The holidays are upon us. Thanksgiving is this week and some people have already had their Christmas decorations up for a month. Along with spending time with friends and family, this season is about…eating!

Coincidentally (or maybe not so much), November is National Diabetes Month. According to the health department, 62.9% of adults in Worcester County are overweight, putting them at increased risk for developing diabetes. Somerset and Wicomico have even higher rates, with 75.3% and 73.7% respectively. That’s crazy!
This disease affects how the food we eat is processed into energy in our bodies. This causes glucose to build up in the blood which leads sufferers to losing their eyesight, their normal functions, and even their limbs when left uncontrolled. The good news is that most cases of Type II diabetes can be prevented with a healthy diet and exercise. Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are two of the most important risk factors for diabetes. If you aren’t at risk, someone at your holiday table most likely is.
The motto to remember during the holiday season is that every food fits. The USDA’s MyPlate is a good model to use. This program has replaced the famous My Pyramid you may be familiar with. It focuses on the make up of each meal to reach a balanced diet. Half of your plate should be non-starchy vegetables and fruits; one quarter of your plate should be made up of a protein food, and the remaining quarter starch. You don’t have to give up your favorite foods during the holiday season, just choose them in moderation. Find ways to incorporate the foods you love into the MyPlate model.

Here are some tips to help:

  • Consider cooking substitutions to one or two dishes while maintaining some of your traditional recipes. Add butternut squash to macaroni and cheese to cut back on some of the cheese or try applesauce in baked goods instead of butter or lard.
  • Choose whole grains instead of more refined ones. Baking with whole wheat flour is a great option. Even substituting it for half of the white flour called for in a recipe is a great start.
  • Incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into your traditional meal. Start some new traditions. Try sweet potato biscuits or add pears to your cranberry sauce. Some farmer’s markets in the area are still open year-round. The Berlin, MD Farmer’s Market will be holding their weekly market on Wednesday, to accomodate Thanksgiving needs.
  • Practice portion control.  A serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards, cheese equals four dice, and starches should be the size of a baseball.
  • Don’t skip meals before holiday parties to ‘save up’. Eating a small meal before you go will prevent you from overeating high fat, high calorie foods at the party.
  • Make time to exercise. Park further away at the mall, walk up the escalator, or take an extra trip around the grocery store.
  • Bring a healthy, well balanced dish to the pot luck to ensure that you have a good option to eat and to encourage others to eat healthily.
  • Encourage your children to help in the kitchen. This is the perfect time to reinforce good eating habits and instill cooking confidence in them. Childhood obesity is a major risk factor for adult onset of Type II diabetes.
  • Be realistic. The goal is to maintain a healthy weight, not to lose weight.
  • The key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is to adopt it year-round. Find ways to make all of your favorite foods fit everyday instead of cycling between indulgence, self-loathing, and then deprivation – including during the holiday season. There isn’t a magic pill that will make you loose weight or prevent diabetes.
Modifying your lifestyle to incorporate a balanced diet and exercise is the best way. Practice moderation so you can focus on family, friends, thankfulness, and giving this holiday season.