Healthy holiday eating

The holidays often come packed with high-calorie foods. Setting a few ground rules for yourself and following a couple tips on how to enjoy those items without going overboard might save you from gaining the extra pounds this year. (Photo courtesy of MetroCreative)

MARQUETTE — Currently 1 out of 3 adults and over 50 percent of seniors have pre-diabetes, a condition that often leads to type 2 diabetes if not treated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Mayo Clinic reports that type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. Exactly why this happens is unknown, although genetics and environmental factors, such as excess weight and inactivity, seem to be contributing factors.

Recent research shows that people often gain around 1 pound over the holidays toward the end of the year.

That is a relief in some ways, according to Ann Constance of Upper Peninsula Diabetes Outreach Network; however, that 1 pound can add up to an extra 10 pounds over the course of 10 years and 20 pounds over the next 20, she said.

“Wouldn’t it be much better just to avoid the yearly weight gain?” Constance asks. While it doesn’t necessarily mean depriving yourself of favorite holiday foods and missing out on fun, it does mean being more aware of how much of your holiday cheer is linked to eating, drinking and sitting, along with being willing to make some small changes, she said.

One of the first things a person can do, Constance suggests, is to be mindful of how much they’re eating.

“Don’t be afraid to pass on dishes if you’re not hungry,” Constance said. “If you’re preparing a dish for a party, anything you bring you can make healthier. So for example, if you wanted to bring some lean meat, reduced fat cheese, whole grain crackers; if you’re making turkey and stuffing, use some oil instead of butter.

Throwing extra vegetables into a recipe and using more spices and less fattening ingredients are also key factors, she said.

“You can make a dip by using a sweetened yogurt and seasonings and people will still find it tasty,” she said. “Some of the recipes might not be the same as family favorites, but they’ll still be good and healthier for you.”

A few other tips to avoid weight gain during the holiday season include scheduling a time to be active most days of the week; participating in games and activities with friends and family members; keeping “red light foods” like potato chips out of your cabinets; and drinking water or flavored sparkling water instead of alcoholic drinks.

Being active is a key step to help people avoid obtaining type 2 diabetes.

“It’s important to get in around 30 minutes of physical activity every day, but it doesn’t have to be all at once,” Constance said. “Fifteen minutes here and there is fine, and making sure to drop that in your calendar. A little weight loss over the holidays when there’s an abundance of food and drink goes a long way.”

The scary thing about type 2 diabetes, Constance said, is that people don’t have any real signs.

“The best thing people can do is know their risk factors,” she said. “Have you gained weight? What’s your physical activity like? Do you have high cholesterol and high blood sugar? It’s important to make sure you’re still eating a healthy diet.”

Constance said it’s OK to have junk foods and alcoholic drinks every so often, but not to over indulge.

“If you like to drink alcohol over the holidays, just limit the amount,” she said. “I like to have a glass of red wine every now and then, but if it’s not an important issue to you to have that drink, find something else, like sparkling water, ice tea — listen to your body.”

According to the National Weight Control Registry, 50 percent of participants surveyed said they needed extra support with losing weight. Constance said help is available through diabetes prevention programs, and with technology advances there are applications like My Fitness Pal that help track how much a person is eating.

“You can set goals for yourself on the app and track what you’ve eaten and had to drink,” Constance said. “Some will even track your exercise. It’s a great tool to have.”

Constance said a misconception people have about those with diabetes is that they can’t eat anything with sugar.

“A lot of people still believe if you have somebody who has diabetes at your party, you have to have sugar-free foods for them,” she said. “People with diabetes can eat the same foods as people who do not have diabetes — often foods that are sugar-free are even less healthy than stuff made with real sugar.”

Regardless, Constance suggests a useful tip: everything in moderation.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is