The holidays are approaching and with them the annual battle of the carbs at the dinner table. So much fantastic food – hearty casseroles, decadent desserts, and festive beverages … so many hidden calories and carbohydrates lurking on the table that can send a diabetic’s blood sugar level soaring. How should one handle these perilous parties without risking one’s health?
Jennifer Crain is an Administrative Registered Dietitian at Winter Haven Hospital/BayCare Health System. Over the 16 years of her career as a dietician, Crain has gained some insight into which strategies can be most effective when it comes to controlling caloric and carbohydrate intake throughout the tempting soirees and family dinners that will take place over the next couple of months.
There’s generally an abundance of high-calorie, high-sugar foods at holiday parties, so how can you participate and indulge without causing your blood sugar to skyrocket?
“First and foremost,” Crain advises, “plan ahead of time. You want to continue to eat regular meals on the party days. You don’t want to skip a meal to try to make room for what might be coming at the party. In fact, it’s a better idea to have a snack before the party – specifically protein or low-carb vegetables that have fiber to help make you feel full before you get there. That’s going to help you avoid overeating.”
For the tech-savvy folks, Crain recommends using all the tools that are available now.
“There are a lot of apps out there right now: Noom, Klinio, mySugr — those are diabetes-specific applications that can help you track your carb intake.” Apps like these allow the user to input what foods are being consumed, then they calculate the carbohydrate values for that specific person.
So, you’ve had your high-protein or high-fiber snack and downloaded an app to help you monitor your carb intake, and you feel ready to face those mouth-watering temptations head-on. But you’re not out of the woods yet!
“Another tip for a party,” continues Crain, “would be portion control. So if they have an appetizer or a dessert plate that is smaller than the giant dinner plate, maybe go for a smaller plate so you aren’t tempted to fill that entire large platter.”
Many social events use a buffet-style meal, which can easily make anyone’s eyes suddenly become much larger than their stomach.
“It’s a good idea to survey the buffet before you start so you don’t think that you’re going to eat these few things at the beginning of the buffet and then you get to the end and think, ‘Oh, well I can’t pass these up,’ and you end up with far more on your plate than you intended. So survey the buffet and make a game plan for what you’re going to have before you start.”
When it comes to deciding what to put on your plate, Crain has some recommendations on that, too. She compared two different meals comprising dishes one might typically encounter as holiday fare.
“A 4-ounce portion of turkey with dark meat and skin, mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, candied yams, cornbread, and pumpkin pie,” was the first option Crain plugged into an app, “That’s approximately 1,422 calories, 176 grams of carbs, and that’s just for a half to one-cup serving of everything.”
If this sounds like more than you should be consuming in one sitting, consider Crain’s second option.
“If you alter that and go with a white meat turkey, a 4 -ounce portion with no skin, or smoked ham – again, a 4-ounce portion – a baked sweet potato with one teaspoon of margarine, some cooked carrots, fresh green beans, even one slice of fresh French bread, and a sugar-free pumpkin mousse, it’s 630 calories and 56 grams of carbohydrates.”
“Going for more fresh vegetables instead of heavy casseroles — green beans instead of the green bean casserole — will save significant calories and carbohydrates while still ending up with a large amount of food on your plate that will keep you satisfied,” Crain explains.
So what do you wash everything down with? Before you head to the punch bowl, Crain has some thoughts to share on drink selections.
“Beverages are a big, sometimes significant source of calories and carbs. Sodas, punches, and a lot of alcoholic drinks tend to be quite sugary and can definitely spike that blood sugar and add a bunch of carbs and sugar that people don’t even think about. Obviously, I’d say water is the best, but going for sugar-free, low fat, skim milk versus whole milk, a sugar-free hot chocolate instead of a sugary one is best, but really water is going to be the best.”
Moderation is key to healthy eating, at any time of year. Enjoy the holidays with a realistic plan for keeping your sugar in check.
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