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9 Holiday Tips for People With Diabetes

How do you manage diabetes during the holidays?

As the holiday season envelops us in a blanket of celebration and joy, it also brings with it a plethora of temptations that can pose unique challenges for people managing diabetes, especially seniors, who are more prone to diabetes complications.

For those dealing with the condition, finding a balance between the warmth of cherished traditions and the need for mindful health practices is paramount during the holiday season. Focusing on traditions and food during this time of year can be challenging and stressful, but we’re here to give you some tips on how to manage diabetes during the holidays.

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manage diabetes during the holidays
Photo by Roman Samborskyi from Shutterstock

1. Plan ahead

Before you get to any event, make sure you have a plan in place for what you’ll have. For times when you go to a restaurant, looking at the menu ahead of time is a great way to help lower your sugar and calorie intake.

If the event is held at a friend’s house, ask the host what they are planning to cook for the feast. While you’re at it, offer to bring a healthy dish to accompany their meals. If you’re looking for some inspiration, this cookbook has plenty of diabetic-friendly recipes!

Planning ahead is a good way to manage diabetes during the holidays because it helps you watch your diet and lowers your chances of falling prey to temptations.

For instance, if you know that there will only be hord d’oeuvres, make sure you pick those that minimize spiking your blood sugar and are lower in calories. Welcome lean proteins and vegetables to your plate, and be cautious of sauces or dips, which can add hidden sugar, salt, or calories.

2. Be conscious of the timing of the feast

During the holidays, the big feast may start at various times, depending on how or when the host likes to celebrate. For example, some people start their big meal at 4 or 5 p.m., and if you’re looking for ways to manage diabetes during the holidays, it’s important to be prepared for this aspect.

If the festive meal doesn’t align with your regularly scheduled meals, plan beforehand for how you’ll handle making changes. Those who take insulin pills or injections that lower their blood sugar may want to speak with their healthcare provider to best plan how to deal with the changes in meal times.

3. Stick to the diabetes plate method

One of the best ways to manage diabetes during the holidays—and also throughout the year—is using the Plate Method. According to the American Diabetes Association, this method helps you have control over your portions without counting and measuring your food.

Using this method, you should fill half your plate with low-carb vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, or a green salad; fill one quarter with starches like sweet potatoes, whole grains, or fruits; and fill the last quarter with high-protein foods like poultry or fish.

4. Don’t skip meals

Skipping breakfast can negatively impact your blood glucose and nutrient intake. In order to manage diabetes during the holidays, it’s essential to ensure this doesn’t happen too often.

According to a study conducted by Ohio State University, adults who skipped breakfast consumed more snacks, increasing their intake of added sugars and refined carbs. Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that skipping breakfast hurt the overall diet of adults, especially those with diabetes.

This being said, one way to manage diabetes during the holidays is to make sure you eat your meals. If you’re too busy to sit down for one, consider making portable foods for these grab-and-go kinds of days.

Read on to discover other tips on how to manage diabetes during the holidays!

active lifestyle
Photo by Ground Picture from Shutterstock

5. Be physically active

Keeping your body moving is still essential throughout the holiday season. While you may feel the need to take a break and truly enjoy the festive vibe, don’t forget that your diabetes doesn’t take a break just because it’s Christmas.

A great way to manage diabetes during the holidays is to start a new tradition that involves physical activity. For instance, an interesting and fun option would be the local “turkey trot,” which is a race or long walk that typically takes place on Thursday morning before Thanksgiving.

Another idea would be to get family and neighbors involved in activities like a friendly game of football or baseball, dancing to the beat of music, or just taking a lovely walk around the block.

6. Plan your snacks

Another tip that will help you manage diabetes during the holidays is planning your snacks. On the day of the Christmas feast, you may need to wait a while before being served dinner. If it’s possible, check with your host in advance to see if there will be any appetizers before the actual dinner starts.

Ask what kinds of food will be served so you can prevent blood sugar spikes before the meal. You can even offer to bring skewered chicken or crudités as an appetizer.

7. Be smart about carbs

One of the best ways to manage diabetes during the holidays is to pay attention to carbs. While foods rich in them can provide a lot of good nutrients, they also have the most significant impact on blood sugar.

This being said, it’s important to pick your carbohydrates wisely and go for whole grains and low-glycemic-index foods—carbs that have less of an impact on blood glucose levels—whenever possible. Some healthy options include beans, nuts, low-fat cheese, eggs, hummus, sweet potatoes, and brown rice.

In contrast, foods with a high glycemic load and glycemic index cause blood glucose to rapidly increase, which results in spikes in blood sugar. Aim to limit processed and refined carbohydrates and choose fiber-rich whole foods.

holiday feast
Photo by Ground Picture from Shutterstock

8. Eat smaller portions

A great trick that will help you manage diabetes during the holidays is to reduce food portions. Most likely, there will be lots of delicious options at your holiday feasts that you’re eager to try. As a result, your best bet is to eat smaller portions.

If you can’t decide on one or two carbohydrate foods to consume, take a smaller portion or “samples” of several. To keep your blood sugar within healthy ranges, aim to keep your total carb intake for the meal (including dessert) as it would be on a normal day.

If there’s a dish that you still want to try, but you know it would be too much for your blood glucose to handle, then ask the host if they can give you a small portion to go so you can enjoy it the next day as leftovers.

9. Keep alcohol in check

Last but not least on our list of tips on how to manage diabetes during the holidays: don’t go too far with the alcohol!

You can still enjoy it in small amounts on occasion, but keep in mind that alcohol can cause a drop in blood sugar levels, which can be dangerous if you take insulin or are under glucose-lowering treatment. This happens because the liver focuses more on metabolizing alcohol than producing and maintaining stable blood glucose.

The recommended guidelines for people with diabetes are the same as for all adults: For males, no more than two drinks per day, and for females, no more than one drink per day. One drink equals a 5-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce beer, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits like whiskey, vodka, or rum.

If you liked our article on tips on how to manage diabetes during the holidays, you may also want to read These 5 Delicious Diabetes-Friendly Dessert Recipes Are Just Mouth-Watering.

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