It’s hard enough for anyone to keep away from the Christmas cookies and keep weight off during this holiday season. But for those who are diabetic or in a pre-diabetic condition, going off a diet can lead to complications more serious than snugger waistbands in the new year. The prospect is especially sobering considering that in the Butler/Beaver county area nine percent of all adults are diabetic, matching the statewide rate, according to Kate Gillis, a spokesman with the state Department of Health. That’s why the nonprofit Community Health Clinic of Butler County, 103 Bonnie Drive, recently hosted an open house for its clients who had been diagnosed as diabetic or pre-diabetic, offering tips to get through the holidays without going off their diets or endangering their health. To drive home the point, Noreen McGinnis Campbell, an owner of McGinnis Sisters, a food store with a location in Adams Township, brought several trays of healthy snack foods to the event. “I’m not a diabetic or a dietician,” said Campbell. “So we tried to keep it really healthy. There are cheese and crackers, fruit, vegetables and hummus.” Campbell said the holidays are especially difficult for those who must restrict their diets. “Everything is laid in front of you, the cookies, and then there is the stress at this time of year,” Campbell said. Campbell’s healthy food would have won the approval of the event’s first speaker, Dr. Erin Greiner, a chiropractor who runs the Maximized Living Center in Cranberry Township with her husband and fellow chiropractor, Dr. Nick Greiner. She said diet is not just a matter of counting calories, it’s about maximizing quality nutrients. Noting that a handful of almonds and a Twinkie have the same amount of calories, Greiner said the almonds don’t contain the chemicals used to make the Twinkie. And, she said, in diabetics, the pancreas is extremely sensitive to toxins. Greiner outlined her healthy for the holidays plan designed, she said, “to let you make better choices and be better for it through the holidays.” Greiner said consumers should always read the labels on their food and avoid packaged foods that contain sugar, fructose and maltodextrin. “What is actually in your food? Did it come from the earth or the laboratory?” Greiner asked. “A good rule of thumb is if you can’t pronounce it, it’s probably a sugar.” That’s why, Greiner said, consumers should use healthy sugar substitutes. Instead of sugar or corn syrup, Greiner suggested using stevia or xylitol for baking. Greiner also recommended eliminating canola and vegetable oil and using coconut oil and unsalted butter for holiday baking. Olive oil, she said, is fine at room temperature, but if it begins to smoke it becomes rancid, meaning the heat has chemically damaged the nutritional value of the oil. Greiner said she also advises people to stop using chemical cleaners as a way of removing chemicals from their surroundings. She recommended using simply apple cider vinegar and water as a cleaner. “It means more elbow grease,” said Greiner, “but it makes for a healthier, safer environment.” Registered dietician Carol Landis said, “The most important thing diabetics can do to manage their weight during the holidays is to plan ahead. “What is on your agenda? Are you going out of town? Invited to parties? Do you have a daily meal plan? Do you follow it? Have you planned time for exercise?” she asked. When going to someone’s home, Landis suggested checking with the host or hostess about the menus and letting them know of your dietary restrictions. “Eat a healthy snack before going out, so you don’t give in to cravings,” Landis said. Size up the food that is available, she said. “Look at the options and remember your plan. Decide which items are worth eating.” Choose vegetables first, she said, and limit or avoid dips. “Focus on socializing instead of eating,” Landis said. “You are there to enjoy the people, not the food.” Linda Reichart, registered diabetic nurse educator with the clinic, offered a few rough measuring standards to help diabetics manage their food intake: Meat servings should be able to fit into the palm of your hand and be no bigger than a deck of cards. A dollop of salad dressing should be no bigger than your thumb down to the first knuckle. Reichart said the clinic is starting a Move It to Lose It program for its clients beginning Jan. 2. Meeting on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the clinic, the 16-week program will have motivational speakers from Freedom Farms, McGinnis Sisters and Slippery Rock University, plus weigh-ins and food and exercise reviews. The clinic may even start a mall-walking group if there is enough interest. Landis said clinic clients should call 724-849-0980, Ext. 110, to sign up.