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Managing Diabetes During the Holiday Season

With the right tips, you can enjoy the holiday season while controlling your diabetes.

Managing diabetes over the holidays

Managing diabetes is difficult year-round, but it can be especially hard during the holidays.

“Keeping your carbohydrate intake and mealtimes consistent as the list of gatherings grows during the holidays is very difficult,” says endocrinologist Allison Froehlich, MD, with LVPG Endocrinology–East Stroudsburg.

When you are traveling, hosting family and being surrounded by a variety of sweet treats and other snacks, it can be difficult to stay on track and keep your blood sugar under control.

To support you during the hectic holiday season, we’ve gathered some helpful diabetes management tips below:

Keep a regular eating schedule

You should try eating as close to your normal mealtimes as possible to keep your blood sugar levels stable. If a family meal is being served later than you are used to, it is a good idea to grab a snack at your regular mealtime and eat a bit less during the group meal.

“Half of your plate should consist of vegetables. They provide vitamins, minerals and fiber that help manage your blood sugar.” - Allison Froehlich, MD

Watch your carbohydrates

If you want to grab a slice of pumpkin pie or other sweet treat, you may want to consider cutting back on other carbs (like potatoes or bread) during your meal.

“Half of your plate should consist of vegetables,” Dr. Froehlich says. “They provide vitamins, minerals and fiber that help manage your blood sugar.”

If you are hosting a holiday meal, you may want to consider providing extra vegetable, low- or no-carbohydrate dishes for your guests, especially if you know someone attending has diabetes.

Don’t skip meals

You may be tempted to skip a meal so you can “save up” for a larger group meal later on, but it can backfire by making it harder to manage your blood sugar and potentially causing you to overeat due to hunger.

Forgive yourself for slip-ups

Everyone makes a mistake now and then. It’s important not to judge yourself too harshly and focus instead on getting back on track.

“Think of the holidays as a road trip, with each outing with family and friends having the potential for increased carbohydrate intake, higher fat meals and not as many healthy options,” Dr. Froehlich says. “These outings are like various exits and sightseeing adventures on your trip. The most important thing is getting back on track after the ‘exit.’ In this case, it means making healthy choices in between gatherings and after.”

Avoid excessive limitations

You should enjoy the holidays and the seasonal foods they bring. Instead of overly limiting what you eat, be aware of your portion sizes and balance things out with larger servings of vegetables.  

Eat slower

By eating slower, you allow your brain to catch up to knowing you are full.

“When doing this, it’s best to start with your protein and vegetables so that by the time you reach your starch, you are already starting to feel full,” Dr. Froehlich says. “This allows you to eat less carbohydrates without feeling that you can’t enjoy any of the starchy foods that are associated with the holidays.”

Limit your alcohol consumption

As is true for everyone, it is best for individuals with diabetes to limit their alcohol consumption or avoid it altogether. It has the potential to greatly affect your blood sugar and potentially interact with the medications you take.

“Because of this, it’s always best to check with your physician first regarding alcohol before holiday celebrations begin,” Dr. Froehlich says.

Check your blood sugar more frequently

As you eat more and consume foods that are higher in carbohydrates, it is important to check your blood sugar more often than usual. This will allow you to stay on top of concerning changes and make modifications as needed.

Stay active

Big meals can leave you feeling sluggish, but physical activity is very important for helping you stabilize your blood sugar and offsetting the effects of larger meals.

Exercise can be fun and beneficial for the whole family, too. You can ask those around you to join walks after a big meal, or if you are pressed for time, you can take several smaller walks throughout the day.

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