Tips for diabetics on Thanksgiving - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Diabetics can still enjoy Thanksgiving ... with a few precautions

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Diabetics can still enjoy the foods they like at Thanksgiving, at long as they exercise portion control and balance carbs with vegetables and lean proteins. (Source: inklingtest6.info/MGN Online) Diabetics can still enjoy the foods they like at Thanksgiving, at long as they exercise portion control and balance carbs with vegetables and lean proteins. (Source: inklingtest6.info/MGN Online)

(RNN) – 'Tis the season for overeating.

And the biggest threat for most at the eat-a-palooza called Thanksgiving is to our waistline with rolls, stuffing and mashed potatoes ready to derail our diets and permanently affix themselves to our bodies in the form of fat.

But for those with diabetes, carbs and excessive calories become landmines threatening to blow out their blood sugar, leading to potentially serious consequences to their health.

"Definitely if your blood sugar is high one time, it's not going to be that big of a deal, but the idea is over a long time period if your sugar is high, then you can get into complications like heart disease, neuropathy, kidney disease," said Shannon Weston, a registered dietician at the University of Texas Health Services in Houston.

David Jones, a hospice chaplain and father of teenage boys in Anniston, AL, was diagnosed with diabetes around nine years ago.

"My mom was diabetic and everybody in her family has been diabetic, so it was kind of like 'When's it going to happen?' And it did," Jones said.

From what they put on their plates at mealtimes to what they buy at the grocery store and keep the pantry and even where they go out to eat, "It affects the whole family and how you look at food."

Jones says he's eaten "a lot of salads" in the last month to get his blood sugar on track. But it's also helped him develop a strategy to keep his health in check ahead of the holidays.

"I've got my mind set, going into the holidays, I'm probably going to eat things I shouldn't, but I'm going to keep my portions under control," he said.

"I'm looking at Thanksgiving as a day where I'll eat things I normally wouldn't, but I'm keeping it under control. The more I deprive myself, the more I crave. So I'll give myself a little bit, but not overdo it."

Jones is on the right track, according to Weston.

"It's just like beating a dead horse but it's so true. You can have the foods you want as long as you keep them in the right portion size," Weston said.

Portion control is something diabetics hear about a lot, especially around the holidays. But it can be hard to envision practically when you're filling up your plate.

So what exactly does that look like, when the table of casseroles stares menacingly at you, taunting your very (hungry) existence?

"Fix [your] plate for success. Fill half your plate with vegetables or vegetable dishes, one-fourth of your plate with turkey or a lean meat and one fourth can be carbs," Weston said. "That's a good way for people who have a hard time with portion control. It's a great way to keep your portions in check."

The other enemy of diabetics? Odd eating times.

The abundance of comfort food, coupled with the fact that holiday meals are often served at non-traditional times, can cause a roller coaster-like drops and spikes in blood sugar levels.

"A lot of times, what trips people up around Thanksgiving is the fact that they want to save calories, so they won't eat all day and eat only at dinner. The idea is to keep your meals, your breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner all kind of relatively at the same time. It will help them manage their blood sugar, but keep them from overeating," Weston said.

She recommends munching on some healthy snacks ahead of the big Thanksgiving meal, especially those served at odd hours. It won't just keep your tummy full, but also prevent you from going into a big meal several hundred calories in the hole.

"Think of those lean appetizers: fruits, veggies, light dips. Alcohol is probably not the best thing. Alcohol can lower your blood sugar and makes your appetite increase, so you want to steer clear from it," Weston said.

In addition to being particular about what he puts on his fork, Jones has developed another strategy to combat holiday overeating: Cutting out temptation by cutting out leftovers.

Because you can't eat what isn't in your house.

"We're actually going out to eat … it's a very nice restaurant that we rarely eat at. They have a lot of options I can eat. The other thought behind that is, I'm not going to be tempted with lots of leftovers," he said.

"We're actually going to buy a turkey breast to eat over the weekend and not cook the other stuff that's so bad for me. I can eat that one day and enjoy it."

After eating, instead of falling asleep on the couch watching football, Weston recommends taking a quick walk.

"Movement makes your blood sugar go down so after you eat a big dinner, the best thing you can do is walk," she said.

Something Jones is taking to heart.

"[Diabetes] medicine can't do everything; you have to put in the effort with diet and exercise."

And as for the salads?

"You really do get tired of some of those things. That's why you have to allow yourself to eat things you like. You just have to keep it in moderation and balance it. If you're going to have a lot of carbs , balance it with protein," he said.

"It's a balancing act, a day-by-day thing."

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