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University of Iowa News

Dec. 1, 2005

UI Offers Tips On Managing Diabetes During The Holidays

Overeating during the holidays can be especially problematic for people with diabetes. University of Iowa experts offer tips on how people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can maintain healthy eating throughout the festivities.

"There are really no bad or good foods, but questions of quantity when it comes to eating right for diabetes control," said Debbie Lidd, clinical dietitian with UI Hospital and Clinics. "During the holiday, there are more desserts, breads and alcoholic beverages, and thus more opportunities to eat foods that are high in carbohydrates."

People with diabetes must control the amount of carbohydrates they eat. In addition to many sweets, foods high in carbohydrates include fruits, milk and starchy foods such as potatoes and bread. Some vegetables, such as peas and corn, also have a high carbohydrate content.

Year-round, Lidd is one of the staff members who assist people with diabetes through the Group Diabetes Self-Management Education Program at UI Hospital and Clinics. Vicki Kraus, UI advanced registered nurse practitioner in internal medicine, coordinates the education program. Both Lidd and Kraus said that planning ahead can be very effective in balancing diabetes with the temptations of holiday social settings.

"Eat something before you go to the party so that you aren't tempted by everything at the buffet," Lidd said.

Kraus added, "If the party involves a complete meal at a relative's house, consider calling ahead and asking what's on the menu. That way you can make decisions ahead of time about what will fit into your typical meal plan."

Kraus and Lidd provided these additional tips:

--Offer to bring a dish, such as dessert, for which you know the carbohydrate content.

--Bring your own carbohydrate-free beverage if you don't want to have plain water and aren't sure whether diet or sugar-free drinks will be offered. (Hosts can help out by having this type of beverage available.)

--At the party, cut portions into half or even one-quarter of the normal size. "Many of us were raised to clean our plates. Dish out less to begin with, so you don't overeat in order to appear polite," Kraus said.

-- Avoid tasting all the different foods available. Pick a few that you really want to try.

-- Be very selective about foods that are breaded or covered in sauce -- these types of dish can have many extra carbohydrates and calories.

"A major challenge for someone with diabetes is figuring out what's in a dish made by someone else and estimating what size portion is appropriate," Kraus noted.

Many patients with type 1 diabetes are on insulin regimens that allow them to determine how much insulin to take, given the number of grams of carbohydrates they will eat. Because insulin is taken to match food intake, they have flexibility in deciding what amount of food they would like to eat.

However, people with type 2 diabetes often are on medications that cannot be adjusted to different amounts of food intake. They need to watch the impact of food on their blood sugar levels and also on their overall weight. "People with type 2 diabetes should first of all not gain weight during the holidays," Kraus said.

"We generally encourage people with type 2 diabetes to work in extra exercise during the holidays," Lidd said. "However, people with type 1 diabetes may instead need to adjust their insulin and check their blood glucose levels more frequently."

As with all medical care, it is best to consult with your personal physician before making any changes to your health care routine.

For information about the UI Group Diabetes Self-Management Education Program, contact Vicki Kraus at 319-356-4858.

For more information about diabetes control, visit the American Diabetes Association at or the America Diabetic Association at

Information on portion size is available at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute at

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 5224-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319-335-6660