Diabetes and the Holidays

By Renee Wickliff

It is the most wonderful time of the year, except if you have diabetes and are trying to keep your blood sugar under control. Many holiday festivities center around rich foods, which makes it difficult for diabetics to stick to their meal plan. Although it is easy to stress about your blood sugar, remember the holidays only come once a year and one single meal or day is not going to offset your hard work on the other 364 days. If you still are worried about staying on track during the holidays, try these tips.

Bring your own healthy choices

            If you attend an event and you know there is going to be very few or no healthy choices available, bring your own. You can bring a side or something simple for an appetizer. A healthy appetizer gives you something to graze on, which can help you from overeating at the main event [1]. A vegetable tray full of baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, sugar snap peas, cauliflower, broccoli, and celery are always a good choice. Try bringing hummus or mix a packet of ranch seasoning with plain Greek yogurt for a delicious dip. Other healthy appetizer choices include deviled eggs (try Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise or guacamole for the filling), mixed nuts, turkey meatballs, or lightly salted popcorn.  

Make every bite count

            When faced with an array of tempting sweets, narrow down your choices to just your favorites. For example, when picking between your grandma’s famous sugar cookies that have been in your family for generations and are only made once a year or store-bought sugar cookies, go with Grandma. This can work for many items such as having dessert or a second helping, a dinner roll or a piece of pie, ice cream or a glass of wine. Survey what your choices are first and pick the foods you know you love while skipping the ones that you may feel “meh” about.

Share with a friend or family

            Everything tastes better when you share it with people you love. Pick a dessert and split it with someone else. You will still get 100% of flavor but only half of the calories. Also, socialize away from the snacks and appetizers to keep yourself from endlessly grazing.

Aim for sugar free beverages

            Liquid calories contain a lot of sugar but leave us hungry compared to solid food. Try drinking plain water, tea, or coffee with your meals. Alcohol contains not only calories but can also cause blood sugars to drop dramatically and without warning [2]. If you do drink alcohol, drink with your meal or have a light snack, such as peanut butter on whole wheat toast, if you haven’t eaten for the past four hours.

Add in extra exercise

            As time allows, increase your exercise. Consider going for an extra-long walk, ice skating, sledding, shopping, or the museum with family. Some video games are active, too, and this can be an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. If everyone is watching TV, make it a game to see who can do the most jumping jacks or another exercise during the commercials.   

Eat mindfully

Savor each bite, enjoying the texture and flavor. Chew slowly and put your fork down. Think about where the food came from and who made it. When you feel full, stop eating. Enjoy your meal without any guilt. Denying yourself your favorite foods can lead to vicious cycle of overeating, feeling guilty, and continuing to eat to make yourself feel better [3]. Break the cycle and make this your most wonderful holiday season yet.


[1] J. Weisenberger, “Fiber: Fiver’s Link With Satiety and Weight Control,” Today’s Dietitian, February 2015. [Online]. Available: https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/021115p14.shtml.
[2] American Diabetes Association, “What Can I Eat?,” [Online]. Available: http://main.diabetes.org/dorg/PDFs/awareness-programs/hhm/what_can_i_eat-alcohol-American_Diabetes_Association.pdf.
[3] C. Dennett, “Holiday Eating,” Today’s Dietitian, November 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/1116p22.shtml.

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