Enjoy a Healthy Holiday!
Whether you have worked hard all year on maintaining a balanced blood sugar and weight, or whether 2020 took its toll on your health and habits, the festive season is always a challenge for most people, but especially for diabetics.
Dietitian Ashleigh Caradas takes us through some tips to make sure you have a healthy and happy holiday season.
It’s that time of year when almost every day calls for some kind of celebration, and more times than not this inevitably involves food and alcohol. Having a good time is the main intention behind taking a holiday but coming home feeling worse than before you left will only make you feel like you need another one.
When it comes to diabetes, it’s important to know your own body and what your limits are. While some diabetics can handle some starchy meals or sugary snacks, others cannot. If need be, adjust your medication accordingly and always make sure that you are monitoring your blood sugar levels during the festive. But eating healthy during the holiday season is a good idea for everyone!
Adjust your attitude
Relaxation and rejuvenation are much more easily achieved if you are feeling good in your own body, so combine a holiday with a healthy attitude towards food by making better choices. It’s totally okay to be a bit more relaxed when it comes to food choices, but if you over-do it and your health and energy levels are affected, you could end up having a bad time.
Try and see food first and foremost as nourishment. Enjoyment is another reason we should eat, but if it’s something that could affect your blood sugar negatively, eat it in moderation. Try delaying gratification by choosing foods that will make you feel better long term.
Don’t sacrifice on exercise
Packing a good pair of exercise shoes with you on your trip if you’re away will motivate you to do some running or walking. If you are travelling locally, make sure that your gym contract is activated for the city you are visiting. Most hotels have at least basic gym facilities now days.
Choose high-energy outdoor activities, like hiking, swimming or water sports. Take a walk and explore beaches, neighbourhoods or shopping districts in the area you are in. Renting a bicycle is a great way of seeing a city. If you are at home, keep up with your regular activities and arrange for more outdoor walks, hikes and outings.
Choose Your Vices
Temptation abounds during the festive season, but it doesn’t mean you need to give in to every one of them. The trick is to choose your vices wisely.
So, if chocolate, alcohol and fried chips are your thing you need to decide which ones you can live without and which ones you simply can’t. Then choose and enjoy your chosen vices in moderation. Choose your indulgences carefully.
Learn to Compensate
During the holiday season, there are more opportunities to take in unhealthy foods- but you don’t have to grab all that are presented to you. If you find yourself in a situation where you know you’ll be eating less healthy foods later in the day, make plans to compensate for it by eating a healthy breakfast or a light lunch. That way you will be able to indulge a little more guilt free.
If you have had a bad eating day, try making the next one healthier, or go for a jog along the beachfront to help burn it off.
Don’t Drink Your Calories
Summer holidays often involve an increase in liquid consumption, which could mean more high sugar beverages like cold drinks, fruit juices and energy drinks. Rather keep these to a minimum and quell your thirst with water.
Alcohol is a concentrated kilojoules source and can seriously affect your weight if you over-indulge. If you do drink, choose mixers with soda water or diet lemonade, instead of juices, cocktails and sugary fizzy drinks.
Dry wines are preferable to sweet wines, which contain more kilojoules. Drinking can also take its toll on your liver, leaving you sluggish and bloated. Moderate drinking is a maximum of 2 units per day for woman and 3 units per day for men.
Pack Healthy Picnic Food
For day outings, like visits to the beach or a park, it’s best to prepare food beforehand or you’ll find yourself conveniently calling on the ice-cream vendor for nourishment. Make sure you have a good cooler bag that you can pack a lunch into.
A tuna or chicken with salad is a good option. Crudité vegetables with dips like hummus or guacamole work well. Wholegrain sandwiches or wraps with fillings like tuna and low-fat mayo; chicken and avocado; salmon and cottage cheese and low-fat cheese and tomato should also go down well. Chop up some fresh fruits (apples, strawberries and pineapple) and make fruit kebabs by piercing the fruit onto wooden skewers.
Order Out Smartly
Most restaurants do not base their menu choices on what’s healthy, but rather on what’s tasty- and this often means rich, creamy sauces. If you are near the coast, sample some of the local fish and seafood. Always order your fish dry-grilled or Cajun style, without the lemon butter sauce. Sushi is also a great choice.
Steaks should be limited and always go for the smaller option, like a minute or ladies’ steak. Grilled chicken breasts or ostrich steaks are a less fatty option that beef steaks or lamb. Regarding side orders, go easy on the chips, onion rings and creamed spinach and rather opt for a baked potato minus the sour cream, or even better, for steamed vegetables or salad.
Pasta should always be ordered as a half portion with a tomato base (if you are still hungry, you can always fill up on a protein starter or some salads). Take-out foods should be kept to a minimum.
If you must indulge, why not save on some kilojoules and try a plain chicken burger instead of a regular burger with chips? Another tip: plain sandwiches ordered without the butter are a healthier choice than toasted sandwiches, which are usually buttered both sides.
Eat More Protein and Reduce Refined Carbohydrates
Eating more of what’s known as low glycaemic index (low GI) carbohydrates and eating more protein can help you feel more satiated and reduce the temptation to overeat.
Choosing low GI carbohydrates like high fibre cereals, low GI breads, rolled oats, brown rice and legumes over refined ones, and adding good quality protein to your diet has a satiating effect and prevents overeating. Starting the day on a low GI, high protein breakfast or having a low GI, high protein small snack before a meal may help prevent overeating of refined carbohydrates and desserts.
If you don’t shop well and plan your meals during the festive season, you are more likely to deviate towards habits like skipping meals, fast foods and other easy choices.
If you have at least a rough meal plan worked out and have the right foods on hand, it makes it easier to be consistent with your prepping and packing of foods. Get a bird’s eye view of your days and weeks so that you know when, where and what you will be eating.
About the author:
Dietitian Ashleigh Caradas’ practice is in Parktown, Johannesburg.
She can be contacted on 0828563374 or by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.ashleighcaradas.com. You can also find her on Instagram at @nutri_ash or on Facebook at @ashleighdietician.