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A CDE’s Tips for Surviving the Holidays if You Have Diabetes


Nov 26, 2012

Are you ready to celebrate the holidays?

Are you ready to celebrate the holidays? How many festivities are on your calendar this season? It’s time to navigate the minefield of situations that can throw your diabetes off course and send a joyous occasion into the dumps.

Since we can’t send diabetes off on holiday just yet, let’s review general strategies to consider at the following merriments you may encounter in December and January (listed chronologically).

Be sure to discuss individual approaches to your spiritual practice beliefs with your diabetes healthcare team and please check your glucose values regularly throughout any of these celebrations—it’s the only way to know if you are safe or headed for trouble.

And watch the alcohol consumption, imbibing only with the blessing of your physician and in moderation, with food (especially being on the alert for lows).

December 8—Bodhi Day (Buddah’s Enlightenment)

What is It:
A celebration of the enlightenment of Siddhartha Guatama, the Buddah, who learned four noble truths while meditating under a tree over 2,500 years ago: suffering is universal, no one escapes; the cause of suffering is ignorance especially of ones self; ignorance can be overcome; the way to overcome ignorance is the eightfold path (harmonious views, thoughts, conduct, speech, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and meditation).

How It is Celebrated:
Celebrations vary and often engage in prayer, meditation and teachings. Some people have a breakfast of milk and rice to start the Bodhi day with mindfulness. Others meditate for hours.

Tips for Staying in Control:
For the milk-rice-carbo breakfast, choose a small bowl, count your carbs and act accordingly. You may need more medicine and/or exercise. Consider adding a protein. For those who fast or skip meals during meditation, you’ll probably need less medicine and a way to prevent dehydration (water, or watered down juice to still get energy from a carbohydrate source).

December 12—Virgin of Guadalupe

What is It:
In the predawn hours in 1531, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in a vision to an Indian peasant. She is the patron saint of Mexico, patroness of the Americas and is believed to be the mother of God.

How It is Celebrated:
Honoring her starts as early as 4 a.m. and is one of the biggest yearly events in the Latin world. Celebrations include a predawn mass (people usually fast for this), scattering of rose pedals, mariachi music and traditional Aztec dancers. After mass, it is common to consume champurrado (a hot, thick, chocolate milk with corn flour added), tamales and sweet bread.

Tips for Staying Control:
Adjust medicines to handle the several hours of morning fast followed by high-carb content foods. You may need less evening insulin, or to hold your morning medications until you have food, and extra quick-acting insulin to cover the extra carbs. Bring quick acting sugar if you start to feel dizzy or low.

December 16 to 22—Hanukkah (sometimes spelled Chanukah)

What is It:
Hanukkah is the Jewish festival of lights, commemorating the Hebrew peoples ability to free Israel and the Temple of Jerusalem from the Syrians in 165 B.C. After returning to Jerusalem, they lit the lamps in the Temple and the small amount of oil lasted for a miraculous eight days.

How it is Celebrated:
This is a home-based holiday which revolves around lighting candles in the Menorah, one each night for eight nights and prayer. Children are given candy, gelt (Yiddish for money), and a dreidel. Typical foods include a feast of roasted beef (stuffed beef brisket) or fowl, potato latkes cooked in oil (may be substituted with other winter vegetables), harvest foods, fruits (dried fruit compote) and nuts. Plus, challah breads made with egg-enriched yeast and honey-sweetened desserts are common.

Tips for Staying in Control:
Consider baking the potato latkes instead of frying (serve with the traditional applesauce and non to low-fat sour cream). Use whole-wheat challah bread. Plan for extra walking or extra medications to combat the extra carbs. Limit the dessert.

December 25—Christmas

What is It:
The annual festival of the birth of Jesus, founder of Christianity. Also coincides with the winter solstice.

How it is Celebrated:
The holiday is characterized by gift giving, family gatherings and attending mass.

Tips for Staying in Control:
Bring quick-acting sugar with you to mass (whether it be midnight or early mass) as lows can occur in the middle of a sermon. Suggest non-food related gifts. You can also accept all neighborly gifts of baked goods to share with your friends and family. Plan for a snack if the main meal feast is delayed. You may need more bolus insulin to account for the big meal, or choose carbs wisely. Ask for a donation to be made towards diabetes research in lieu of giving you a gift.

December 26—Boxing Day (also known as St. Stephen’s Day)

What is it:
A public holiday observed in Canada and the United Kingdom. In Victorian England, the wealthy gave food, clothing and gifts to the poor in boxes.

How it is Celebrated:
Celebrated by giving gifts and donations to the poor and needy and having fun parties for friends. Typically a buffet style dinner is served with roast lamb, beef or ham, okra and parsnips, mashed potatoes and plum pudding.

Tips for Staying Control:
Watch out for super sizing on the buffet line. Go for the dime in the plum pudding and limit the cream. Help someone with diabetes get access to care (donate to local hospital diabetes program or agency).

December 26 to January 1—Kwanzaa

What is it:
Celebrating its 40th year in existence, Kwanzaa was created by Ron Karenga in California in 1966. It’s intent is to “give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.”

How it is Celebrated:
The seven days represent seven principles of a Swahili term for tradition and reason: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Each day a new candle is lit (held in the kinara) to represent these principles. A bountiful feast called the karamu is prepared on December 31, with ingredients that traveled with Africans to the Americas (yams, sesame seeds, collard greens and hot peppers).

Tips for Staying in Control:
Have the karamu early in the evening if you also plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Factor candied yams into bolus insulin dose. Watch alcohol intake in the passing of a communal unity cup.

December 31—New Year’s Eve

What is it:
The day before the first of the year in the Gregorian calendar used by most countries.

How it is Celebrated:
Every year in different party environments.

Tips for Staying Control:
Watch the alcohol intake. You can have lows the following morning, so you may need to adjust basal insulin on December 31. Your need for glucose intake may also increase if you are out waiting for the ball to drop in New York City or your local town. Carry glucose and a protein bar at minimum.

January 10—Eid al-Adha

What is it:
A three-day celebration and the most important feast honored by Muslims worldwide. It commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmal for Allah. It concludes with millions of Muslims taking the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

How it is Celebrated:
Prayer, and sacrifice. Families eat about a third of their meal and share the rest with the poor. Meals include mutton (lamb) korma, biryani (basmati rice with lamb) and koftas (deep fried lamb-meatballs).

Tips for Staying in Control:
May need less insulin and medication due to limited food intake. Consider limiting koftas.

Whether you are going to a feast, a fiesta, on holiday or celebrating a holy day, a little diabetes preplanning goes a long way. Know what your diabetes is up to during these important and sometimes stressful holidays. Test your glucose throughout. You can minimize or avoid potential problems that can impact your diabetes and interfere with fully enjoying the holiday experience.


Categories: Diabetes Health, Diabetes Health Magazine, Diabetic, Food, Holidays, Planning Meals, Portion Control



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