Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve. The next four months feature one holiday after another and there's one thing they all have in common: activities centered around food.

Diabetics, who must maintain strict control of the types and amounts of foods they eat, can find this focus on food especially trying."Most (diabetics) around the holidays give up trying to maintain good diabetic control because they don't know how to deal with it," said Alyce Todd, clinical dietetics instructor at Brigham Young University. "People with weight control problems can relate. Every time they turn around - at home, at work, at church and other activities - from Halloween to Christmas they are confronted with food."

But avoiding problems caused by holiday foods does not mean diabetics have to skip holiday activities.

"Diabetics can celebrate with food without being on spartan diets," said Connie Polve, R.N., diabetes education nurse at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.

The Education Department at UVRMC has participated in sponsoring holiday food fairs for the past three years and has developed holiday recipes for diabetics that are available to the public. The department also has a dietitian available to help diabetics learn to maintain their diets during the holidays.

"We would like the general public to become educated to the fact that they may have friends who are diabetics," said Polve. "Therefore, we should all become sensitive to helping those people by preparing a special plate for them when having a dinner party, or even using some of the recipes we can provide and serving a diabetes-approved meal to all their guests."

While diabetics must pay particular attention to what they eat during the holidays, that task can be made easier by thoughtful party-givers who provide a variety of healthful foods and avoid forcing food on those who decline it.

"A hostess who is unaware (of a person's medical needs) and tries to get them to eat more creates an awkward situation for that person," said Kay Franz, associate professor of nutrition at BYU.

Norma Rae Arrington, retired supervisor of BYU's Advisement Center, is diabetic, and agreed that it is much harder to keep track of her calorie intake while preparing the variety of holiday foods her family likes and attending holiday activities.

"It's never been hard for me to be vocal about my condition," said Arrington. "Sometimes I may eat prior to a party or even bring my own food, which helps."

Curt Brinkman, wheelchair athlete and American Fork City Council member, is also diabetic.

"I'm conscious of hurting someone's feelings (by declining food), but I realize my life is more important than hurting their feelings," Brinkman said. "Some people may not yet have reached this point."

Thoughtful party tips for all

-Plan ahead to fit a special activity that will feature food into your eating schedule.

-Pick the plainer desserts.

-Make an activity, rather than food, the center of your party.

-At a party, don't feel you have to eat everything; just take bites.

-Plan parties around mealtimes rather than snack times.

-Remember that the sugar in many recipes can be reduced without affecting the quality of the dish.

-In addition to a punch bowl, provide a bowl of ice water with orange or lemon slices in it.