Easy Tips for Managing Diabetes During the Holidays

3 Easy Tips for Managing Diabetes During the Holidays

By Stacey Frede, PharmD, BCACP, CDE

The excitement and buzz of the holiday season is all around – the music and lights, the traditions and memories, the giving and receiving, the family and friends. While this is the “most magical time of the year,” it can also be stressful for those managing diabetes. The parties and dinners with all the temptations and treats can be stressful and overwhelming. You deserve to celebrate and enjoy this time of year; these three tips will help you maintain control of your blood sugar while celebrating the season!

Keep to your nutrition, activity and monitoring schedule. Easier said than done, right? But the truth is, diabetes is best managed by following a healthy routine. You work hard the entire year to be healthy and control your condition. Don’t. Stop. Now. Overcome the urge to let a few scheduled events throw off your entire day, week or month.

  • When it comes to nutrition: A dinner party or other evening event doesn’t have to impact your normal healthy breakfast and lunch. Avoid trying to “save” calories or carbs because you think you will overindulge at the party. Skipping meals will impact your blood sugar, too. So, keep your normal routine whenever possible.
  • When it comes to activity: Work to keep your overall minutes of activity each week consistent. For example, if you do 30 minutes of cardio five mornings a week, you’re getting 150 minutes of cardio each week. If Saturday morning is part of your routine, but you have a holiday brunch scheduled with friends, simply move your Saturday morning activity to one of the other two mornings of the week that you typically don’t exercise. Or, move the activity too later in the day after brunch.
  • When it comes to monitoring: It is even more important to regularly monitor blood sugar when there are changes in your routine. Remember, knowledge is power. Many people will be tempted to skip a blood sugar reading due to fear that it will be higher than normal. This is when it is most important to check! In fact, you may want to check more often. Knowing your numbers allows you to react and adjust your plan if needed and as instructed by your healthcare provider. (Tip: If your holiday season involves traveling, also review 3 Helpful Tips to Better Monitor Blood Sugar While Traveling.

Plan for your events and celebrations. Now that you have decided to stick to your normal routine as much as possible, it’s time to discuss how to handle those special events! The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) has some great tips on holiday-season eating that can help you navigate through any party, dinner or event. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Choosing foods that are vegetable- and protein-based is your healthiest option. These foods should make up most of your selections. However, that doesn’t mean you have to skip your family’s favorite holiday traditional food – grandma’s raisin cookie or the sweet potato casserole, for example. Enjoy these by selecting only one or two special items and limiting your portions.
  • If you are attending an event where you know there won’t be enough healthy selections or where you don’t know what the selection will be, you can bring your own dish. This way, you know that it will be fabulous, but also healthy. Alternatively, you can eat before you arrive to the event and limit your intake there, as well as strategically stay away from the buffet of appetizers and desserts. Keeping your distance from the food is a small trick that can go a long way to helping you resist temptations!
  • How you plan for the event will also depend on how long you have had diabetes and your level of control. For individual advice based on your specific needs, consider scheduling a telenutrition visit with one of our registered dietitians. They are ready to help you navigate through your personalized needs and may even have some great suggestions for substitutions that can make your favorite holiday recipes healthier.

Focus on the reason for the season. It is important to remember the real reason that you’re celebrating this season and what is truly special about the holidays. Focusing on the time you spend with family and friends, staying present and making memories can help turn the focus away from any food that may be tempting you or causing stress. Counting blessings and being grateful will contribute to a wonderful, fulfilling holiday season that’s healthier, too!

Explore more healthy living advice from our team of experts.