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How can I manage my diabetes during the holidays?

Ms. Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Keep your regular diabetic diet principles in mind as you enjoy your holidays. You can enjoy the same holiday meals as your family/friends with a few tips:

  • Portion control
  • Make 1/2 your plate filled with colorful, non-starchy vegetables, 1/4 of your plate filled with lean protein, 1/4 of your plate filled with whole grains, and a small portion of dessert
  • Calculate your carbs appropriately and remember to take your medicines per your physician recommendations
  • Monitor your blood sugar closely
  • Enjoy regular physical activity to help maintain your blood sugar within range
William Lee Dubois
Endocrinologist

Yeah, it’s a tough time of year: temptations abound, there’s unique social pressures, and our schedules are a mess. The best way to manage is one day at a time, and accept that it may not go according to plan.

Starting with the social stuff, it’s your right to defend your health, and it’s not impolite to do so. You can simply say, “I’m sorry. I’m diabetic, I can’t eat that. But thank you so much for offering, I really appreciate the thought.”

Someone who didn’t know about your diabetes may feel bad momentarily, but at least they won’t give you a fruit cake again next year. Never sabotage your own health simply to try to avoid hurting other people’s feelings, or out of some sort of miss-placed notion of what’s socially acceptable. Nor should you be in anyway embarrassed to have diabetes. It’s not like you have a sexually transmitted disease, after all.

Another problem this time of year is that you’re exposed to things that tempt you, that might not normally be in your environment. One of your co-workers will bring in freshly baked brownies.

One option is to “taste” the goodies and stop there.

Me? I soooooooo can’t do that. One bite leads to two, which leads to three, and then my blood sugar shoots up and I’m high anyway so I might as well eat 14 brownies and…

Well, I guess it’s clear that I’m a better tour guide than role model. So if you, like me, have little self control, and no control over your environment, one coping option is to keep a supply of healthy snacks on hand. They break out the white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies, you break out the beef jerky. Chewing sugar free gum throughout the holidays also works for some of us D-folk too.

So normally you hit you treadmill at 5 a.m., but now your mother-in-law is camping out in your home gym/guest bedroom? Exercise patterns are messy this time of year, and the risk is, if you get out of the habit, will you ever get back in the habit?

I think a little pre-planning can go a long way. Move your treadmill to your bedroom for a week or two. Or do sit-ups on the bathroom floor instead. Just get creative, but keep moving.

The most important thing, however, when it comes to the holidays, is remember that it’s okay to be human. If you eat things you didn’t want to, if you fall off the sugar-free wagon, don’t beat yourself up about it. No guilt. Dust that powdered sugar off your hands and start over.

Don’t look back for even one second.

Here are some quick tips to consider if you have diabetes:

  • Don’t bank your carbs, meaning that you skip meals or consumption of carbohydrates in order to “save up” for one big meal later on. That is not a healthy option for your blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • Use portion control carefully, and pick and choose treat foods.
  • Let family members know that if you refuse dishes or eat less, it’s for your health. Don’t let pushy relatives force you to abandon healthy eating principles. Prepare some respectful but clear statements ahead of time and deliver them with a smile.
  • Offer to bring a dish or appetizer that you know you can eat.
  • Suggest a walk between courses or between the main dish and dessert. The whole family will benefit, and it will help you to manage your own blood sugar levels if you ate a bit too much.
  • Offer to come and help with the preparations if you are not hosting the event, and share some healthy swap outs or recipe ideas that taste good and are healthier for everyone.

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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.