The pressure of enjoying a New Year’s Eve celebration may be too much to handle especially when you have diabetes. You already know that temptation is all around you. Remember that you can have fun and not sabotage your blood glucose control when you have a good plan in place. If you do mess up, it is okay to start your healthy resolutions on January 2nd! Recent research from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand suggests that “feelings of guilt over feelings of joy when eating may prompt you to abandon your exercise and good eating and focus on an unhealthy plan. Guilt may make people feel like they have lost control but celebration of food can make people more successful in long term weight loss.” Women have more guilt over poor food choices than men. Research is pointing to “the enjoyment of food as essential to people’s well-being.” With that said focus on moderation and take pleasure in your evening.

Let’s review some easy tips to get you through the final holiday celebration of 2013:

  1. Chew your food – multiple studies have been done to suggest how many chews are adequate for proper digestion. Chewing helps break down the food in to smaller pieces and the saliva is released as a lubricant to help the food slide down the esophagus. Although the perfect chew amount is still not proven, stick to about 10 chews per bite. It definitely helps you become satiated quicker by giving the brain time to register that you are full. It also reduces stomach bloating. Think about putting your fork down between bites and eating with the non-dominant hand.
  2. Take a smaller plate – using a salad or dessert plate which will only hold smaller portions. Avoid going back for seconds or at least wait until everyone is done before you do. The more you linger over the meal by taking your time the more you can enjoy the company and conversation instead of the quantity of food. By chewing slowly you will be able to savor and taste each bite. According to Dr. Klaus Bielefeldt from the University of Pittsburgh “chewing slower and longer allows the person to taste the sweetness in the starch as it breaks down in the mouth. Each slow bite encourages happiness and satisfaction.”
  3. Understand there is no GOOD vs. BAD food choices – All carbohydrates eventually break down into glucose whether it is cake and cookies or yogurt or fruit; once the food is broken down, your body can not differentiate. The number to focus on is still the total amount of carbohydrates per meal. Think small. If during New Year’s Eve you choose the dessert over the pasta just remember to count it as part of your total carbohydrates. Attach happiness to the experience although it may not be as nutritious it can still bring you pleasure in that moment. Do not let anyone attach guilt to what you choose to eat. “Food shame is notorious to make things worse for all involved and tends to leave bad feelings that linger.” It can actually make people eat more and make worse choices in the future. Decide to have a conversation prior to the gathering with friends and family so no tension will occur. Remember that people not educated in diabetes management may still think that sugar from sweets or desserts is different from sugar from nutritious carbohydrates. It is also reasonable to stay away from desserts if YOU choose to; you make the choice.
  4. Use cooking tricks – Add mashed root vegetables like cauliflower, turnips, parsnips or rutabagas to your mashed potatoes. This can help lower the total carbohydrates and increase the fiber content. Mix in low fat milk or grated Parmesan cheese instead of whole milk or cream to add texture and flavor to the potatoes. Eat roasted root vegetables for something different with a good deal of fiber. Look for out of the routine vegetables including beets and fennel. Try sour dough or pumpernickel instead of white bread rolls to lower the glycemic index. When baking, use some whole wheat flour along with white flour. Split regular sugar with Splenda or use less sugar and add apple sauce. Artificial sweeteners are free foods and do not add many calories. They are not counted as any food type. If baking with fruit, keep the skin or peel on to increase fiber. Use citrus shavings or natural extracts like almond or vanilla to add taste without calories. Focus on the cake and skip the frosting. Add low fat or light whipped toppings for something extra. Do not drink carbohydrates. Leave out the juice, eggnog, soda, cider or other mixers unless sugar free. Chop fruits and nuts (apricots, figs and pistachios) to make into spreads. Make olive tapenade with chopped olives, sun dried tomatoes, garlic and cumin. Eat steamed dumplings instead of fried ones.
  5. Exercise – Keep your exercise routine up prior to and after your New Year’s celebration. Remember your minimum is 30 minutes – 5 times a week. You can and should mix it up to prevent boredom and injuries and to give your body a complete workout. Add weight training to increase muscle mass. Try to maintain your sleep by sleeping in New Year’s Day.
  6. Alcohol – Alcohol is considered a fat and is high in empty calories. If you choose to drink during the holiday do so in moderation. As we age we have fewer enzymes to help break down alcohol. According to Dr. David Oslin, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania “Effects of alcohol becomes amplified with age.” Try not to take pain killers including Tylenol or acetaminophen for a hangover which may cause liver damage when mixed with alcohol. Many times as we age even eating with alcohol may not help you from getting drunk, since alcohol is metabolized in the liver not the stomach. The more fat you have compared to muscle mass – the less tolerance you will have. The smaller you are the less tolerance you will have. Sparking wines, champagnes or any drink with bubbles seems to increase alcohol absorption. Also, remember the combination of alcohol and prescription medications may be dangerous especially when you have diabetes. Always consult with your health care provider and stick to one drink: 4-5 ounces of dry wine, 12 ounces of light beer or 1 ½ ounces of hard liquor. Eat when you are drinking and stay hydrated with plenty of water.

Sleep is important for all of us but especially when you have a chronic condition like diabetes. Do your best to get a decent nights’ sleep to help your body recover, repair, control your blood sugar and have a positive influence on your weight. Good luck!

NOTE: Consult your doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.