In the millennia before supermarkets and refrigerators, the autumn harvest provided a nutritional bounty that enabled people to fill up and grow fat in anticipation of months of cold, lean times before the spring.
But now that our stores are full of foods—even fresh fruits and vegetables from the tropics and Southern Hemisphere—all winter long, the holidays from Thanksgiving through New Year’s can seem like one giant buffet table groaning with high-calorie temptations.
It’s not unusual for people to fret about gaining weight over the holidays because they know, given the ready supply of fatty foods year round, it won’t be easy to take it off in the new year.
Older Adults and People with Disabilities
For older adults and people with disabilities, who, because of limited mobility, may be more prone to diabetes and other metabolic issues, the holidays can be especially challenging to one’s health regimen.
Many people with or without disabilities give themselves a pass to indulge in Thanksgiving’s pecan pies, Christmas cookies and chocolates, jelly donuts and latkes for Hanukkah, and New Year’s spirits—just for the holidays. That, of course, is a right and a choice. But there is an alternative to giving in to health endangering indulgences, and it doesn’t entail going on a diet.
The key to healthy holiday feasting, as with so many things, is moderation informed by a little thoughtfulness.
- On a feast day like Thanksgiving or Christmas day, keep to your regular mealtimes. Do not skip breakfast or lunch to make room for the dinner feast. Keeping to your schedule will help you maintain your blood sugar level and will make it less tempting to overstuff yourself.
- No seconds! Make your one plate count. Don’t overload it. Take small portions. If you can’t finish something, don’t force yourself. It’s ok not to eat everything on your plate.
- Think clean, lean food. Be sure to take vegetables, particularly ones prepared raw, grilled or steamed, like brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots, beans and squashes. Prefer skinless poultry, seafood and lean meats.
- Be mindful of eating too many carbohydrates, like breads or pastas. Be sparing with starchy foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes or any dish in a creamy sauce.
- Chew slowly. It may take up to twenty minutes for your brain to realize your stomach is full.
- You don’t have to skip dessert. Some desserts are actually healthier than others. A small slice of pumpkin pie, even with a dollop of whipped cream, is about a third as many calories as a naked slice of pecan pie.
- Avoid sugary drinks, especially sodas. Drink low-cal or no-cal alternatives like water, seltzer, or unsweeted fruit juices.
- Limit your alcohol intake. The recommended limit for women is one drink per day; for men, it’s two drinks. (Go here to see what “one drink” means.)
- Remember that alcohol can lower your blood sugar and interact with diabetes medications.
All Around Health
After a big dinner, try to take time to move around. If you can, take a walk. If you can’t walk, do some stretching.
- Be sure to get a healthy seven to eight hours of sleep each night of the holiday season. Sleep deprivation and fatigue can make you susceptible to mindless overeating. The holidays can be stressful. Sleep is one of the best cures for stress—and it’s all natural!
Here are some useful links for information about healthy eating during the holidays:
- 13 Healthy Holiday Swaps—from Diabetic Living Online, some ideas for tasty substitutions that can reduce your calorie intake.
- Holiday Season Eating Tips for People with Diabetes—a printable 8-page toolkit from the American Diabetes Educators Association that includes more tips, delicious holiday recipes and a contract for healthy holiday eating.
- 12 Ways to Have a Healthy Holiday Season—not just for people with disabilities, but for everyone.
Happy holidays from Independence Care System! Bon appetit!