From sugar-laden sweets to snacks and feasts heavy on oil and salt, especially with the delicacies in India, festive eating tends to tip towards unhealthy indulgence. For people with diabetes, the time around Diwali can be hard – but important – to manage.
According to a BeatO study, festivals adversely impact people’s blood-glucose levels, especially during Diwali. People with levels above 250 mg/dL (milligrams per decilitre) saw an almost 15 per cent rise, while those having blood-glucose levels above 300 mg/dL had an 18 per cent increase. Typically, this trend continued until three days after Diwali as per insights based on its data of the last three years’ festive season, beginning on Durga Puja and ending with Diwali. Interestingly, this year Diwali is being celebrated on November 14which coincides with World Diabetes Day.
Indian festivals reflect our rich and diverse culture along with the celebration, colours, food, and happiness, and the positive impact of which cannot possibly be quantified. Whether an individual has a chronic health condition or not, it is important not to snatch away the joy of enjoying a festival and everything that it brings along.
Festivals may involve fasting or feasting or, in some instances, a bit of both. Exercise routine usually takes a backseat, and activity levels tend to drop. It is a combination of the above that needs to be taken into consideration in individuals with diabetes. Ensuring good pre-festival sugar control, discuss with your physician whether or not fasting is advisable in your case, ensuring that sugary sweets and other carbohydrate-rich snacks are avoided, or their portion size is limited, trying to compensate for all of it by ensuring your exercise routine does not take a back seat, keeping yourself well hydrated and ensuring regular home testing are some of the key steps to strike the right balance between enjoying a festival and managing diabetes. Extra care needs to be taken for those on insulin and those who have high sugar levels even prior to the festive period. There is a risk of hypoglycaemia (low sugar levels) or hyperglycemia (high sugar levels) due to one or more of the above-mentioned factors and it is imperative to get a review with your treating physician prior to the festive period.
One must monitor their blood sugar levels to check the insulin dose before every meal. Not doing so can invite a lot of problems. “Similarly, those with type 2 diabetes are suggested to go for intensive insulin therapy under the doctor’s supervision. Moreover, even self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) is essential in these people too. Some people are on less intensive insulin therapy, and they tend to monitor it little or not at all, this is an ineffective practice, as well-controlled patients need monitoring of glucose levels to avoid hypoglycemia, and poorly controlled patients need to be monitored to control it properly.
Your doctor will recommend changes in the diet, ask you to do physical activity, and opt for medication after assessing your blood sugar levels. You will have to work in sync with your doctor to help yourself get back on track. Even if it is a festive season or no, make sure you monitor your blood sugar levels and manage diabetes.
For those who are not fasting but prefer to feast on the variety of foods served during festivals, certain essential measures must be taken to ensure the blood sugar control does not go haywire.
One can follow these simple measures:
• Break your meals into smaller portions of about 4 to 5 times every day, instead of 3 large meals throughout the day. This can keep your blood sugar levels more stable while you are nourished adequately.
• You can opt for healthy snacking options such as nuts, olives or a piece of fruit. You could replace traditional sweets with such healthy choices to ensure health is not compromised in celebrations. Ensure keeping your body hydrated and nourished. However, you can have a small piece of sweets.
• Consider consuming good-quality dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate as they consist of less sugar. One should try and avoid sugary drinks and replace them with either water, sugar-free lime juice, or even a small tumbler of tender coconut water would be a good choice.
• White rice is a favourite of many. However, ones with diabetes should try and avoid it as it has a high glycaemic index and glycaemic load and can increase your blood sugars drastically. Instead, consume brown rice or whole grains as these keep the sugar levels a lot better controlled.
• Bakery foods such as biscuits and cakes must be avoided altogether. Avoid deep-fried foods such as samosas and pakodas.
• One should try and avoid excessive indulgence in alcohol during festival seasons. Alcohol also contains a large quantity of sugar and can increase blood sugar levels.
Indian festivals are joyous occasions that are marked by the serving of sweets and savoury items. Those with diabetes can still enjoy these festivals, provided certain simple measures are followed to check their blood sugar levels.