Say yes to eating protein and (for 3 bites) what you love

Getting through the holidays without adding weight can challenge anyone. For people with diabetes, carbs can be an issue.

Take one bite, then another, and finally a third. Then stop.

Dietitian Dori Khakpour (kok-pour) gives this advice to her UW Medicine patients as they consider an endless array of holiday goodies and carbs over the next two weeks.

“When you really think about it, we start the holidays at Halloween and go right through to New Years with eating sugar, which can exasperate blood sugar. But this time of year, between sweets and carb-heavy offerings, it's worse, she said.

“It’s really about mindful eating. There is consciousness about food in your mouth. As kids, we’d see something colorful and tasty, so we'd eat it.  As adults, we need to consciously choose food that brings good memories, not just eat it because it’s there.”

Khakpour’s advice to her patients is to take three bites of food that you really like. Then wait.

“After that first bite, that is where all the feel-good hormones flood into your system,” she said. “You’re eating what you love. There is a favor explosion.  But after bite number three, the taste sensors in your tongue begin to shut down.”

It's an opportunity for people to stop and consider: Do you need to eat the rest of this? 

She also counsels patients with diabetes (34 million in the United States) or prediabetes to focus on hydration, preparation and maybe most importantly, on proteins.

On hydration. You’ve all heard it before. Drink 8 to 10 cups of water a day depending on your body weight. Often a feeling of hunger is really a feeling of thirst. Resist slaking your thirst with sugary drinks or alcohol, which are empty calories and carbohydrates, she said.

Prepare before you join a celebration. Decide what you really want to consume.  A special pie that you associate with Christmas? Grandma’s casserole?  Skip the rolls, since you can have those anytime, she suggested.

Finally, the protein.  Eat a lot of lean proteins during the day, and preferable half of your daily allowance at breakfast.  Starving yourself all day long to overindulge at dinner is a bad idea for anyone, and especially patients with diabetes and prediabetes.  You’ll hit the party hungry and eat more food, and more carbohydrates, than you need, she said.

“Protein is the best for your body to be nourished and feel full,” Khakpour said. The average person needs 40 to 60 grams of protein a day, so eating 25 grams at breakfast is a healthy start, Khakpour said. She suggests switching up breakfast to include an Impossible Burger or piece of salmon, some light cheese or a protein shake.

For people who are confining at home, the temptation to graze can be strong. One idea: Freezing the tempting treats so they won’t be easy to eat.

Diabetes and prediabetes are on upward trajectories in America, but people shouldn't consider them as inevitable outcomes, Khakpour said.  “Just because you have prediabetes does not mean you have to develop diabetes. Thankfully there is something you can do about it."

So take a deep breath and schedule a doctor’s appointment to check your blood sugar. But for now, eat that protein and take the holidays three deliberate bites at a time.

– Barbara Clements -, 253-740-5043

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