Tips for Navigating the Holidays with Diabetes - Ascension Wisconsin

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Published on November 17, 2014

Tips for Navigating the Holidays with Diabetes

Holidays bring friends and family together, but the focus on food and eating during this season can be challenging, especially for families dealing with diabetes.

Many families eat large meals at odd times during the holidays. Those with diabetes must plan in advance if the meal does not line up with their regular meal schedule.

“Blood sugars may be higher during the holidays due to changes in normal eating and exercise routines. Taking medications at different times may also affect blood sugar numbers,” said Margaret Deau, RD, CD, a clinical dietitian at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare.

She says surviving the holidays is all about moderation. “Eat moderate portions of favorite foods, get a moderate amount of exercise on most days, and if you drink, drink in moderation. When invited to parties, offer to bring the veggie tray, that way you know you will have something to fill up on without affecting your waistline or your blood sugars.”

How to Stay in Control

Holiday meals and traditions don’t have to disrupt diabetes control. With a little preparation, some great recipes, and cooperation from loved ones you’ll be ready to face any holiday and still be able to enjoy it.

Here are some tips and recipes to help you navigate the holidays:

  • Focus on friends and family, not food. Play games, volunteer or spend time outdoors enjoying the winter weather.
  • Eat slowly. Enjoy the foods you may only have once a year. If the meal will be served near your usual meal time, try to eat the same amount of carbohydrate that you normally would for a meal. If you plan to have dessert, cut back on another carbohydrate food during the main course or wait two hours after a meal and use dessert as your snack. Make sure your portions are reasonable and resist going back for second helpings.
  • Drink in moderation. When drinking alcohol, try to have it with a meal, but if that’s not possible, then have some sort of small carb snack, such as pretzels, with the alcohol. Whether it’s a glass of red wine or a beer, holiday drinks can add a significant amount of calories to your holiday intake. Try to keep it to no more than one drink for women and two drinks for men.  Avoid drinks that have sugary, high calorie mixers like regular soda, tonic, juice, or margarita mix that are all packed with carbohydrates and calories. 
  • Stay active. One reason managing diabetes during the holidays is difficult is the lack of physical activity. The holidays are busy, but try to plan time into each day for exercise and don’t break your routine. Go for a walk with your loved ones after eating. Offer to help clean up after a meal. (Your hostess will love it.)
  • Get back on track. If you eat more carbs or food than you planned for, don’t think you have failed. Stop eating for the night and focus on spending the rest of your time with the people around you. Try to get extra exercise, monitor your blood glucose levels, and get back on track with your usual eating habits the next day.


Tips for Navigating the Holidays with Diabetes