HO…HO….HOW Many Carbs Did You Say?
For the past week, various packages with delicious goodies have been piling up in the kitchen at my office. A big basket of chocolate covered nuts, lemon and berry cookies, and pralines direct from Savannah, Georgia have been calling my name ever since the holidays arrived… and it’s very easy to get my attention since my desk is right next to the kitchen!
When I was growing up, the holidays were always a point of sour deprivation. My parents tried to maintain a firm hand when it came to both my brother and myself, but truth be told, my little brother was not much of an eater and I was. I loved food, especially sweets, and I would do anything to get what I wanted. I was a classic cookie smuggler, and I learned how to deftly uncover saran wrapped plates of cookies to sneak just one more. A tip: Don’t deny your child a cookie if they want one, because they’re probably going to eat it anyway. Just sayin’.
Truth be told, it probably didn’t matter if I had diabetes or not – little kids really don’t need that much sugar. It just isn’t healthy. But boy oh boy, the idea that it might actually be bad for me really made me want it even more!
My family was pretty good with adding insulin to cover any dessert I wanted. Although I’m sure my 9-year-old self would argue otherwise, I was probably not as deprived as it seemed. I remember when my doctor raised my dinner carb allotment from 60 to 75 grams in order to cover the 15 grams of vanilla ice cream that I was basically eating anyway at the expense of my actual dinner. But it never mattered, because I always wanted one more cookie!
When it came to the holidays, whether it be Halloween or Christmas, life was pretty much the same. For Halloween, we stuck to the simple sugar cookies, because they were easy to count carbs and add into an existing, albeit strict, meal plan. We also usually saved our cookie-making for the few days before Christmas, in order to minimize the length of time they were actually in the house. Our goal was to not prevent me from eating anything, but to make sure that what I was eating was going to work as best as possible. I became real friendly with food labels and learned how to plus or minus what I was eating to accommodate.
Every year, my friends and I would gather at my friend K’s house for a Candy House decorating party. Of course, there were loads of different kinds of sugary morsels lying around. By the time I was a teen, I was on an insulin pump, so those indulgences were a bit easier to manage because I could bolus like crazy and go to town (not that I am recommending anyone do this – it usually doesn’t work as well as you’d think and you ALWAYS eat more than you think). When I was a kid, though, I wasn’t on a pump and after decorating, I usually collected a small bowl of my favorite candies and brought them upstairs to K’s room where we hung out with our friends. I have no idea when the insulin taking took place. But I do know that these decorating parties almost always preceded dinnertime and I think I usually just gave extra insulin at dinner. But since most of us are either on Lantus or a pump, I recommend calculating the best you can, and cover more later if you need to.
J and I decorating our candy houses in 2005.
Remember, traditions always trump diabetes. Do your best.
Another sore spot for me was egg nog. Oh dear God, how I love egg nog. L-O-V-E. There were definitely times where I literally poured a gulps worth of egg nog into a tiny juice glass just so I could have a taste and not take insulin for it. Egg nog has about 30 grams of carbohydrates, and you can bet it’s all sugar. It also has like 87 million grams of fat in it, so my parents really didn’t want me drinking too much of it because it was just bad. We only ever bought one container of it and it probably lasted us the entire month.
We also did the Advent calendar, which I still do as an adult. The chocolate candies are ridiculously small. I can’t imagine they are any more than 5 grams of carbs, so it’s a safe way to get your child into the holiday spirit of indulging in bad food without actually going overboard. Of course, it’s a little late to start that, unless you’re OK with your child eating 15 pieces at one time.
The holidays are a stressful time when it comes to having diabetes, but I also try to think of it like I do the rest of the year. I always have temptation. Temptation and I are not friends. I give in a little too easily. My A1C and waistline will attest to this fact. I will say that it’s very easy to blame the holidays for our trouble managing our diabetes. But moderation is still key. It’s still important to exercise. It’s important to recognize the important parts of the holidays, and to not focus so much on the food and commercialism. It’s important to enjoy yourself, and to take steps to manage things well. Cookies and candy are not bad in and of themselves, but they can cause bad things to happen if you’re not prepared.
Always bring extra test strips and never sit down to dinner on an empty insulin pump. Test early, test often. Bolus early, bolus often.