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holiday traditions

Make the season merrier with new holiday traditions

How many of your holiday traditions exist because "we've always done it that way?" If you could choose which ones to keep or toss, what would you decide? It's okay to reconsider anything that feels like it takes up more time, money, effort or calories than it's worth.   Traditions to review: • "Must haves" at dinner. Turkey isn't hard to make, but all the things that go with it (potatoes, gravy, cranberries, stuffing) start to add up. You can enjoy family time just as much with a spiral-sliced ham served with rolls and a salad. Or try a new global cuisine each year. As much...

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A table full of good healthy food

Celebrating With Joy… And Moderation!

Thinking about Thanksgiving—which, in Canada, is celebrated on the second Monday of October—and autumn in general never fails to conjure up plenty of images: the last leaves, children’s red noses, a piping-hot cup of tea, a comfy blanket left on the sofa, a roaring fireplace. And above all, a huge meal with relatives and friends! But let’s be honest: that meal doesn’t always include healthy options and ideal foods for those living with diabetes. There’s no lack of images for that, too: the huge turkey with its roasted skin and overflowing stuffing, potatoes drowning in butter, the uncle who falls asleep on the couch having drunk a few glasses too many. In fact, almost all holiday celebrations are associated with food and alcohol. Though being diabetic can force you to change the way you celebrate, it certainly doesn’t stop you from doing so! Partying with moderation It can never be repeated too many times: better to show some restraint when partying in order to avoid all the problems caused by excesses. This is true for food as well as alcohol, which has a considerable effect on your blood glucose. Drink in moderation, preferably during the meal rather than before it, to slow down the absorption of alcohol. And remember to stay hydrated… with water! The turkey mainstay and its accomplices Historians don’t agree on the exact process by which the turkey was consecrated as a traditional Thanksgiving dish, but one thing’s for sure: it is now an icon of that celebration. And there’s no need for you to forgo it! Here are some tips to help you enjoy your meal with total peace of mind. Remove the skin from the turkey to make it less fatty, and prefer white meat. If you can’t imagine Thanksgiving without the traditional cranberry sauce, make it yourself from whole cranberries. It’s sure to be much less sweet than store-bought sauce! Why not replace chips and snack foods with raw veggies? If you want some dip to go with them, go for yogurt instead of sour cream or mayonnaise, which are much higher in fat. Autumn temperatures are perfect for hot soup. You could try making something using seasonal vegetables such as butternut squash and carrots. They make for thick, tasty soup and a lighter, leaner appetizer. Trade potatoes in butter (or fatty gravy) for rice or quinoa. Steamed vegetables make perfect side dishes: light, delicious and full of fibre! For dessert, you could have fruit salad instead of the traditional sugar or pumpkin pie. Stay active during the long weekend! If you decide to use the long weekend to go on a Thanksgiving getaway to a cottage or something similar, you might have a great opportunity for some physical activity. Getting active helps control your blood sugar levels by getting your muscles to consume glucose, which removes it from your blood. Of course, take things at your own pace, and remember to measure your blood glucose levels before and after and to have a snack as needed. Lastly, the best piece of advice is to surround yourself well and to have a good time with your family and friends. Voltaire had the right of it when he said “I’ve chosen to be happy because I’ve been told that it’s good for one’s health.”

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A doctor speaking to an elderly man

Cholesterol: What Is It Good For?

It’s a fact that diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Adding high cholesterol into the mix can result in quite a threat hanging over your head. But you should know that not all fats are created equal—and that some are even good for you. Here’s a quick overview. What it actually is Cholesterol refers to a group of lipids (fats) called lipoproteins that are both produced by your body and found in your diet. They play an important role in keeping various body functions running smoothly, especially hormones and digestion. In fact, life would be simply impossible without cholesterol! Good cholesterol High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are considered “good fats” since they (somewhat paradoxically) help to eliminate lipids in the blood. Generally, the higher your HDL cholesterol, the better you’ll fare. It’s produced when you consume, for example, omega-3 polyunsaturated fats (fish, nuts, legumes, etc.) as well as omega-9 monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil, etc.). Bad cholesterol Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), for their part, are considered “bad fats” because they can cause lipid accumulation in your arteries and hinder blood flow to the heart and brain. You want to have as low levels of it as possible, with the usual target being 2.0 mmol/L or under. Bad cholesterol comes mainly from saturated fats (highly processed food) and trans fats (fast food, frying, etc.). Triglycerides This is another group of lipids, and these increase the risk of heart disease and stroke if their blood levels are too high. They’re found in sugars and alcohol, among others. Aggravating factors Diabetes is often associated with high cholesterol levels, which is why it’s important to have a lipid profile blood test done once a year. Other factors can come into play, including age, waist circumference, weight, smoking and family history. Good habits to take You have direct control over your cholesterol level, and sometimes all that’s needed to greatly improve your health is a couple of little lifestyle changes: Meet with a nutritionist to develop a proper diet plan. Check nutritional labels to identify and limit your intake of trans fats, saturated fats and sugars. Include a wide range of whole or little-processed products into your diet—whole grains such as barley, oats and quinoa, for example. Eat at home more often than at a restaurant so you have better control over what’s on your plate. Go for low-fat, sugar-free dairy products. If you smoke, consider quitting. If necessary, lose a few pounds to reach a healthy waist circumference (under 94 cm or 37 inches for a man, and under 80 cm or 31.5 inches for a woman). Monitor your blood glucose closely, as it can affect your cholesterol levels and thus increase your risk of heart disease. Ideally, exercise every day (a 30-minute walk is a good start!). If necessary, talk to your doctor about the possibility of taking cholesterol-lowering medication. In conclusion Cholesterol is not your enemy, but if you want to minimize your risk, you have to know the difference between the bad and the good… and make the right choices to stay healthy!

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A Pink piggy bank on a table

Money, Diabetes And You

Glucose meter, syringes, lancets, strips, insulin, medication… for many people, all of that costs a lot—sometimes too much. The burden is even heavier for the less affluent, such as seniors with fixed incomes, for example. According to Diabetes Canada (formerly the Canadian Diabetes Association), 57% of Canadians living with diabetes say they are unable to follow the treatment they were prescribed because they can’t afford the medication, the devices and the associated supplies. Considering the risks of complications related to improper blood glucose management—neuropathy, strokes, blindness, amputation, etc.—this statistic is quite alarming. A variable amount In Canada, one factor affecting the annual cost to patients is the province they live in. On average, a person with diabetes might pay over 3% of their annual salary, or more than $1,500. The situation also changes completely based on whether you have a private health insurance plan. Saving on test equipment? It’s never a good idea to jeopardize your health to spare your wallet. All in all, there are plenty of other expenditures you should consider cutting before thinking of reusing your lancets or skipping an insulin injection. Biking, walking or using public transit instead of travelling by car is a good way to cut expenses. Quitting smoking is also a real breath of fresh air for your bank account. Eating healthy: a double win! Avoiding processed foods is good not only for your health, but also for your wallet. A good meal is built on quality fresh ingredients. Many websites or cooking shows can offer you quick, simple and absolutely delicious recipes. Note that legumes, tofu and other vegetarian options are often less expensive than meat, which makes them another great way to save money without sacrificing your protein intake. A few tips to save money at the grocery store: Plan out your meals. Stick to your grocery list. Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables. Never do your grocery shopping on an empty stomach! Compare prices by checking the unit price or the price for equal quantities. Avoid “diet” or “for diabetics” foods. And if you haven’t done so already, cut down on alcohol and sweetener-based sugary drinks—both your blood glucose level and your bank account will thank you. Ultimately, proper blood glucose management also makes for good finances.

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Better Mac & Cheese

Easier, tastier, healthier mac and cheese? It's true! Replace some of the cheese with pureed butternut squash and skip the complicated stuff for a light, moist, flavor-packed version that kids and adults actually love more. Save about half the fat while increasing fiber. You can even use whatever cheeses and pasta you have on hand. Seriously Better Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese 500 g pasta (any shape), cooked 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (3-4 cups) 1.5 cups low-fat milk 1 cup low-fat chicken broth Pinch of salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne to taste 100 g cheddar, gouda, or any cheese you like, grated 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese 1 tbsp olive oil 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese 2 tbsp bread crumbs Cooking spray Heat oven to 375F/190C. Combine milk and chicken broth in a saucepan. Simmer squash until soft, about 20 minutes, then mash with remaining liquid. Stir in salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg and cayenne, to taste. Place cooked, drained pasta in a large bowl. Stir in squash mixture, ricotta and grated cheese, except Parmesan. Lightly coat a large, rectangular baking dish with cooking spray. Transfer noodle mixture to dish. Mix olive oil, Parmesan and bread crumbs. Sprinkle over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until crisp and lightly browned around the edges, about 30 minutes more. Nutritional facts (per serving)1 Total carbohydrate 62 g Sugars 6 g Fibre 5 g Calories 408 Total fat 10 g Saturated fat 5 g Protein 18 g Cholesterol 26 mg Sodium 172 mg

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3 woman discussing and sharing ideas

8 Diabetes Hacks You Can Try Today

The diabetes community is great at sharing—especially when they come up with an idea for making life a little easier. Consider these Simply Smart tricks for managing your health and gear. Show emergency info on a locked phone. You may have your ICE (in case of emergency) contact noted in your phone, but that doesn't help if emergency workers can't unlock it. For Apple devices, important information that has been entered into the health app, such as health conditions, allergies and emergency contacts, can be accessed without unlocking. Android phones running on Android 7.0 or higher can display emergency information and contact details on the emergency call screen. setting. Another great option is to type up emergency contacts and basic health information (for example, that you have diabetes) and save it as an image you can use as the background on your lock screen. Set reminders for anything. While your phone is out, think about all the ways you can use the reminder function to keep you on track. If you tend to get distracted, you can set a reminder to eat after you give yourself bolus insulin. If you pump, use it to remind you when to change your infusion set. Or simply remind yourself to test your blood sugar. Take your SKIs (snacks, kit and insulin). A dedicated diabetes pack can make it easy to get out the door fast. Include your test kit, insulin, infusion sets, low treatments and whatever else you regularly need. Extra batteries and a coin for opening battery compartments can be helpful, too. Head off hunger. Pack your own snacks so you don't just grab what's nearby when you're hungry. Prepackaged protein or snack bars work well, or you can measure your favorites into zip-top bags or small food containers. Packing your own can help you control carbs, as well as save calories and money. Keep juice boxes near your bed. Some fruit juices taste okay at room temp, and can make it easier to treat a low when you're sleepy. Snip off the ends of the straw covers to make them easier to handle if you're shaky. Wrap a prescription around your second-to-last vial. Whether it's test strips, oral medication or insulin, a rubber band can hold your next prescription (or a reminder to call and refill) around your current supplies. When you open the last (or second-to-last) package, it's time to call. Make a portable sharps container. An old prescription or vitamin bottle, boldly labeled "sharps" in permanent marker, can hold onto used lancets or needles until you have a chance to dispose of them properly. Contain used test strips. An old test strip vial or pill bottle is the perfect size for holding used test strips, and it can probably fit easily in your test kit. Label it with brightly colored tape or a sticker so you can differentiate between new strips and old. What are your diabetes tips and tricks? Share them on our Facebook page or on Twitter with #SimplySmart!

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A mother playing with her 2 kids

Ladies, this one is for you.

French cartoonist Emma recently struck a nerve with her web cartoon "Fallait demander/You should have asked." The comic shows a husband tell his overworked, exasperated wife that he would have been happy to help with the household duties—if she'd only asked. The upshot was something many intuitively know—that women carry an overwhelming proportion of the mental load in any household. For example, while someone else may be willing to pick up toothpaste (if asked), you're the one who actually notices when you need toothpaste. Not to mention that you're the only one who probably knows what brand and flavour your kids/partner/own self likes. That thinking, knowing and planning add up. If someone in the home has diabetes, the pressure is amplified. Prescriptions. Appointments. Blood sugar tests. Meal planning. And that's in addition to work and family life. So, what can you do about it? Make it visible. Since most of this effort is (literally) in your head, others in the family may not even be aware of it. Talk about the processes behind the tasks you'd like to hand off. If it's someone's job to make lunches, it can also be their job to make sure those lunches are planned and ingredients are purchased. Expect more of others (and accept how they do it). Maybe things won't be done the same way you would do them—or even the "right way." You may have to lower your standards a bit. Dinner might not be as fabulous. The linen closet may not look as neat as a retail shop. But as long as they know you'll swoop in and fix things, no one will try working things out themselves. Lay some ground rules. The first one to open a dishwasher of clean dishes has to empty it. If someone uses the last of something and doesn't write it on the grocery list, it won't get purchased. No excuses. Of course, rules are easily broken, so consequences—like sending them directly to the store or having to sing a song of your choosing—can help. Picture the worst that could happen. Is it really all that bad? If it's about managing diabetes, you may not be able to let go of the reins. But if it's about someone else's dry cleaning or homework supplies, well, they may only have to learn once. Don't think of it as "help." The word "help" suggests they're just pitching in on your responsibilities. Fathers don't "babysit." Children aren't royalty. So change your perspective and the words you use. There's a good chance you'll always have too much on your plate. But any improvement is a step in the right direction.

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wedding, diabetes

6 secrets to enjoying weddings (without your numbers going crazy)

If June is supposed to be wedding month, then why are all of your August weekends booked with stag and stagette dos, and nuptials from morning to night? The trend has shifted, with more Canadian weddings taking place in August than any other month.1 You've already seen advice on managing diabetes at weddings and parties, so we'll skip the obvious (eat before you go! drink water!). Instead, here are some ideas for having fun without regretting it an hour later (or the next morning). 1. Raise your Champagne glass! You don't have to skip alcohol just because you have diabetes. Just keep it in moderation.2 Join in the toasts, then switch to something that doesn't go down quite so easily and ask the bartender to use a light hand. Sweet cocktails are notorious for being easy to toss back, and they're loaded with extra sugar. 2. Fool yourself with soda or tonic. If you tend to feel most comfortable with a glass in your hand (or if others want to see you with one at all times), have a soda water or diet tonic with a squeeze of lime. Try having one of these between each "real" cocktail—it looks and tastes about the same, without all the stuff you don't want.  3. If you love it, eat it. Of course, the converse is also true. If you don't love it, don't bother. We hate to say it, but wedding cake rarely scores a 10 on the flavor scale. (But if it does—enjoy!) If you're drinking alcohol or dancing, remember that you actually need to eat carb-rich foods to keep from going low2 (something the food police are unlikely to understand). 4. Set reminders on your phone. It's easy to forget to check your blood sugar when you're having fun, so set an alarm. Or three. Long, drawn out meals, snacking, dancing and alcohol can all have unexpected effects on your numbers, especially if you have type 1 diabetes. So check a few times. That way, you can make sure all attention stays on the bride and groom, and your blood sugar is in the right place when you finally go to bed. 5. Make sure your plus-one or wingman knows all. Unless you're attending with someone who knows you well, give your date or a friend a run-down of low blood sugar symptoms to watch for, as well as what to do if you seem out of sorts. This is especially important if you're drinking.2 Knowing that they can help may help you relax and have a better time, too. 6. Dance, laugh, cry and have a great time. That's what you're there for.

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kids, school

5 additions to your back-to-school-with-diabetes supply list

You've got the ICP (Individual Care Plan) written and the DCT (Diabetes Care Team) on board.* You've stashed emergency kits with testing supplies, snacks, fast-acting sugar for treating lows, batteries, phone numbers and more in strategic locations.1 You've met with everyone from the principal to the bus driver. So what else can you keep on hand for the challenges of the new year? Books for friends. Younger kids may want to share diabetes-themed picture books or printed coloring sheets with friends, so classmates can understand why your child eats extra snacks, checks blood sugar or leaves the room throughout the day. Ask the teacher if you can distribute materials to the whole classroom. A plan to wear blue on Fridays. Whether it's just once or every Friday, introduce the Blue Fridays idea at school and let everyone be a part of diabetes awareness. Private school? Maybe a blue wristband can do the trick. This is the kind of positive event that helps people rally around a cause. It's taken off in the U.S. and is making its way across Canada. Find out more about the movement on the Blue Fridays community Facebook page. Less-expected items. Of course you'll need testing supplies. But what about a digital watch set with testing reminders? Maybe a special stuffed animal to hold for fingertip checks. Stickers and love notes are a great addition to carbohydrate count lists in the lunchbox. Anything that makes life better for your child makes life better. Honey. Not literal honey for lows, but your sweet disposition. Remember the adage about "catching more flies with honey than vinegar?" Think about how long it took for you to learn the ins and outs of diabetes, and try to help bring school personnel along with a generous dose of patience. Confidence. Chances are, your child can take on more than you realize. They may need help, but even children as young as 4 or 5 can start to recognize the signs of low blood sugar, and by age 8 they can probably check their own blood sugar with supervision.2 Sending them off to school may be incredibly stressful, but the older they get, the more you need to let them fly. Keep in mind that many people have never seen an insulin pump or watched a child check their blood sugar, including teachers who work with hundreds of children year after year. So take a deep breath help them learn to help your child. *Individual Care Plan and Diabetes Care Team: If you haven't nailed these down, Diabetes Canada and Diabetes at School can give you great direction.

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