Diseases & Conditions

Holiday Dietary Tips for People with Diabetes

By on 11/15/2017

Jacki Dwyer, RDN, MS, CDE

Why can the holidays be challenging when you have diabetes?

People with diabetes work hard all year to stay on course with managing their blood glucose levels. During holiday time, we are challenged with parties, a lot of large meals, alcohol, travel and changing schedules and routines. This can result in increased stress, lack of sleep, and ultimately higher blood glucose levels.

What are suggestions to help people keep their appetite and blood sugar in check, particularly if they’re having a big holiday meal later in the day?

  • First and foremost, keep on schedule with your diabetes medications.
  • Eat breakfast or snacks earlier in the day. If you skip meals, it may be harder to manage your blood sugar.
  • Schedule some time to exercise. Making time to be physically active is one of the best ways to keep weight and blood sugars better managed.
  • Stay on schedule with monitoring your blood sugars. This can allow for better decision-making around food choices.

Any suggestions on what to eat or easy food choice swaps to avoid a carb or sugar overload?

  • It is extremely important to make a plan. Deciding in advance or writing down what you plan to eat may help with reducing total food intake.
  • Have calorie-free drinks such as water, tea, seltzer, or diet soda.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. If you have a drink, have it with food. Remember, alcohol also has calories and often jump-starts your appetite. Some lower-calorie options include dry white wine, champagne, or light beer.
  • To help with portion control, use a smaller plate, especially if the meal is buffet-style. Fill your plate with vegetables and salads first before going for an entrée and dessert.
  • Limit the amount of starchy foods on your plate (mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and macaroni and cheese). Stay away from bread or rolls. You can have them anytime!
  • If you’re an invited guest, offer to bring a grilled or steamed vegetable.
  • A lot of people eat turkey during the holidays, and it’s a healthy source of lean protein. Be sure to use gravy in moderation since it’s high in fat.

What recommendations do you have regarding dessert?

  • You can successfully plan for dessert by eating fewer carbohydrates at your meal.
  • If you have a dessert, make it a smaller portion, eat it slowly and savor the taste.
  • Ask yourself, am I full? If the answer is yes, try and delay dessert until a later time or bring a dessert home to enjoy the next day.

How can people incorporate physical activity into the actual holiday?

  • We all know that the day of the holiday can be hectic. Some people find it easier to plan an activity such as walking earlier in the day. This way you have already accomplished a healthy behavior and it may motivate you to continue this throughout the day.
  • If you are running out to do last-minute shopping, park your car farther away to get in some extra steps.
  • You can start a new family tradition such as going on a walk after the big meal instead of sitting on the couch. Taking a walk after a meal is a great way to help reduce post meal blood sugar spikes.

Jacki Dwyer, RDN, MS, CDE is a Registered Dietitian/Diabetes Educator at Einstein Healthcare Network’s Gutman Diabetes Institute.



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