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Feature Article Keep Diabetes in Check This Holiday Season

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Celebrations that center on food and family are always something to look forward to — although it’s okay if you’re relieved when the family is gone and it’s just you and the leftovers. For those with diabetes, controlling blood sugars is important for health and well-being, and it can be easy to get off track when there are so many “special” treats available this time of year. Theresa Anderson, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center shares these tips to keep your nutrition on track.

Don’t drink your calories. “Liquids cause the biggest jump in blood sugar,” said Anderson. “Smoothies, juice, other sweet drinks — including sweet mixed alcohol drinks and flavored creamers — can all skyrocket blood sugar in a hurry and cause weight gain.” 

Limit high glycemic foods. White rice, potatoes, dried fruit, white bread, granola, pasta and bagels all have a high glycemic load and can raise blood sugar levels more quickly.

Increase high fiber foods. Wheat bread, brown rice and whole wheat pasta all have more fiber than their refined counterparts, which slows digestion and aids in absorbing important nutrients. Anderson recommends adding vegetables and salads to meals to help increase the fiber content.

Eat more omega-3 fats and other healthy fats. Olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds and avocados all have monounsaturated fats, which decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol and preserve “good” HDL cholesterol. The best source of omega-3 fats, which improve heart health, is fish, although a small amount is also in flaxseed and walnuts. 

Limit saturated fat. Red meat and full fat dairy products all raise “bad” LDL cholesterol and lower “good” HDL cholesterol. Although coconut oil has had many recent health claims, it is a saturated fat and should also be limited. “Coconut oil may actually lower total cholesterol and increase HDL but will also increase LDL with risk of ‘hardening of the arteries,’” said Anderson. “Research is still ongoing, and the final word is not in on how good coconut oil is for you. Liquid vegetable oils are still the preferred choice.” 

Eat a variety of foods. “We don’t always know which foods are the best or the worst, so the best idea is to eat a variety,” said Anderson. “Japanese food guides recommend eating 20 different foods a day and Korean food guides recommend 30. To pick one kind of ‘super food’ and eat it all the time is way too extreme.” 

Enjoy! Anderson recommends choosing some of the seasonal foods that only come once a year and really enjoying them. Just keep track of portion sizes and be sure it is part of a balanced meal.  

Ready to learn more about how to manage your diabetes? Find classes and support groups near you.