The holidays don’t always feel like holidays without favorite foods, which can make them especially difficult for diabetic kids and their families. If your family’s traditional favorites seem like a recipe for disaster, Children’s nutritionist Rainie Carter has three simple tips to keep your celebrations healthy and fun:
1) Keep track of carbs (carbohydrates)
You’ll want to help your child make lower fat choices to stay healthy on a daily basis. But on a holiday, Carter says, “We’re really just focused on the carbs.”
Accurately counting carbs is one of the things families struggle with around the holidays, Carter explains, but online and smartphone resources to make it easier than ever. Sites like calorieking.com and gomeals.com help identify the carbohydrate counts in common foods, and both sites offer free smartphone apps for quick reference on the go. Gomeals.com was created with diabetics in mind, and it offers extra resources like blood sugar tracking.
For multi-ingredient dishes prepared at home, sparkrecipes.com has a handy recipe calculator that does the counting for you. Keep in mind that these counts depend on accurate serving measures, so you’ll have to be aware when dishing out servings.
Some holiday foods are surprisingly easy to adjust for a lower carbohydrate load. “You can make a lot of the pies a lot more diabetes-friendly by just using a sugar substitute,” Carter notes. “If you use sucralose (Splenda®) it doesn’t really change the consistency or alter the baking in any way.” Making your pie crust-less can save even more carbs.
2) Enjoy some favorites
Remember that the holidays should feel special and it’s okay to indulge a little. Carter recommends that kids stick to three or four of their favorite items in the main meal and one or twosmall desserts. Fill half the plate with non-starchy vegetables and lean protein to fill up on lower carb options. A half-cup serving is a good limit for higher calorie items. (But don’t worry about bringing a measuring cup to holiday dinners: A half-cup serving is roughly the size of a fist.)
Some holiday favorites actually have reasonable carb counts in small servings. Mashed potatoes, for instance, have so much milk and butter that the carb load is only around 15 grams of carbohydrates per half cup. Green bean casserole is another decent option at roughly 12 grams of carbs per half cup. (Macaroni and cheese and cornbread dressing have higher amounts of carbs and should be eaten in moderation, since a one cup serving can add up to more than 50 grams of carbohydrates.)
By Dr. Mom (Terri Coco, MD)
As a mom, seeing children in the emergency room for preventable holiday-related injuries is heartbreaking. Often, I see cuts to the body or mouth from broken ornaments and decorations, plant ingestions and burns from cooking in the home. During what is often referred to as “the most wonderful time of the year” be smart and be safe by avoiding holiday hazards. Always remember the age of the children that are going to be in the home and plan, decorate, cook and gift accordingly!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
A Christmas tree is a big part of the holidays in many households. However, they do come with some risks. The National Child Protection Association and the U.S. Fire Administration estimate that there are 240 home fires from Christmas trees and 150 home fires from holiday lights and decorations each year. When buying a Christmas tree, make sure it is fresh. Check to see that the needles are green and hard to pull off and that the stump is sticky with sap. Put the tree in a place that is away from heat sources that may cause it to catch fire. Water live trees daily. When the tree starts to turn brown or the needles get dry and are easy to pull off, it is time to remove it from the home. If you choose an artificial tree, look for one that is flame resistant.
Decking the Halls
As you jingle all the way this year, be aware of the potential dangers of holiday decorations. The same sparkle, pop and twinkle that you enjoy about your decorations will also be appealing to small children.
Candles – Everyone likes to have pretty holiday candles around their home but they are very dangerous if left unattended. In the last few years LED candles have hit the market – they are a good alternative to the real thing. If you choose real candles, keep them out of reach of younger children.
Ornaments and Tinsel – Ornaments and tinsel can be a choking hazard for small children. Always hang them high and out of reach of children who may want to pull on them. Many tree decorations can look like food – this is especially appealing to children. Anything that can fit into a toilet paper roll can be a choking hazard for a small child. Also be careful with ornament hooks as they can cut or puncture the skin.
Lights – Be sure to purchase lights that indicate on the packaging that they are approved by a testing lab. Test light strands every year to make sure that there are no exposed wires or sockets. Always turn decorative lights off before leaving home and before going to bed at night. Keep lights out of reach of small children, as chewing on a light strand could cause the child to get shocked or electrocuted. Remember glass bulbs are also a hazard if broken. Replace your holiday lights every few years.