Don’t let the homemade dressing, roasted turkey and pumpkin pie get you off balance this Thanksgiving season. Instead, stuff the family with lots of fruits and vegetables and go light on the desserts, gravy and mashed potatoes. Plan to eat smaller portions this Thanksgiving, taking time to savor the flavors while you enjoy time with family.“You can enjoy holiday goodies and still manage your weight by following a flexible meal plan and counting your carbohydrates,” says Gail Bubel, RN, CDE, Medical Home Care Navigator and Diabetes Education Coordinator for Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. “There are no forbidden foods if you count them as part of your total carbohydrates.”People should also watch the portions they eat and eat in moderation throughout the day. “Prepare traditional recipes without sugar by substituting alternative ingredients like sweet apples, orange juice or sugar alternatives,” she recommends. “You may also want to bring a lower fat or sugar-free dessert for sharing with others to help you stay balanced.” “We encourage people to reduce their risk of developing diabetes or other health issues like GERD [Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease] by adopting a healthy, nutritious program,” says Dr. Melissa Gerdes, a family medicine physician on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield. “And if you have diabetes, controlling your blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and diet can prevent or delay complications of the disease.“It is very important to get as much exercise as possible so that you are helping your body with the goodies that are around during the holidays,” Gerdes continues. “Go out and walk, and increase your physical activity to really help yourself.”One reason diabetes has become so prevalent is that the typical American diet is high in fat and carbohydrates. When combined with lack of exercise, these habits become strong risk factors that cause many adults to develop type 2 diabetes. Current figures show that adults in the United States with diabetes are on the rise, and it is thought that one-third of those may have the disease without knowing it, according to the National Institute of Health. In addition, about one out of every four adults has what’s called prediabetes.It may start out as too much sugar, but there are serious consequences of raised blood glucose, especially when accompanied by other issues such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. Diabetes is also a risk factor for other conditions such as cardiac disease and stroke.People with diabetes have high levels of glucose, or sugar, in their blood because their bodies have issues using or producing insulin. A new diabetes support program is now offered at Methodist Mansfield that helps educate patients on how to manage the disease. The program is free and offered on the second Thursday of the month from 7-8 p.m. inside classroom C by the Mansfield Café. Managing your dietary habits is a lifelong commitment. But if you embrace the challenge, you’ll not only feel better and have more energy, you’ll make an important investment in your health.