When you think of the fall season, you are probably thinking about the leaves changing color, the temperature getting cooler and the holidays around the corner. For most, this time of year can be very challenging.

Am ong those challenges is our nutritional health, which may be why November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. Did you know that 24 million children and adults in the United States live with diabetes? If you are like most people, your answer is probably no.

But what you probably do know, or at least I hope you know, is that a healthy body weight and a healthy diet is very important in helping decrease the risk of diabetes. It is also very important in helping control your blood sugar if you already have diabetes.

How can you enjoy the season, not gain weight and not sabotage your health? I recommend the following:

Glazed Vegetables: a Thanksgiving recipe from Country Living.com.

Think of a holiday as just a day. Too many of my patients fret over what they should eat on Thanksgiving and other holidays. I often remind them it is only one day. Eat whatever they want, but for only the day—no repeat performances allowed. Of course, being mindful about your meal wouldn’t hurt either. Choose smaller portions and pile on the veggies (hopefully some will be served). And if you can’t resist the pie for dessert, go for the pumpkin, since it is lower in calories than many others. Lastly, make sure you leave empty-handed. Without boxes of leftovers, you will be able to get right back on track the next day.

Don’t skip meals. A lot of people believe that if they are going to have a big meal later, they should not eat until then. That is a major mistake because when you do finally eat, you will almost certainly overeat, more so than if you had a meal or snack earlier. And if you are diabetic, skipping meals will be more harmful because it can cause your blood sugars to drop too low. Make sure to stick to your overall meal schedule and healthy eating plan, even though what may lay ahead might not be so healthy.

Focus on more fruit, veggies and whole grains. No time like the present to start adding more fruit (whole not juice), vegetables and whole grains to your diet. All are rich in fiber, which can help stabilize blood sugars, lower cholesterol and promote satiety. Be adventurous and try new grains such as quinoa, barley and whole-wheat couscous. Instead of wasting time focusing on what you shouldn’t be eating around the holiday season, how about focusing more on what you should be eating?

You might even want to bicycle for charity.

Be active! The more physical exercise you can sneak into your week, the better blood sugar control you will have and the easier it will be for weight control. Find something you enjoy doing—going to a gym, yoga, swimming, pilates, hiking— and just make it part of your week. Even just plain walking counts as being active. So don’t let a busy social calendar be an excuse. Get moving now!

Keri M. Gans is a Registered Dietitian in private practice in Manhattan. She is a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (ADA), an ADA Delegate for NY State and a Past President of the New York State Dietetic Association. Gans holds a master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University and B.A. in Business Administration from Ohio University. Before working solely in private practice, Keri was a clinical staff dietitian at St. Lukes Roosevelt Hospital and North General Hospital in Manhattan. Besides individual and group nutrition counseling, Keri spends time public speaking, consulting for nutrition websites and providing on-line nutrition counseling and writing. Frequently quoted in local and national publications, and on ABC News, FOX News, FOX Morning Show With Mike and Juliet, and Good Morning America, Gans was also the host of a weekly nutrition/lifestyle show called “Diet Diva” on Manhattan Public Access TV for five years and the proud winner of the New York State Dietetic Association’s 2006 Emerging Dietetic Leader Award.

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