Managing Diabetes During the Holidays

On a normal day, managing diabetes requires constant attention to blood sugar levels and thoughtful choices in your diet. During the holidays, things get even more complicated for diabetics. Parties, travel, and a never-ending barrage of sugary treats can disrupt their routine and create a real health challenge.

I’ve compiled some tips below from the CDC and the American Diabetes Association to help people with diabetes enjoy a healthy holiday season.

Garlic White Bean Dip

Garlic White Bean Dip

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. Offer to bring a pretty veggie platter with a low-fat bean dip that provides fiber and protein to make sure you've got a smart option.

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Plan for Success

  • Remember to regularly check your blood sugar throughout the holidays. Adding a few extra checks on a party day may help guide your choices.
  • Offer to bring a healthy dish if you’re invited to a party.
  • Don’t skip meals to save up for a feast. It will be harder to keep your blood sugar in control, and you’ll be extra hungry and more likely to overeat.
  • Eat a small, balanced meal or snack before you leave home.

At Meals and Parties…

  • Eat close to your usual times to keep your blood sugar steady. If your meal is served later than normal, eat a small snack at your usual mealtime and eat a little less when dinner is served.
  • Start with vegetables and lean proteins.
  • If you have a sweet treat, cut back on other carbs (like potatoes and bread) during the meal.
  • Stick to calorie-free drinks such as water, tea, seltzer, or diet sodas instead of punch or mixed drinks.
  • 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.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol. If you do have an alcoholic drink, have it with food. Alcohol can lower blood sugar and interact with diabetes medicines.
  • If you slip up, get right back to healthy eating with your next meal.

Are you hosting? Check out Alli’s blog on planning diabetic-friendly parties.

For Holiday Travel…

  • Keep a quick-acting source of glucose nearby along with an easy-to-carry snack such as a nutrition bar.
  • Try to avoid extended periods of time without eating.
  • Don’t put insulin in checked baggage where it could be affected by severe changes in pressure and temperature.
  • Adjust your insulin pump’s clock if you change time zones.

Prioritize Exercise and Rest

  • Keep moving. Being active is your secret holiday weapon; it can help make up for eating more than usual and reduce stress during this most stressful time of year. Get moving with friends and family, such as taking a walk after a holiday meal.
  • Get your sleep. Going out more and staying out later often means cutting back on sleep. Sleep loss can make it harder to control your blood sugar, and when you’re sleep deprived you’ll tend to eat more and prefer high-fat, high-sugar food. Aim for 7 to 8 hours per night to guard against mindless eating.

I hope these strategies can help you or someone else you know with diabetes this holiday season. It’s possible for diabetics to manage their blood sugar levels and still enjoy holiday gatherings and festivities. It just takes a few extra steps.