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Eating Out with Diabetes over Holidays

T’is the season to be jolly”…despite diabetes. Holidays bring family and friends together, and food is always one of the centers of the celebration. Enjoying holiday food is for everybody, including persons with diabetes. First things first, remember these principles:

1. Maintain desirable weight. Everybody needs to be conscious about weight over the holidays. Particularly for the overweight, try to avoid putting on more weight this holiday season.
2. Have a balanced meal plan. Generally, a diabetic diet consists of 40%-60% carbohydrates, intake of which is mostly provided by rice and rice products like “kakanins,” bread, pasta, root crops and sweets. Low carbohydrate intake is associated with low sugar levels in the blood.

However, no matter how low your carbohydrate intake may be, intake of fatty food will cancel out the benefit of a low carbohydrate diet. So, keep your fat intake low. Rather than eating fried dishes, it is better to broil, bake and boil.

As much as possible, avoid animal fats like fat from bacon, ham, lechon, and poultry skin like that from chicken and duck; or fat from milk creams just like those used in fruit salads. Dairy products would likewise have fat content. The good news is there are low fat variants of most milk and cheeses.

If you are on insulin, watch your clock. Eat on time. Of equal importance is eating the correct portion size of food as suggested by your dietitian, or if you have no diet plan, eat small portions of food, four to five times a day. If you are on insulin, you may want to ask your doctor if allowed, how you may adjust insulin units during the holidays.

3. Have an exercise plan. Exercise programs have to be discussed with your doctor who will take into consideration presence of other conditions and complications in suggesting the best form of exercise for you. Have an exercise plan. If you don’t plan for exercise, it may never happen. Put it on schedule. Exercise improves the performance of insulin and helps put the blood sugar level down. However, this does not mean that you may eat as much as you want and offset with exercise.

Eating out should be fun. Keeping in mind that food must be low in carbohydrates and fats, high in fiber and low on salt, eating out can be enjoyable.

For appetizers, bread and butter are usually served. These are rich sources of fats and salt. If given a choice, choose vegetables and fruits instead. Fresh green salads are great. You will have freedom to control the amount of fat from the dressings by ordering them on the side. Creamy soups are generallyhigh in fat, so better avoid them.

For main courses, roast, grilled plain food like lean meat, chicken or shell food are great selections. A serving size is about the size of a palm. Pasta is a good choice too, but it is better to order for less oily sauce over the white creamy sauce.

Parmesan cheese is salty, just go easy with it. Other good choices for main dishes are plain potatoes, vegetables and noodles. If you prefer rice, plain steamed rice or high-fiber brown rice is a better choice over fried rice. A serving size of rice is about the size of a fist while that of noodles or pasta is about the size of a baseball. Pickled side dishes, sauerkraut included, are to be avoided because of high salt content. To further keep salt intake low, forget about the condiments that are set on the table.

Desserts cap the meal. Who says that desserts should always be creamy, sweet and loaded with butter? Select fresh fruits, ices, sherbet, gelatin, and plain cakes, or a scoop of “sugar-free” ice cream if available.

We often hear, “moderation is the key.” Portion size may be difficult to control if you’re eating out. Mind the portion size. Learn to eyeball how much your diet plan allows for that meal. Have them on your plate, and no more second servings. Savor every bite of your food, eat slowly, and enjoy the conversation. Eat out with a group so you can share food and be able to manage the portion size. Or, take home excess food.

But what about the beverage? Of course sugary drinks like regular, non-diet sodas or sugaredfruit juices are to be avoided. Available to us are a number of “sugar-free” drinks. No-sugar-added fruit juice in a small glass (not the tall juice glass) is fine. Fresh fruit juices however should be taken as a substitute for three servings of fresh fruits (about three tennis balls). Adults may want to have wine with their meat or poultry. Champagne or dry to semi sweet wine if taken in moderation are alright.

The American Diabetes Association declares that “those with diabetes are likely still safe if they stick to a limit of two equivalents of alcohol–for example, two glasses of white wine, or two 12-ounce light beers” for men and one drink for women. Alcohol can cause a sudden rise and drop in the sugar level, so watch out for this.

When you eat out for the holiday, you may want to phone ahead so that you may give your requests for modifications in the recipes like using vegetable oil, less salt, dressings on the side, no extra sauce or butter, and others. If this is not possible, while giving your order in the restaurant, ask the waiter how the dish is prepared, and request for low salt, low fat and no sugar added. You may also want to offer substitutes like vinegar with a dash of oil and lemon as dressing for your salad if it is not in the menu.

Ask how many persons can share in one dish. If the serving is big for your requirement, ask the waiter to split it. Like any other business, restaurants would want to satisfy their customers.

Diabetic diet is healthy eating. Eating out can be healthy eating, too.

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