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Published on November 25, 2013

Enjoying a Diabetic Thanksgiving

The holidays can be tough to navigate for any health-conscious Jane or Joe – but they’re especially tricky for diabetics. Between Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the bevy of December holidays, there will be sweets around every corner. While it’s important to enjoy time spent with family and friends on these special occasions, it’s equally important to stick to your nutritional guns.

In addition to the upcoming holiday bender, it’s National Diabetes Awareness month – and these companies are creating helpful resources and guides for enjoying the holidays healthfully!

Molly Petrik works as a registered dietician in the Bryan Health Diabetes Center. The center offered a class on carb-smart cooking just a few weeks ago, and it aims to educate people with pre- and progressive diabetes about proper nutrition, lifestyle, and health habits. Molly explains, “[Our] theme for 2013 is Diabetes is a Family Affair. Diabetes doesn’t end in November … it is a 24/7 diagnosis, 365 days of the year.”

But even those diabetics who stick to their health goals the rest of the year might find themselves in dangerous territory come Thanksgiving. “During the holidays, it is important for diabetics to remember [that] they can, for the most part, eat what they want to,” says Molly. “But they have to be careful with the portion sizes to avoid elevating blood sugars.

  • A half-cup of mashed potatoes or bread stuffing [each] have about 26 grams of carbohydrates – not bad. But it is the second helping of the potatoes, and the stuffing, and the roll, and the corn, etc… that starts to add up on the blood sugars.

  • One-eighth of a 9” pumpkin pie has about 26 grams of carbohydrates, and a slice of pecan pie the same size [has] about 52 grams of carbohydrates.”

So how can diabetics and family members make sure the holiday doesn’t turn into a health fiasco? Molly advises support and solidarity: “It is important for family members to try not to treat the diabetic differently – during the holidays especially – but remember to be supportive of watching portion sizes. Portion control is important for everyone during the holidays, especially to avoid weight gain.” - Molly Petrik RD, LMNT, CDE/Bryan Health Diabetes Center, Lincoln, NE

In her work with Homeland Stores, dietician Alyson Dykstra, R.D. L.D. CPT has advised plenty of people on how to maximize their holiday health. “Holiday treats can be nutritious with a few tweaks,” says Alyson. “Seek out recipes that rely on fruit's natural sweetness [instead of] on refined sugar. Like fruits, nuts can play a starring role: use them to add texture and flavor.”

To make your desserts satisfying but healthy, Alyson advises using high-quality fats: “You can replace shortening or lard with [a] healthier fat like olive oil.” Rely on your neighborhood Homeland this Holiday season for your healthy baking needs. - Alyson Dykstra, R.D. L.D CPT, Corporate Dietitian , HAC Retail

Why not go all-out on holidays, though? John S. Muchmore, M.D., PhD, of INTEGRIS Health says that treating your diet as a lifestyle – not a short-term solution – is key to weight maintenance success. “Holidays are for feasting, merriment and family, and have been so for thousands of years. [But even] on [holidays], common sense should prevail. Food should be a balance of protein, vegetables and carbohydrate. No portion should be as big as the palm of your hand.” John S. Muchmore, MD.


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