Eating your way over the holidays

By: Farah M. Khatoon, DO, MPH, Diabetes & Endocrinology

Across all cultures, holidays are a wonderful time for friends and families to reconnect and share meals. They are also stressful due to the demands on our time and attention. This can be especially challenging for children living with a chronic disease. Staying on track with diet and medications can be especially challenging during these busy times. Children living with diabetes are often left with few options during holiday gatherings and meals. It becomes especially difficult to eat a healthy, balanced diet during these times.

During this holiday season, make a promise to plan ahead. Having a plan and refusing to skip meals will go a long way toward keeping blood glucose levels in control.

If you follow these strategies, you can help your child maintain his/her blood sugar levels and enjoy the parties and gatherings along with everyone else. But, just like everything else with diabetes, you have to take a few extra steps.

Attending a holiday gathering?

Make sure your child eats a small, balanced meal or snack before you leave home. If he/she arrives to the party hungry, they’ll be more likely to overindulge (another great reason to NOT skip breakfast and lunch).

Offer to bring along a healthy dish you know your child will enjoy and can substitute for a not-so-healthy option

Teach your child to:

  • Study ALL of the food options, and think about what they are going to have before they put anything on their plate. Collectively decide which foods are worth eating and which can be ignored, and then stick to that decision. Remember, kids are always watching and learning from you.
  • Choose vegetables first. Broccoli, baby carrots, cauliflower and tomatoes are good choices usually on the appetizer table. Take only a small spoonful of dip or skip it entirely.
  • Eat chips and crackers in moderation, and definitely avoid eating them straight from the bag. Put some on a small plate and don’t load them down with creamy mayo-based dips.
  • Avoid hanging out near the food to avoid grazing. Rather, teach them to find a comfortable spot across the room and focus on socializing instead of eating.
  • Remember to regularly check their blood sugar throughout the holidays – adding a few extra checks on a party day may help guide your choices.
  • Sip a large glass of water or mineral water. This will keep them hydrated and is a better option than sugary drinks.

Stick with your usual family exercise routine on the day of a party. Make it a priority rather than saying there isn’t time. It is probably more impor­tant than the party!

Are you hosting a dinner?

  • Make sure the menu includes healthy food choices such as fruits, vegetables and lean meats.
  • Baking, broiling and barbequing are good methods for cooking meats such as turkey. Avoid frying or adding extra fat during cooking.
  • When you’re cooking, avoid sampling the foods more than necessary. These calories add up and can affect your blood sugar.
  • If you’re the host of the dinner, clear the table and put unused food away to help guests avoid grazing.

For more information about the Diabetes and Endocrinology program or to make an appointment online, visit texaschildrensspecialtycareaustin.org/endocrinology