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Diabetic: Keeping your blood sugar under control during the festive season

<p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><img src="/nairobi/PublishingImages/managing%20diabetes.png" alt="" style="margin: 5px;"/></span> </p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The festive season is an opportunity to spend time with family and friends enjoying an abundance of food and each other&#39;s company. It is also a trying time for people with diabetes as many of the traditional foods on the table are rich and laden with calories and carbohydrates. But with creative thinking and careful planning, a person with diabetes can eat, drink, and celebrate along with friends and family while still keeping blood sugar under control.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Stick to the Diabetes Plate Method</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The surest way to stay on track is by sticking to the Diabetes Plate Method. This helps manage your portions stress-free without measuring and counting your food. According to this method, fill half your plate with low-carbohydrate vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower or spinach. Fill one-quarter with high-protein foods like fish, or poultry. Fill the last quarter with starches like whole grains.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Manage your carbohydrates</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">There is bound to be plenty of carbohydrates options at your festivity feasts. Your best bet is to watch portion sizes. If you cannot decide on one, or two carbohydrate foods to eat, take a tiny portion or &quot;samples&quot; of several. To keep your glucose within its normal range, try to keep your total carbohydrate intake for the meal (including dessert) as it would be on a regular day. </span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Carbohydrates will raise your blood sugar more than any other nutrient. Avoid foods that provide simple carbohydrates such as white bread, soda, cake and eat those that contain fibre, vitamins and minerals such as fruits and unrefined grains.  These will nourish your body and the fiber content will keep you full for longer and help stabilize your blood sugar.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Avoid over-indulging in meat dishes</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Some people believe that a diet rich in protein is good for diabetics so they will lean more on the meat dishes which are in plenty during the festivities. Studies have shown that eating too much protein, especially animal protein (red meat), may actually cause insulin resistance, a key factor in diabetes. A healthy diet is a balanced diet that includes protein, carbohydrates, vegetables and fats as our bodies need all of them to function properly.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Choose water, or another very low-calorie drink</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Avoid drinks that are high in sugar such as soda and juices. Instead take water, soup, or dawa (lemon, ginger, and honey mix).  Coffee and tea are also options, but be careful with the add-ins like cream, honey and sugar. Sugar substitute drinks can also be enjoyed but in small quantities. When it comes to substituting sugar with honey, some people believe that honey isn&#39;t sugar, yet one teaspoon of honey, according to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), is equivalent to 7gms of sugar. Now, the AHA (American Heart Association) recommends no more than 36gms of sugar in a day for men and no more than 25gms of sugar in a day for women.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Keep alcohol in check</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Alcohol can be enjoyed in small amounts during the festivities. However, drinking alcohol can cause a drop in blood glucose levels, which can be dangerous if you take insulin and/or glucose-lowering medication. If you have to drink, make sure not to drink on an empty stomach, or when your blood glucose is low. Consume alcohol with food and do not skip a meal. Also choose calorie-free drink mixers like club soda, tonic water or diet soda.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Lighten up your favorite dishes</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">There are simple ways you can lighten up your favorite dishes. Even just reducing the carbs in your meals can be helpful. For example, cut the sugar by half, or more when making desserts such as cakes, or fruit pies and skip the icing on cakes and ice cream. You can also use healthier toppings like plain yogurt for dressing salads and healthier oils in your cooking such as sunflower, olive oil or peanut oil.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Learn to politely say No</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">If you anticipate being urged to eat foods that will interfere with your eating plan, be prepared with strategies of declining politely. A well-meaning loved one urging you to take second helpings, eat cake, or have another drink can put pressure on you to eat more than you can handle. Keep in mind that many people are not aware of the reasons for your food choices and find ways of politely declining.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Keep physically active</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Keeping your body moving is still important throughout the festive season. A simple exercise routine in the morning, or a brisk walk to make the heart pump faster in the evening will help a lot in staying physically active. You can also get family and neighbors involved in activities like a friendly game in between courses which also helps in bonding. </span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;"><em>By Dr Emma Khabure, Family Medicine Resident at Aga Khan University Hospital Nairobi</em></strong></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;"><em>This article was first published in Business Daily on January 1, 2023.</em></strong></p>

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