Enjoying Easter with Diabetes

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Holidays are HUGE in my family. Throughout the year, as many as 29 of us (and that’s just counting immediate relatives) will gather to celebrate various occasions, including the upcoming Easter holiday. My parents will be hosting it this year and are tasked with preparing a feast fit for 21 people total, a commendable feat.

Three of the people at this impending gathering (myself included) have type one diabetes. One might think that this makes it difficult to handle a holiday hallmarked by heaps of food, and one wouldn’t necessarily be wrong to make that assumption. But that doesn’t mean it’ll stop me from enjoying my Easter dinner. Here’s my personal strategy for managing my diabetes in the face of the feast. (Remember, your diabetes may vary, so these tips may or may not need to be tweaked in your case.)

Action Plan, Part 1: Eat a normal breakfast. I know some people who prefer to fast the morning of a holiday gathering, so come mealtime, they’re beyond ready to eat up. I disagree with this, mainly because the prospect of waiting so long to eat is borderline agonizing to me. I also find that eating a regular breakfast helps to stabilize my blood sugars in the long run, and a good blood sugar before a big meal is always a plus.

Action Plan, Part 2: Avoid appetizers before the main meal. Crackers-and-cheese plates, Chex mix bowls, and candy dishes often make an appearance at holiday parties, and each time they do, I am tempted to overindulge. But through some trial-and-error, I’ve determined that skipping them altogether is the best option if I want to have good pre- and post-dinner blood sugars. And after all, it’s not like these foods are particularly special—I can have them on any ordinary day, and as much as I crave Cadbury eggs this time of year, I know perfectly well that confections of that ilk cause nothing but trouble for me (making them a little easier to give up).

Action Plan, Part 3: Know the entire array of food before filling your plate. I like to familiarize myself with every morsel of food being served—meat, side dishes, bread rolls, alcoholic beverages, and even the desserts, though those won’t be served until a couple hours after dinner. That way, I can do a process of elimination and decide which carbs are most worthy of a big bolus. I do try to treat myself, but I’ll do so carefully. So I won’t skimp out altogether on mashed potatoes, a crescent roll, and a corn muffin, but I will take smaller portion sizes so the carb count doesn’t get out of control.

Action Plan, Part 4: Extend my bolus. It seems that another staple of these seasonal soirees is slow-acting carbohydrates. This, of course, complicates my mealtime bolus just a bit more, but it’s easier to deal with now that I’m on an insulin pump. I find that delivering 75% of my bolus as I begin to eat and extending the remaining 25% of it to be delivered a half hour to an hour post-eating curbs the slow-acting carbs. It helps to avoid the potential for a crash an hour after eating, and also helps prevent a spike from happening when it’s time for dessert.

Action Plan, Part 5: Remember that moderation is key. This idea pops up everywhere nowadays, but it really is crucial and relevant to so many aspects of daily life. For me, this includes dessert time at any and all holiday parties. I know that lemon merengue pie, cheesecake, chocolate pie, and carrot cupcakes are among the desserts that will be featured this year—my mouth is watering just thinking of them—and I’m sure I’ll have a tough time restraining myself. But I won’t limit myself to just one full-size dessert; instead, I’ll take mini portions of each (half a cupcake, a sliver of pie) so I can do my share of sampling without going overboard.

Action Plan, Part 6: Be active. Taking a nap or watching television is the last thing I plan on doing after eating an uncharacteristically large quantity of food. I plan on fighting the temptation to be a couch potato by rounding up as many relatives as I can to either go on a walk or play games outside. The extra movement often helps my blood sugar come back down when it’s stubbornly hovering between 180 and 250 mg/dL and can aid my body in faster insulin absorption. With a New England weather forecast of 80 degrees for this Easter Sunday, something tells me that it won’t be difficult to persuade people to get outside.

This multi-faceted action plan might sound over-the-top, but it’s insight into how much a person with diabetes needs to think ahead on occasions such as this. It’ll help ensure that I’m able to enjoy the fabulous cuisine served at our dinner, as well as hopefully reduce my stress over my diabetes and provide me the ability to focus more on family time fun.

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