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Make Healthy Holidays a Friends and Family Affair
Illinois Ag Connection - 11/09/2018

Here come the holidays! That means food, festivities and fun with family and friends. It also means stress, especially if you have diabetes and need to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. But with a little extra planning and help from family and friends, you've got this.

"We all struggle with maintaining healthy habits this time of year, but the consequences are even greater for people with diabetes," said Lorena Drago, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE). "The good news is by helping a loved one with diabetes celebrate wisely, everyone benefits."

AADE has suggestions for making diabetes management during the holiday season a family (and friends) affair:

- Focus on food: The growing requests for gluten-free, vegan, organic and other holiday foods are raising awareness about making sure everyone is getting their needs met.

- Make meal planning a group activity: As holiday meals loom, people with diabetes and their family members can work together to select favorite holiday dishes and make them healthier (and gluten-free, vegan, etc. if needed). The internet makes it easy. Just search for "healthy version of (your favorite food here)" such as "latkes" or "tamales" or "sweet potato pie."

- Don't skip meals: On the day of a big meal or party, your instinct may be to "save" your calories for the big event. But it's better to have a healthy meal or snack beforehand, which will prevent you from being ravenous when the holiday food comes. During the meal or party, load up half of your plate with veggies, and limit protein such as skinless turkey and carbs such as potatoes to a quarter plate each. Remind your family members that following your lead will help them keep calories in check, too.

- Be the designated driver: Alcohol can interfere with some medications, including insulin, so consider skipping boozy drinks during parties. Instead, pour yourself a sparkling water and add a lime or splash of diet soda to make it festive. Consider it your turn to help your family and friends by doing the driving. If you want to have a drink and your doctor says it's safe, limit it to one.

- Get off the coach: Don't feel guilty about enjoying the football game or favorite holiday movie if you first get some activity:

- Strap on your sneakers: After that last bite of pumpkin pie, get up and move. Make it a family activity by agreeing to leave the dishes for later and go for a walk around the neighborhood or play a game of touch football.

- Plan an outing: When visiting family members over the holidays choose an active group outing that will help you get those steps in. Consider a visit to the museum or a trip downtown to see the holiday lights.

- Do good, feel good: Make a pact to volunteer over the holidays, such as at a soup kitchen or church. It will keep you active and focused on helping others instead of vegging out on the couch. And doing it with family or friends makes it even more rewarding.

- Manage holiday stress: It's normal to feel overwhelmed this time of year, but there are ways to ease the stress:

- Have each other's backs: If you slip up and eat more than you should have or find yourself loafing for a day, don't beat yourself up. Remind each other that tomorrow is another day.

- Be kind to yourself: Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of the holidays you just need to take a break. Let folks know if you need a breather and find a quiet corner to read a book or meditate.

- Get help from a diabetes educator: Diabetes educators can offer a wealth of resources to plan for the holidays and help manage stress. Find a diabetes education program here.

- You can find more holiday tips and healthy recipes on the AADE website. By working together to ensure holiday fun while easing stress, you and your loved ones will already have a head start on achieving your New Year's resolutions!

AADE is a multi-disciplinary professional membership organization dedicated to improving diabetes care through innovative education, management and support. With more than 14,000 professional members including nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, exercise specialists, and others, AADE has a vast network of practitioners working with people who have, are affected by or are at risk for diabetes. Learn more at www.diabeteseducator.org.

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