The Institute hosts a Live Q&A on Instagram: Diabetes, COVID-19 and the holidays
On Monday, November 23, Certified Diabetes Educator Stephanie Graziano answered questions through Instagram Live about managing diabetes during the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming holidays. Check out the transcript below:
“Hello everyone, my name is Stephanie Graziano and I am a Certified Diabetes Educator at the Institute for Family Health. November is Diabetes Awareness Month and I want to answer your questions about how to manage diabetes during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with the holidays coming up. What questions do you have about staying healthy with diabetes during COVID-19?”
I feel like my blood sugar has been out of whack since the pandemic started. Why is that?
“A lot of my clients have said that they are having more trouble managing their blood sugar during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of this is because of stress—it is a stressful time! Physical and emotional stress as a direct impact on blood sugar, so it’s important to take steps to manage stress in addition to following a healthy diet and getting the right amount of exercise. It’s also important to get enough sleep each night.”
I am having trouble keeping to a healthy diet. What are some things I can do to get my eating habits back on track?
“First, it is important to realize that for many of us, stress can increase appetite and cravings especially for foods that have sugar and fat. These foods can feel like they comfort us during times of stress but it is best to manage stress using non-food-related activities like going for a walk or calling a friend to talk about what is on your mind. Next, you want to make sure you have healthy options within reach instead of junk foods. Keeping junk foods out of the house will help you to make better choices. Instead, aim for fiber dense snacks like unsalted or lightly salted popcorn or a small handful of heart healthy nuts and a piece of fruit to help you feel full and satisfied.”
I need examples of healthy meals to prepare for my family. Where can I find some examples of diabetes-friendly meals with the right portion sizes?
“A healthy meal starts with having the right balance. If you go to our website, you can find lots of helpful information including how to follow the My Healthy Plate for many different cultures. The My Healthy Plate helps to guide your portions by making half of the plate filled with non-starchy vegetables. Then the last 2 quarters of the plate will have the protein and the starch. For recipe and meal ideas that are diabetes-friendly, a great resource is diabetesfoodhub.org. The American Diabetes Association also provides delicious healthy recipes along with the nutrition facts for you.”
The holidays are coming up. What are some tips to manage my diabetes during the holidays?
“This is a great question because holidays can be an especially stressful time but this year is different because we are still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Managing your diabetes during the holidays means that you want to stay mindful of your choices. For example, a lot of us hold off on eating all day until that big holiday meal later on so that we could indulge on all those favorite dishes we look forward to. But this can lead to unstable blood sugar levels as well as huge spikes. So instead, try to eat regularly throughout the day. Then enjoy the foods you look forward to all year. Enjoying the company of your friends and family, even if it is virtually, is one of the best ways to reduce your stress and feel connected during this time.”
I have diabetes. Is it safe for me to travel during Thanksgiving this year?
“I am glad you asked! We recommend doing your very best to stay safe during Thanksgiving. For example, you could consider gathering only with the members of your household, or having a virtual gathering over Zoom.”
What are some safe exercises I can do to manage stress during the pandemic?
“Being more physically active is a wonderful way to reduce stress. One very safe and effective way to reduce and manage stress is to go for a walk. Aiming for 30 minutes per day would be ideal. Just be sure to maintain social distancing and bring your mask with you. If you are more comfortable being active inside your home, you can consider doing simple chair exercises like leg lifts or walking in place while watching your favorite show, or you can access free exercise videos on Youtube. Of course, before starting an exercise regimen you always want to check with your doctor to make sure you don’t have any restrictions. Always listen to your body and stay within your comfort level.”
At the holiday meals there are always so many carbs–potatoes, stuffing, biscuits, pie. I love them all but because of my diabetes I try not to eat them. What is the best way to handle this issue?
“The main thing to try to avoid is depriving yourself of your favorite holiday foods. This will usually cause you to feel sad and you may end up overindulging later on to make up for it. Instead, I suggest you take a small serving of each, even just a few tablespoons. Having a taste of each will allow you to enjoy those foods while maintaining control and that will help you feel good about yourself and control your blood sugar.”
I like to have a few glasses of wine around the holidays. Is this bad for my blood sugar?
“Alcohol has an effect on your blood sugar so you must use caution if you have diabetes and plan to have a drink. You should always aim to consume alcohol along with food. It is recommended that men have no more than 2 drinks per day and that women have no more than 1 drink per day. The best thing to do is try to limit yourself to these amounts and stay hydrated.”
What kind of support is available to me as an Institute patient with diabetes?
“As an Institute patient with diabetes, you have access to having a diabetes team including health coaches, certified diabetes educators and nutritionists, as well as health care providers and case managers. On our website, we provide lots of great resources for things like how to check your blood pressure and what your blood sugar goals should be. I highly encourage you to check it out and save it to your favorites for when you are looking for answers to diabetes-related questions. This is a reliable source for you to use.”
What if I don’t have insurance?
“Great question! So here at the Institute, our mission is to provide affordable health care for all who need it, even if you don’t have insurance. No one is turned away. Let us know what your situation is and we will help you.”
“All right, if there are no more questions, I’m going to wrap it up. Thank you so much for joining us today. Remember, if you would like to learn more about diabetes care, check out the Institute website. If you are already an Institute patient and you want additional diabetes services, call your health center or send a MyChart message to your provider. New patients can also reach us at (844) 434-2778. Thank you!”
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Note: the transcript has been edited for readability.