Surviving the Holidays in Good Health
This article was originally published in Diabetes Health in December, 2005.
The advice and opinions of this author are not intended as medical advice. Please check with your own personal medical practitioner before initiating or changing treatment for any condition.
The end of the year can be a difficult time because for many of us, it’s not just a day or two but whole weeks of merrymaking. We all know people who throw caution to the winds and give up all semblance of healthy behavior when holiday or vacation time comes around. It is not uncommon for these people to still be struggling to get back on track by March of the following year.
A Season of Food, Food and More Food
Part of the holiday season centers on food, drink and sharing with family and friends. We sometimes think that “a little won’t hurt!” even if that “little” leads to a lot. We need to learn that we can participate fully in the holidays and enjoy them while still making healthy food choices. It’s not that hard to do, and there are strategies that can help you successfully avoid the pitfalls of the holiday season.
Change your mindset
I’m sure you have heard many people say that “diets don’t work.” Most people think of a diet as something you do until you go off of it and do something else. Especially when dealing with diabetes, a lifestyle change, not a diet, is what’s needed in order to successfully avoid complications. But you can’t make a permanent lifestyle change without making a shift in your mindset. We need to always try to keep the bigger picture in mind.
Yes, all of the food looks and tastes good and can offer momentary pleasure. Just remember that eating too much of the wrong foods can be just as damaging to your blood glucose and your body over the holidays as at other times of the year.
Could those tempting foods be the same ones that contributed to your problem in the first place? Are you a starch or sugar addict? If one taste will get you back on the carb bandwagon, you need to beware and find an alternative.
Prepare a selection of healthful and delicious treats. Find some recipes in one of the many low-carb cookbooks or magazines or on Internet sites. There are also plenty of lower-carb food products to help you through the tough times.
Change your focus
If one of your goals is to lose weight, it’s okay to change that goal to simply maintaining your weight over the holidays. Resume the weight-loss phase of your program as soon as the season is over. If in the past you have gained a lot during this time of year, learning to maintain your weight is a real victory. If you have diabetes, your goal is still to keep your blood glucose well under control.
Eat before you go to a holiday event so you won’t arrive ravenously hungry and likely to grab anything at all. Carry a healthy snack or a low-carb nutrition bar or low-carb candy bar for emergencies. Eat these first before you reach for something that will raise your blood glucose.
Remember that alcohol lowers your defenses
If you’re traveling, carry your own snacks on the plane or train. If you’re driving, take along a well-stocked cold pack. If you have to stop at a fast-food restaurant along the way, be sure to seek out the lower-carb options that are now available.
Ask your family and close friends to help. They do not have to follow your eating program, just support your efforts to stay healthy. There are even low-carb chat rooms on the Internet that can help. Call ahead to find out what foods will be available at gatherings. Offer to bring a low-carb entrée, side dish or dessert.
Stay close to your routine
With more demands on our time and energy, most of us tend to shortchange ourselves by giving up the very habits that keep us healthier and less stressed. Continue to eat regularly and get adequate protein to control appetite. Be flexible. Continue to exercise, even if you can’t do your full workout or your usual number of sessions. Being active helps you better cope with stress at any time of the year. Keep checking your blood glucose and blood pressure as usual. And of course, if you’re able, increase your exercise to offset any dietary indiscretions.
Keep a food diary to keep track of how you’re doing. Record your blood glucose and blood pressure readings so you can easily check the likely cause of any changes in readings.
Congratulate yourself for even small successes
If you are tempted to fall back into old habits, remember how good it will feel when the New Year comes around and you can be proud of yourself for breaking some of those habits—and your clothes will still fit! You will not only feel healthier but will be well on the way to making even more progress in the year ahead.
Some Lower-Carb Ideas
Many recipes can be found in low-carb cookbooks like “Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution,” as well as online at www.atkins.com and other Web sites.
- Assorted cheese and olive plate
- Seafood bisque
- Vegetable soup
- Lobster and avocado salad (or any seafood salad with avocado)
- Stuffed mushrooms, without breadcrumbs (or use low-carb crumbs)
- Scallops wrapped in bacon
- Prosciutto-wrapped asparagus
- Roast beef with low-carb horseradish sauce
- Rib roast with onions and leeks
- Pork roast with sage and fennel
- Ham glazed with low-carb pancake syrup
- Leg of lamb
- Roasted chicken with mushroom gravy
- Roasted Cornish hens with herbs
- Roasted salmon with herbs and fennel
- Baked fish with macadamia nuts
- Lobster with drawn butter
- Roasted asparagus
- Creamed spinach
- Sausage or mushroom dressing made with low-carb bread
- Glazed carrots with low-carb pancake syrup
- Roasted carrots with cinnamon and cumin
- Sautéed brussels sprouts with herbs
- Collard greens with ham and onions
- Cauliflower and sour cream purée
- Broccoli rabe with garlic and red pepper flakes
- Green bean, pepper and onion sauté
- Roasted fennel with red peppers
- Pumpkin mousse
- Pumpkin flan
- Crustless pumpkin cheesecake
- Cheesecake with a crushed-nut crust
- Assorted cheese and nut plate