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Special Diets and the Holiday Table: Don’t let diabetes, allergies and other conditions keep you from the holiday table

The holidays are supposed to be a time to enjoy family, friends and your favorite foods.

But for many suffering with conditions like diabetes, heart disease and food allergies, holiday meals can prove more stressful than celebratory.

“It can be a very stressful time,” says Margaret Wandrey, clinical nutrition manager at Lowell General Hospital. “Food stress and weight worries tend to be heightened during holiday time for everyone, but especially those whose health depends on making the right choices.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. If you have a chronic condition that requires a specific diet, you can return the festivity to your holiday feast with a little preparation. All you need is a plan.

Wandrey offers the following advice for navigating the holiday spread:

Don't be afraid to ask

If you have a health condition that affects your diet, don’t be afraid to speak up. Many dishes can easily be adjusted with some simple ingredient changes, and no one will know the difference.

Know what’s in each dish

Even if a dish looks safe, learn about the ingredients in the items you want. There might be brown sugar in the yams, extra butter in the asparagus, or a food allergen hiding in the stuffing.

Everything in moderation

You don’t need to try a little bit of everything just because it's the holidays. Pick a few choices you like the most and eat until you feel satisfied, not until the plate is clean.

Bring your own

Take control of your food choices by bringing a dish you like and fits with your diet. You just might inspire others to provide healthier options.

Talk to your health care provider

If the joy of the holiday meal is gone, talk to your physician or a dietician about your limitations, and make a plan. With the help of medication and some small adjustments, you might be surprised with the choices you can enjoy.

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