Diabetic? Pre-diabetic? Reflux? Gluten-free? How can you manage one or more of these during the holidays?
Diet Dilemmas During the Holidays
by Katie Cullum
Did you gain a few pounds earlier in the pandemic? Maybe you’ve been wanting to do better, so now you’re on a diet. Or maybe you’ve seen articles about the Mediterranean Diet or the DASH Diet or Keto and you’re wondering “Which one is best for me?” Not to mention, with the holidays approaching, you may be wondering if you can even keep up with a diet. Maybe you’ve got some other issues – you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic, or you’ve got reflux, or your doctor said you should avoid gluten. How in the world can you keep ALL that straight?
It’s not easy, but try not to stress. Look at your diet and health as a marathon, not a sprint. Most people spend months training for a marathon. A sprint can be handled by most anyone, depending on the length. So look at your health as a training ground for your whole life (a marathon) and not just losing weight quickly (a sprint).
I’m struggling with this myself. I’ve been trained in and taught a Mediterranean Diet cooking class. I really enjoyed learning about that diet and eating the food! I was told I was pre-diabetic a few years ago, so I’ve been trying to eat better and exercise. About a year ago, I was diagnosed with silent reflux, which was a surprise since I went in for a recurring sore throat. So, is it possible to eat a Mediterranean Diet, for a pre-diabetic with reflux?
Yes. But it takes planning. Did you know that the first step to doing well at pretty much anything is to PLAN? Not planning can get us into trouble a lot.
Have you ever said or thought any of these?
- I didn’t plan dinner (or it takes too long or I don’t feel like eating that tonight), so let’s go out.
- I didn’t plan to exercise, so I sat on the couch all evening scrolling through Netflix.
- I didn’t plan my lunch, so I drove through for fast food.
- I was so busy planning Thanksgiving (with too many desserts) that I didn’t plan the meals around the holiday, so we got take-out a few times. That’s okay – I worked hard at Thanksgiving even if I ended up throwing some of the leftovers out (it was hidden in the fridge so I forgot about it). Check out my Make Meals Easy post for planning all the other meals!
- I’m way over my food budget but the kids eat SO MANY snacks!! If only they’d eat their dinner as well……
As Benjamin Franklin (probably) said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” So let’s get to planning!
If you want to maintain your weight, that might include exercising more when you eat more. Or it could mean eating very healthfully during the week (even with all the candy/cookies left out) and indulging a bit on the week-ends. Look at your schedule and plan where you can eat a little of the “good stuff” and where you’ll need to eat more of the “healthy stuff.” I made a big batch of soup loaded with veggies, beans, and peas. So I can eat that at lunch and be a little more lenient at dinner, if I want.
Here are some more tips for these diet dilemmas:
- Instead of having dressing, rolls, mashed potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce and other high-carbohydrate-dishes at one meal, spread those carbs out. I really like spoon bread, but we usually have dressing, rolls, and other bread. So I may make my spoon bread earlier in the week to go with the pot roast. Remember, there will be plenty of other meals that week-end also. (Carbohydrates are not bad – but some diabetics and pre-diabetics may need to limit the amount of carbohydrates at each meal. If you’d like to learn more about diabetic eating during the holidays, check this Healthy Holiday resource or our webpage on Diabetes.).
- Volunteer to bring a healthy side that you like and can enjoy. I like to bring non-starchy vegetables, such as a green salad, vegetables & dip, cooked carrots, simple cooked green beans, or summer squash.
- Most people are willing to be helpful, especially if you ask. Just keep in mind that “healthy” may mean different things to different people. A meal of baked chicken, roasted potatoes, corn, rolls, and fruit salad sounds pretty good. But for a diabetic, that meal is chock-full of carbohydrates. What do you do? The best you can! You may just need to limit how much of the sides you eat. They are still healthy!
- Spicy dishes? But what about my reflux? Most spicy foods are balanced out by rice, couscous, or something similar. You may need to eat more of the bland item and less of the spicy. Plain yogurt or sour cream as a topping may also help.
- I’m a picky eater – and I don’t like green stuff. That’s fine! But you don’t have to make your personal preferences the problem of everyone else. You don’t have to eat the creamed spinach but others may really enjoy it. If someone offers you something you don’t like, a simple, “No, thank you” should suffice. Hopefully, there will be plenty of other foods for you to enjoy!
- Everything is FRIED! How am I supposed to eat that?! It happens. And once in a while, you can probably make an exception. Just eat enough to be satisfied – not stuffed to the gills! Load up on the healthier options, if you have some, or chow down on some salad when you get home.
- I need gluten-free but I hate that everyone else gets to eat cookies and I’m stuck with fruit. Fruit is not a bad choice! It’s probably a lot healthier than the cookies. What you may be feeling is left out. You may want to eat like everyone else. You could always volunteer to bring your own cookies to share – your gluten-free cookies may be quite tasty and helps others to see more options.
- Grandma keeps telling me to eat more! It can be hard to deal with people who show their love by feeding you more cookies when you're trying to be healthy! Just says "Thank you!" and eat what you feel like eating. If pushed, you can always say that you're feeling too full. If offered, you can take some home - for later or not.
- If you are the one hosting a meal, ask about special diets. If one is gluten-free, at least try to make something gluten-free (a dessert especially). Or ask that person to bring something they enjoy that is gluten-free (there are tons of options in the stores these days too). If there are diabetics, be specific about the meal time. Have healthy appetizers to munch on if the meal is late. For those with reflux, try to stay in the middle of the road - not too spicy, not too rich with some healthy options besides tomatoes, chocolate, peppermint, and coffee.
Share other problems with the holidays that you may have over on my Facebook page – send me an message or post on my wall.