Managing diabetes during the holidays

October 25, 2012

Having diabetes shouldn’t stop you from enjoying holiday celebrations and travel. With careful planning and a little work, you can stay healthy on the road and at gatherings with family and friends. The key is advanced preparation.

Joy Alonzo, Pharm.D.

At parties, eat a healthy snack like fruits or vegetables to avoid overeating, and ask the hostess what will be served so to see how those foods fit into your meal plan, says Joy Alonzo, Pharm.D., assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. Choose smaller portions, low-calorie drinks like sparkling water, unsweetened tea or diet beverages, and only a “sliver” of pie, cake or other desserts that are high in carbohydrates, fat and cholesterol. Take a walk after the meal or join in some dancing to burn off calories.

“You don’t have to give up all your holiday favorites if you make healthy choices and limit portion sizes,” Dr. Alonzo says.

Leaving home means changing your routine. Keep a wallet card of your current medications (include name, dosage, frequency) along with snacks, glucose tablets or glucose gel in case your blood sugar drops and you experience symptoms of hypoglycemia. Have a medical insurance card and emergency phone numbers handy. When flying, place diabetes supplies and medications in carry-on luggage and keep insulin cool by packing in a small, insulated lunch bag with refrigerated gel packs.

“Be sure to remember to continue to take care of your diabetes when travelling,” Dr. Alonzo says. “Check blood sugar more often than usual, and don’t forget to bring your blood sugar log book with you. Changing schedules can affect blood sugar levels.”

Along with these tips, get a flu shot before traveling. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, and avoid contact with sick individuals. If seated for a long period of time, move around every hour or two to reduce the risk for blood clots. Get at least 15 minutes of moderate exercise such as walking each day.

“Try to stick with your routine for staying active during the holidays,” Dr. Alonzo says. “You’ll look and feel better, and you’ll be better able to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.”

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