In November, I blogged about my father and his experience with diabetes. For the past ten years, he has been living with diabetes and has had to change his eating habits in order for him to stay as healthy as possible. With the influx of the holiday season, it is harder for him (and I) to stay steadfast when it comes to his specialized diet that his doctors require he be on. I know my father is not the only person out there who is faced with this dilemma of living with diabetes and eating smart during the holiday, so I thought that I would blog about the importance os sticking to your diabetic diet even through the tempting foods of the season.
What is diabetes? Simply put, it’s a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. According to the CDC, when you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough or cannot use the insulin it makes as well as it should, thus causing sugar to build up in your blood. Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and can lead to detrimental health problems such as heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and lower extremity amputations, mostly on one’s feet.
There are three types of diabetes: Type 1 (which is termed Juvenile Diabetes) and is also called insulin dependent diabetes. Type 2 diabetes (which is what my father is afflicted with) accounts for about 90% of all diabetes cases and is also called adult onset diabetes. Gestational diabetes (which is what I had when pregnant with both of my children) is when a pregnant woman experiences high blood sugar associated with the lack of the pancreas producing insulin and occurs in 2 to 5 percent of all pregnancies and disappears when the pregnancy is completed.
Oftentimes, diabetes runs in your family, but in my case, my father is the first person we know in our family that has had the disease, besides of course myself, who had it while pregnant.
My father is a big guy anyway so curtailing his diet was pretty difficult in the beginning. My father’s parents were from Mississippi so he was raised on southern soul food cooking heavy in starches, carbs, and complex sugars which do not bode well for a person with diabetes.
His doctor has him on a 2300 calorie a day diet, and its hard for him to stay on it on a daily basis. Sugar free drinks, no carbs, plenty of green veggies and meat such as beef, chicken and pork, baked or grilled and not fried. During the holidays, however, my family goes all out with an array of succulent dishes heavy in calories, fat, and grease, three things that my dad is supposed to stay away from.
So how does one stay on a diabetic diet without cheating during the holidays?
Let’s keep it real. Anyone on any type of diet has trouble finding the right foods to eat during this time of year. Most families get together and have not so healthy meals as a bonding ritual. Cakes and pies and macaroni and cheese and dressing are all components that can ruin any diet.
What I advise is, as a daughter of a father who is ill, to keep that in the forefront. A not so healthy meal for my father could put him one step closer to the grave and of course, I do not want that. One plate of goodness is not worth a stay in the hospital that is for sure. So when taking care of someone with diabetes during the holidays, make sure the diet is stuck to as much as possible. For me, that means going to the grocer and purchasing items just for him, and making him his own dinner separate from ours. Turkey is a great option for a diabetic diet, but of course not fried. Plenty of veggies, sugar free drinks, and sugar free desserts. I season his food well so it’s not bland but popping with flavor so he can enjoy it, even if he isn’t getting what everyone else is getting. And the presentation is a must. When my father sees his food looking just as good as the other delights, he devours it without feeling bad about sticking to his diet.
Keep your loved one active and after eating a big meal, taking a short walk around the block to admire the Christmas lights will help in the digestion of food and get him moving. Plenty of water needs to be available as well. I have my dad drink a bottle and a half before he eats, that way he is sure to not overeat when he gets his meal.
Eating smart during the holidays can work but it takes a team to ensure that it happens. The aforementioned tips are things I use to ensure that my father has an enjoyable holiday, even if he is unable to eat the things we eat. This time is about spending time with those that you love, and love is being responsible and doing the right thing.
Here’s to a happy and healthy holiday!