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Diabetes Management During the Holidays

Diabetes Management During the Holidays

During this holiday season make a promise to put yourself at the top of your list. As hard as you've worked to stay on course with managing your diabetes throughout the year, the holiday season has the potential to throw you off. Travel, parties, big meals, snack foods at the office and drinking all create a challenging environment for eating healthy. Add to that the days of travel with little scheduled exercise, and it becomes a real effort to stay on track.

Here is our promise to you: If you follow these strategies, you can maintain your blood sugar levels and enjoy the parties and gatherings along with everyone else. But, just like everything else with diabetes, you have to take a few extra steps.

If you need help with your diabetes management this holiday season, such as adjusting insulin with carbohydrate intake, talk with your diabetes educator. At Community Care Nutrition and Diabetes Center, we can help guide you in the management of your diabetes. Click here to learn more about Community Care Nutrition and Diabetes Center and the seven key areas our diabetes educators focus on.


Holidays with a Big Meal

  • Eat breakfast or snacks earlier in the day and avoid the idea of saving carbs for the big feast later on. If you skip meals, it may be harder to manage your blood sugar.
  • Limit the number of servings of starchy foods on your plate. It might be tempting to have some mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole and rolls, however, try to choose just one of these items. Or just take a few spoonfuls or bites of each.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables served raw, grilled or steamed. Avoid vegetables in creams, gravies and butter.
  • Stick to calorie-free drinks such as water, tea, seltzer, or diet sodas instead of punch or mixed drinks.
  • If you choose to drink alcohol, limit the amount and have it with food. Talk with your healthcare team about whether alcohol is safe for you. Women should drink no more than one alcoholic beverage a day and men should drink no more than two.
    • A drink is:
      • 12 fluid ounces (fl oz) of beer
      • 5 fl oz of wine
      • 1 ½ fl oz of 80-proof distilled spirits
      • 1 fl oz of 100-proof distilled spirits
  • Enjoy your favorite holiday treats, but take small portions, eat slowly, and savor the taste and texture. 
  • After your meal, take a walk with family and friends. Exercise will also get you moving, keep you focused on your goals, and give you a welcome break from being surrounded by treats. Exercise is also a great way to lower blood sugar levels. 
  • If you overindulge, don’t beat yourself up. If you eat more carbs or food than you planned for, don’t think you have failed, just make a plan to get back on track. 

Hosting a Dinner

  • Make sure the menu includes healthy food choices such as fruits, vegetables and lean meats.
  • Baking, broiling and barbequing are good methods for cooking meats such as turkey. Avoid frying or adding extra fat during cooking. 
  • When you’re cooking, avoid sampling the foods more than necessary. These calories add up and can affect your blood sugar. 
  • If you’re the host of the dinner, clear the table and put unused food away to help guests avoid grazing. 


If You’re a Guest

Offer to bring along a healthy dish that you know you will enjoy and can substitute for a not so healthy option.


Holiday Parties and New Year’s Eve

  • Eat a small, balanced meal or snack before you leave home. If you arrive to the party hungry, you’ll be more likely to overindulge (another great reason to NOT skip breakfast and lunch).
  • Study ALL of the food options, and think about what you are going to have before you put anything on your plate. Decide which foods are worth eating and which can be ignored, and then stick to that decision. 
  • Choose vegetables first. Broccoli, baby carrots, cauliflower and tomatoes are good choices that are usually on the appetizer table. Take only a small spoonful of dip or skip it entirely. 
  • Eat chips and crackers in moderation, and definitely avoid eating them straight from the bag. Put some on a small plate and don’t load them down with creamy mayo-based dips.
  • Try not to hang out near the food to avoid grazing. Find a comfortable spot across the room and focus on socializing instead of eating. 
  • Remember to regularly check your blood sugar throughout the holidays and adding a few extra checks on a party day may help guide your choices. 
  • Sip a large glass of water or mineral water. This will keep you hydrated and provide you with a better option than alcohol.
  • Take a walk or attend your usual exercise session the day of the party. Make it a priority rather than saying there isn’t time. It is probably more important than the party!


Written by the American Association of Diabetes Educators.


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