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How can I follow my diabetes meal plan during holidays?

If you have diabetes, you may worry about what you will eat for holiday meals. With a little bit of planning, you can enjoy holiday celebrations as much as before your diagnosis—and perhaps even more so given that you won’t leave the celebration feeling overstuffed. The key is to eat and drink in moderation and maintain healthy blood glucose levels.

These tips can help you enjoy a healthy holiday meal, while staying on track with diabetes management:

  • Offer to bring a dish. If you are concerned that your host may not have foods that are suitable for your diet, offer to bring one of your favorite healthy dishes. Others at the party may also welcome having a heart-healthy option. In general, you will want to choose from recipes that are nutritionally balanced, high in fiber, low in fat (especially saturated fat) and moderate-to-low in salt. Load up with vegetables; choose lean meats, chicken and fish-and prepare them by baking or broiling; choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products; avoid high-sodium processed foods and limit how much salt you add to food; and enjoy some fresh fruit every day. As for how much you should eat of starchy foods like bread, pasta, potatoes and rice, follow the advice of your doctor and dietitian. Finally, watch the calories.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit it to one drink for women and two drinks for men per day. (One drink is a 12-ounce beer, a 4-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled alcohol.) Keep in mind that alcohol has a lot of calories. In addition, it tends to raise blood levels of triglycerides.
  • Never go to a party hungry. Small frequent meals can help keep your blood glucose level stable throughout the day and can also help you avoid overeating at the party.
  • Focus on conversations. One trick for reducing how much you eat at holiday parties is to really use them as an opportunity to socialize. Catch up with friends, family, or coworkers, instead of making the celebration primarily about food.
Sarah Krieger
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

If you're cooking, the good news is that everyone at a holiday dinner will benefit from a nutritious, tasty meal. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Focus on colorful fresh fruits and vegetables. Be sure to offer a huge salad including lots of fresh lettuces, cucumbers, peppers or any other lower carbohydrate vegetable. Top with fresh pomegranate seeds or fresh orange sections for a holiday twist without added sugar. Keep oil and vinegar on the side for each guest to add and everyone will enjoy. Keep the cooking of other vegetables simple by steaming or roasting fresh green beans or Brussel sprouts and add a bit of fresh lemon zest for flavor without added calories.
  2. Keep low-calorie, sugar-free beverages on hand, such as sparkling water, unsweetened tea-hot or cold and coffee.
  3. For classic holiday starches: mashed potatoes, winter squashes, stuffing/dressing, dinner rolls and on and on...perhaps ask in advance to any guests what they prefer and include 2 instead of 4 or more options. The less options, the better and everyone will still be satisfied.
  4. Lean protein foods, such as turkey, pork tenderloin, shrimp and other shellfish and fish are great for everyone.

A balanced meal of lean protein, lots of vegetables and a few starches can make for a nutritious, delicious meal that is great for all people regardless of any conditions they have.

Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

As a diabetic, it is important to consider your carbohydrates that you are consuming. Carbohydrates come in many forms and although sweets should be consumed in smaller amounts they can be a part of a balanced meal as long as you count your carbs and balance your meal.

If you like sweets, one of the most tempting parts of the holidays is the dessert. Even though you have diabetes, you can still fit sweets into your meal plan. Eating high-sugar foods like cakes, candy, cookies and pies will make blood glucose rise, so do not just add them to your diet. Instead, substitute small portions of these sweets for other carbohydrates already in your meal plan. For example, if you want a small serving of pumpkin pie, then pass on eating a dinner roll during the main course.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.