork tenderloin, cauliflower mash; green beans, roasted carrots, garlic sauteed spinach, sauteed kale, sweet potatoes 

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Desserts: rice crispy squares, peanut butter jam macaroons, sugar cookies, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, apple squares 

But managing diabetes is more than just being careful about what you eat.

It’s also important for diabetics to keep up with their regular physical activity and maintain their sleep schedule. Break physical activity into smaller time frames so it’s easier to schedule. Make it fun by planning walks around the neighborhood with friends or loved ones, Richter-Gifford said. 

“It’s important for families to do a better job in supporting those living with diabetes, so that they don’t feel further shame and judgment from the people surrounding them,” she said. “Establishing new holiday traditions can be good for everyone.” 

David Moreno is the health reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at david.moreno@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter.

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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