By Teju Lakkundi
While you navigated the ladoo and mithais at joyous Diwali parties, the festivities are not over yet. If you have diabetes, remember you can manage your condition and still enjoy your favorite Christmas cakes and traditional festive foods. Remember – Festivals such as Diwali and Christmas are celebrated once a year – it’s okay to enjoy your festive favorites and balance it out the rest of the week.
Weight: During the holidays, the focus should be on maintaining your current weight rather than stressing about losing weight. Balancing festive foods with smaller portions is key. Your brain signals satisfaction after a few bites, so there’s no need to consume an entire slice of fruit cake or multiple gulab jamuns! All carbohydrate foods can raise your blood sugar levels. Carbohydrate foods can be sweet and/or savory.
Sweet Carbs: There is no lack of sweets and desserts amid festivities. These foods will raise your blood sugar – so it’s important to limit portions of these foods. Remember – sugar-free desserts may be lower in carbohydrates, but they are not carbohydrate free. This is because they may contain other carbohydrate foods such as milk, flour, and dried fruit. Substitute non-nutritive sweeteners instead of sugar for making your traditional sweets when possible. Healthier options for desserts are dark chocolate covered fruit like strawberries or sweets made from nuts and sweetened using dates or raisins. Another option is dried mango dipped in dark chocolate and rolled in chopped pistachios.
Savory Carbs: Our food is incomplete without salty namkeen items on the festive platter – from samosas to savory puff pastries, chivda, mathri and fried besan items – all of these can raise your blood sugar. Excessive consumption of deep-fried foods can also cause inflammation in the body. Try baking or air-frying some items to reduce the caloric intake and carbohydrates.
Beverages: Alcoholic cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages such as regular soda, fruit punch, juices as well as cocktails can cause big spikes in blood sugar levels. Plain water will not raise your blood sugar and it is your best bet – but if you crave flavor, add a few lemon drops, mint leaves or 2 oz of fruit juice to your water. This will add color and flavor to your water. During these cooler months, sipping warm tea (herbal, green, mint, etc.) will also help. You may also opt for non-caloric beverages such as flavored carbonated water. If you choose to drink alcohol, drink responsibly – the recommendation is one drink for women and two drinks for men – per sitting. A drink is 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine or 1.5 oz of spirits.
Medications: Medications will work when you take them! Remember to take your medications as prescribed and on time. Use an alarm on your phone if needed. Store your medications per the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure they are not expired. If you’re travelling by air, remember to carry your doctor’s prescription along with your medications. Don’t forget alcohol swabs, syringes, or pen needles for injectable medications.
Check your blood sugar: Carry your glucometer with you everywhere you go. Checking your blood sugar will help you to better understand how your body is navigating the foods you are eating. It is important to check your blood sugar to avoid low blood sugar – especially for those who use insulin. Make sure you have extra glucose strips and always carry extra supplies.
Remain Active: This is the golden rule – no matter what festive treat foods you enjoy, staying active afterward will help lower blood sugar levels. Take a walk, help with cleaning up, play outdoors with the children or grandchildren – all of these will help prevent your blood sugar from spiking too high.
Catered Parties: These parties are usually catered by restaurants or caterers, and you are limited by the choices offered at these parties. Lean towards any salad or cut up vegetables first. Make mindful choices by choosing kebabs, cooked channa/daal style dishes with either rice or naan. If the dessert served is one of your favorites, skip the rice and naan. This will help to balance blood sugar. Limit foods such as creamy curries, deep fried pakoras, samosas and sugary desserts.
Potluck Parties: These are the best kind. You can take a dish that you feel comfortable eating and share and pass along. Here are some guilt free ideas – masala tofu appetizer, hummus and carrot sticks, minestrone soup, bean and vegetable salad, chicken kebabs, vegetable chicken chili, quinoa paneer pulao with vegetables and yogurt raita, sugar-free strawberry cheesecake, or a fruit salad for dessert.
All in all, remember to enjoy yourself and leave your stresses behind. Don’t deprive yourself or feel guilty for enjoying your favorite foods. It’s the holidays after all; enjoy good food, spend time with your loved ones, enjoy the crisp cool air, relax, and rejuvenate yourself. Let relationships be the centerpiece of the holidays.
Teju Lakkundi is a registered dietitian nutritionist, licensed dietitian nutritionist and a certified diabetes care and education specialist. She is based in Cary, NC.
Contact: 919-228-9749 or [email protected]