Featuring Dr. Katherine Genrich, WellMed at Murchison, El Paso, Texas
The holidays are upon us. It’s the season of over indulgence in food and drink. We see our waistline expand and the numbers on the scale creep higher. What we don’t see is far more troubling – our blood sugar creeping higher. High blood sugar can lead to diabetes.
Whether you have a history of diabetes or not, the holidays are an important time to keep your blood sugar in check.
Dr. Katherine Genrich, lead physician for WellMed at Murchison in El Paso, Texas, explains. “After we eat, our blood sugars naturally rise. In a non-diabetic body, the pancreas releases insulin. This lets blood sugar into the body’s cells to be used as energy,” she said. “With Type 2 diabetes, the body cannot properly use insulin which results in too much blood sugar. Left untreated, serious health problems can arise, such as heart and kidney disease, nerve damage and blindness.”
Healthy food choices and maintaining an active lifestyle are the two most important factors in preventing or delaying the onset of Type 2 diabetes, says Dr. Genrich. Specifically, this means limiting sugar, carbohydrate and salt intake. This becomes increasingly difficult for many during the holiday season. She adds, however, “Despite all the temptations, there are choices you can make that will help keep your sugar intake lower. For example, you can cut calorie and sugar intake by at least a third simply by choosing pumpkin rather than pecan pie. Go heavier on the vegetables and lighter on the starches such as mashed potatoes and bread.”
Dr. Genrich also says, “Don’t go into parties or gatherings hungry. Many people skip breakfast on Thanksgiving, for example, because they intend to have a huge meal later. Do not do this,” she emphasizes. “That just means you will be ravenous when it’s time to eat, and you will likely overeat and/or make unhealthy food choices.” A sharp rise in blood sugar due to a large meal can also be followed by a sugar crash, making you feel uncomfortably weak, tired and sometimes shaky.
Dr. Genrich also advises that lean protein, fiber and water do not spike sugars like carbohydrates, sweet treats and sodas, and tend to keep you feeling fuller. So, ingesting more of these at mealtime will keep you satisfied longer. Some examples of these types of food include beans, lentils, eggs, low-fat dairy and small amounts of unsweetened peanut butter. She advises to abstain from alcohol or drink only while eating because alcohol can dangerously lower blood sugar and interact negatively with medications.
As for staying active, Dr. Genrich says the more family members or friends are involved, the better. She suggests finding an outdoor activity for the entire family, like riding bikes, or engaging in something as simple as a daily walk. Any activity is better than none.
An added benefit of increased activity is better sleep, which Dr. Genrich says is important to stay as healthy as possible. She adds that it is essential to stay vaccinated because the risk of infection increases for those with the diabetes.
Most importantly, Dr. Genrich offers these words of advice, “If you slip up during the holidays, do not feel guilty. Often, we fall into a guilt trip, thinking one bad choice ruins our diet for the rest of the day. One meal is not the entire day. Start over with healthy choices for the next meal. Strive for progress, not perfection.”