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Holiday Meal Tips

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Diabetes doesn’t always make food-centric celebrations simple, but yes we “cran” eat what fills our plate and our souls.  As we celebrate the holidays this year, things may look a little different as we respond to COVID, but the food generally remains the same: turkey, side dishes, and plenty of dessert.  Check out these tips for enjoying the meal and keeping diabetes on the back burner.

Master the pre-bolus. Pre-bolusing insulin is when you take insulin at a set timeframe before eating, giving the insulin time to become "active" and combat the blood sugar rise.  And timing this dose can make all the difference when it comes to managing blood sugars (check out this 2018 study, Timing of Meal Insulin and Its Relation to Adherence to Therapy in Type 1 Diabetes, where pre-meal insulin was associated with lower HbA1c and fewer missed meal insulin doses.) For larger meals, consider pre-bolusing to help avoid post-meal spikes … making it easier to risk it for that biscuit.

Bring foods you know and trust.  Count your blessings and your carbs ahead of time by preparing some foods you are familiar with eating. Many Thanksgiving dishes are ones we eat often, like green beans or sweet potatoes, and dipping into the foods you are comfortable dosing for can be a good strategy for staying within your blood sugars targets.

Mind the fat. You’ll find fat in gravy, biscuits, side dishes, desserts … it’s everywhere. And just because it doesn’t affect your blood sugar immediately doesn’t mean you won’t see a blood sugar bounce from the fat content of your food. Make sure you’re accounting for fat – and protein – when you’re calculating your meal bolus.

When in doubt, opt for low carb. Consider yourself plucky – I mean lucky that Thanksgiving turkey is low-carb. Filling your plate with foods that aren’t packing a high carb load so you can feast your eyes on a solid time-in-range, even on Thanksgiving.

Make a brisk stroll part of the celebration. After you gobble up your meal, it can feel good to move your body. Clean your plates and then lace up your sneakers for a post-meal walk around the neighborhood.  A nice, brisk stroll can help your post-prandial blood sugars from spiking and can set you up for success if you decide on dessert afterwards.  (Just be careful walking after bolusing – have some fast-acting glucose in your pockets while you’re on the move.)

Make conversations productive. Sometimes even our most trusted caregivers can inadvertently offend by running commentary on food choices. The Behavioral Diabetes Institute, created by Dr. William Polonsky, says that a conversation can help de-escalate a situation. “Instead of telling them to stop ‘policing’ you, redirect their caring in a way that can work: Thank them for their concern, explain that their actions are not helpful (if they are not), and let them know specifically how they can be of real help. A heartfelt conversation can help you all feel like you’re on the same team.”

Have a safe and healthy holiday season!

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