(ARA) - The holidays can be difficult for people watching their diet. For those with health issues such as diabetes, the dietary minefield of holiday temptations can be especially troublesome.

In the United States, 8.3 percent of the population (nearly 26 million adults and children) has diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. For these people, the usual holiday indulgences of sweets and rich foods can pose a serious health risk.

"People with diabetes must make significant dietary changes in order to manage their disease," says Dr. Donald Hensrud, preventive medicine and nutrition expert from Mayo Clinic . Dr. Hensrud is the medical editor-in-chief for the new "The Mayo Clinic Diabetes Diet." "Managing diabetes through diet isn't a fad; it's about changing your habits for the better."

Americans gain an average of just one pound over the holidays (far less than colloquial estimates) but most also keep that extra pound, according to a joint study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Over the years, those pounds add up, and collectively, it's fueling America's obesity epidemic.

"Family history, being overweight, inactivity, a poor diet - these are the reasons why millions of Americans have diabetes or are at risk," Dr. Hensrud writes in the introduction to "The Mayo Clinic Diabetes Diet." "Weight loss can reverse the physical process that causes diabetes, and the effect can be dramatic."

If you or a loved one has diabetes, here's some advice from "The Mayo Clinic Diabetes Diet," to help you stay on track through the holidays:

At a party

The hors d'oeuvres table is a downfall for many of us, especially during the holidays when we are presented with treats that we don't see throughout the rest of the year. Depriving yourself entirely can make cravings worse and increase your risk of binging.

So approach the hors d'oeuvres with these strategies:

* Make just one trip to the table and be selective. Decide ahead of time how much you'll eat and choose only the foods that you really want.

* Treat yourself with one or two samples of high-calorie or fatty foods, and then fill up on fruits and veggies.

* Take small portions. You may be able to satisfy your cravings with a small taste.

* Eat slowly and you'll likely eat less.

* Don't stay near the food all night. As the saying goes, "out of sight, out of mind."

* Eat something healthy before you arrive so that you won't be as hungry. Being hungry will make you more prone to overeating.

If you fall off the wagon

It's the holidays, and chances are you'll overeat at some point. It's very difficult to resist temptation all the time. A minor slip isn't the end of the world, but it can turn into a bigger problem if you view it as an excuse to give up altogether.

If you have a lapse, consider these tips to help get you back on track:

* Convince yourself that every day is a fresh opportunity to start over again.

* Have a plan to deal with lapses.

* Keep your response simple. Focus on the things you know you can do and stick to them.

"Good lifestyle habits, like losing weight, give you the best chance to treat your diabetes and prevent health complications," Dr. Hensrud says. "Losing weight takes work and planning, but the rewards are great. With the right attitude, you can have fun and feel great while adding years to your life."Healthy holiday eating advice for people with diabetes
Category: Entertainment