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Holiday Meals Pose Risk To Diabetics
By Laura Martin
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The health of thousands of Mississippians may be at risk when holiday hosts begin to serve rich foods and meals go on irregular schedules.
According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 240,000 Mississippians have diabetes. One-third of those don't know that they have the disease.
Diabetes affects the body's ability to produce or respond to insulin, a hormone that allows blood sugar to enter the cells of the body and be used for energy. Experts recommend sticking to a healthy diet to help keep the diabetic's blood sugar under control.
Dr. Barbara McLaurin, a registered dietitian and human nutrition specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said there really is no such thing as a general diabetic diet.
An individualized diet prescription from his or her physician is needed. A registered dietitian can teach a person how to translate the prescription to an special meal plan to fit their calorie and nutrition needs, lifestyle and food they like, McLaurin said.
"They must eat regularly and keep their insulin level balanced," McLaurin said. "A lack of insulin carrying energy to cells can damage organs. Repeated high blood sugar can have devastating effects on the heart and kidneys."
McLaurin said eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, meats, poultry and fish, milk and milk products, and breads and cereals is important in maintaining a healthy diet.
"Food for a person with diabetes is not really different from anybody else, it's just good food," McLaurin said. "Moderation is the most important thing for diabetics. Spacing meals throughout the day keeps their blood sugar more even."
McLaurin said people may end up in emergency rooms with high blood sugar because they neglect taking care of themselves during the holidays.
"Some may skip a meal or eat too many rich foods. Try as best you can to stick to some schedule. Plan ahead, bring snacks. Know that missing a meal is a potential problem. Keep something on hand in case you aren't sure what will happen," McLaurin said.
Mary Fortune, executive vice president of the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi, has had diabetes for 32 years and suggested people with diabetes know how food is classified.
"They can exchange breads or carbohydrates," Fortune said. "For example, eat potatoes instead of bread. I have practiced moderation. It is important to stick to a prescribed meal plan."
When planning a holiday gathering with friends and family, remember those who are watching what they eat. McLaurin offered advice on how to encourage people with diabetes on special diets to enjoy the holidays.
"The most important thing is to support them," McLaurin said. "Don't nag them about eating right. Have some healthy foods available. Try to feed the whole family the same types of food."
Some foods that are ideal for holiday snacks include citrus fruits, fresh vegetables, and grilled or baked meat. People with diabetes should limit foods that are high in sugar and stay away from high-fat foods such as cheese dips.