November is American Diabetes Month. Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. Another 79 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Throughout November, the UVM Medical Center will share the stories of people with diabetes as well as tips, advice, and information from our team of certified diabetes educators. Keep reading!

Linda Tilton, MS, RD, CDE, is a Clinical Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at The University of Vermont Medical Center.

Linda Tilton, MS, RD, CDE, is a Clinical Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at The University of Vermont Medical Center.

The busy holiday season can be a difficult time for people who are living with diabetes. Holiday foods, family gatherings, social events, and travel all add to the joy of the season; however, they may make diabetes self-care difficult.

Healthy diabetes self-care choices may be made during the holiday season by planning ahead and following the AADE7™ Self-Care Behaviors, which are healthy eating, being active, monitoring blood glucose, taking medications, problem solving, reducing risks and healthy coping.

Here’s how you can make the AADE7 part of your holiday plan – so you can enjoy yourself and take care of yourself, all at the same time.

Eat healthy holiday foods.  You don’t have to give up all of your holiday favorites. Make healthy choices and follow the portion guidelines in your diabetes meal plan. Choose whole grains, colorful vegetables, lean protein, and fresh fruit. Drink calorie- and carbohydrate-free beverages, such as water, tea, selt­zer, or diet sodas instead of regular soda of fruit juice.

  • Portion tip: With fresh fruit, stick to a piece that is the size of a tennis ball. When it comes to pumpkin pie, stick to a slice that is 1/8 of a 9-inch pie.

Be active. Include physical activity in holiday celebrations by organizing a group walk or family outdoor activity. This will help decrease holiday stress and limit the amount of time spent eating.

  • Exercise tip: Host your own “Turkey Trot,” a short run or walk around the neighborhood for 30 minutes.

Monitor blood (sugar) glucose. Holiday eating, stress, travel and changing schedules can affect blood glucose levels. Talk to your diabetes care team and know your blood glucose targets.

  • Monitoring tip: Test more frequently and make adjustments in food choices, activity, or diabetes medications if blood glucose readings are not at target.

Take diabetes medications: Remember to take your insulin and diabetes medications as prescribed. It is easy to skip or forget to take medications when you are stressed, busy or away from home.

  • Medication tip: Set alerts on your smartphone so you can have a virtual reminder!

Avoid problems by planning ahead. Don’t skip meals or go to a holiday celebration hungry. Eat a healthy snack such as a piece of fruit or low-fat cheese with crackers before a holiday celebration. Always carry extra diabetes medications, along with diabetes and blood glucose testing supplies when traveling.

  • Planning tip: Wear a medical alert indicating you have diabetes and the medications you take.

Reduce your risk by limiting intake of adult beverages. Talk with your diabetes care team about whether alcohol is safe for you. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit the amount, drink alcohol with food, choose a calorie- and carbohydrate-free mixer. Women should drink no more than one alcoholic beverage a day and men should drink no more than two.

  • Drink tip: A serving of alcohol is smaller than people realize: a 12 oz. bottle of beer, a 5 oz. glass of wine or 1½ oz. of distilled spirits all equal a serving of alcohol.

Cope with holiday stress by taking care of yourself. Holiday stress can affect diabetes control and limit your enjoyment of the season. Make time to take care of yourself and enjoy spending time with family and friends.

For more information on health diabetes self-care choices during the holidays visit the American Association of Diabetes Educator’s website.

Linda Tilton, MS, RD, CDE, is a Clinical Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at The University of Vermont Medical Center. In 2013, The UVM Medical Center earned national certification in diabetes education. Learn more about The UVM Medical Center’s Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition practice. Linda is also the coordinating board chair for the Vermont Association of Diabetes Educators.

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