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Dealing with Diabetes: Home for the Holidays

This month marks the beginning of the winter holiday season, but it is also Diabetes Awareness Month! According to the American Diabetes Association, over 30 million people in the U.S. were living with diabetes in 2015. There are an additional 84 million adults over the age of 18 living with “prediabetes”, which means they are at increased risk of developing diabetes soon. It is currently the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.

Many of our loved ones may be affected by this common condition. This time of year is especially difficult for those suffering with diabetes to make healthy choices when it comes to what to eat. As you look forward to much needed time with family and friends and (of course) all kinds of yummy food, consider celebrating your blessings with a healthier Thanksgiving dinner this year.

What you need to know about diabetes:

The body breaks down the carbohydrates you eat into sugar that is used for energy. Insulin is a hormone that the body needs to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. If insulin is not working properly or there isn’t enough insulin being made, the glucose stays in the bloodstream leading to complications such as heart disease, stroke, and vision loss. Keeping blood sugar levels regulated can help prevent these complications, which is why choosing what to eat is so important!

Types of diabetes:

  • Type 1: This type of diabetes can occur at every age, in people of every race, and of every shape and size. Those with Type 1 manage their blood glucose levels with insulin along with learning healthy eating habits because their body doesn’t make insulin.
  • Type 2: While some people can control their blood sugar levels with healthy eating and exercise, others may need additional medication or insulin to help manage it. This is the most common form of diabetes—and it means that your body doesn’t use insulin properly.

What you can do to help:

The number one question people with diabetes ask is: “What can I eat?” Below are some tips on how to make healthier food choices not just during the holidays, but every day in order to keep you or your loved one as healthy and happy as possible!

  • Choose whole grains, such as whole wheat breads and pastas, brown rice, whole grain breadcrumbs or oatmeal for all those breading and casserole recipes.
  • Choose unprocessed foods, meaning anything that is fresh and has not been modified from its natural state. Processed food includes packaged red meat, sausages, hot dogs, corned beef, beef jerky, canned meat, meat sauces, lunch meats and bacon. Choose fresh fruits, veggies, and white meat (fish or chicken) instead.
  • Not all veggies are equal; use non-starchy vegetables when possible such as spinach, artichoke, asparagus, green beans, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, mushrooms, onions and peppers, squash, snap peas, salad greens, tomatoes or water chestnuts.
  • Try to limit, or avoid altogether, foods with added sugars or refined grains such as sugary breakfast cereals, white breads, pastas, pastries or other desserts, any sort of microwave ready meal, etc.
  • Drink water instead of pop (even if it’s diet) or other sugary drinks such as sweet tea.
  • Low-carb diets, vegetarian diets, and Mediterranean diets have shown positive effects on A1c.

Everyone’s different and there isn’t one diet or medication that works for everyone. Ask your doctor about what is best for you and the management of your diabetes.

Helpful Resources: