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The average American gains between 8 and 10 pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. This weight gain can drastically alter the effectiveness of a diabetic’s insulin regime.

The UConn Health Center offers a series of workshops where you can discuss all aspects of diabetes management in a small supportive group.

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Health Center Today, December 1, 2010

Managing Your Health Around the Holidays – Parties and Family Feasts Can Be a Challenge for Those Living with Diabetes

From December’s UConn HealthEnews.

Winter holidays have become synonymous with overindulgence: from spoiling with gifts to huge meals, it’s hard not to overeat at family dinners and holiday parties, nor to succumb to the added stress of gathered family and gift shopping. For those living with diabetes — some 24 million people in the United States — managing health around the holidays is all the more challenging as added temptations and stress require advanced planning. Knowing how to proceed with extra caution and how to avoid risky situations can make managing diabetes around the holidays a bit easier.

“The holiday season can be enjoyable and healthy if we focus on the non-food celebrations while planning meals ahead to include some of our favorite foods,” says registered dietitian Jean Kostak, diabetes education specialist with the UConn Health Center’s Diabetes Education Program. “Yes, there may be more temptations — more desserts or drinks for example — but a person with diabetes should approach maintaining their health the same as always. It’s all about consistency.”

The biggest challenge for those with diabetes over the holidays — well, for all of us, really — is to not eat too much. Although those with Type 1 diabetes can often be a bit more flexible with the distribution of carbohydrates (often patients with Type 1 diabetes are on insulin regimens that allow them to determine how much insulin to take based on how many carbohydrates they will eat), people with Type 2 diabetes need to proceed with more caution. Their medications are often not adaptable to food intake.

““It’s okay to have a helping of grandma’s cheesy potatoes, or a glass of spiked eggnog, but moderation and knowing how to work favorite holiday foods into the meal plan is key,” says Kostak.

She recommends a few easy tips. When going to a dinner party, she says, call in advance to see what will be served so you can prepare for the meal, or if necessary, bring an alternative low-carb replacement. Try eating at home before the party if possible to avoid temptation. If you plan to eat a little more than usual, she says, then make time for extra exercise. She also recommends extra glucose level monitoring around large meals. “Planning ahead and changing the typical holiday mindset can make all the difference,” says Kostak.