People with diabetes can enjoy holiday foods and still stay healthy

Here are some simple tips to prepare for and manage holiday meals when living with diabetes.

A table filled with holiday foods.
Photo: Flickr.

If you have diabetes, you know that eating healthy can be very challenging during the holiday season. Family gatherings and social events are often centered around food and drinks this time of year. Healthy eating is one of the best tools for managing blood glucose levels. However, the temptation to partake in favorite foods laden with fat and sugar is sometimes hard to resist.

The Association for Diabetes Care and Education Specialists provides a Holiday Toolkit with the suggestions on how to eat healthier during the holidays: 

  • Make sure to eat breakfast and continue eating meals and snacks regularly throughout the day. Fasting before a big meal may affect your blood glucose levels negatively.
  • Be aware of how many servings of starchy foods you eat. Bread, rice, potatoes and corn are examples of foods that fit into this category.
  • Make sure to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet. Raw, grilled or steamed fruits and veggies are a great source of vitamins and minerals, are low in fat, high in fiber and may help you feel full longer on fewer calories.
  • Avoid high-calorie drinks. Instead, choose water, diet soda and coffee and/or tea without cream or sugar. Hydration is not only good for your body, it makes you feel fuller.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol. Alcohol, especially on an empty stomach, can lower blood sugar. Make sure to talk with your doctor about whether it is safe to drink alcohol.
  • Physical activity is an important part of diabetes management and can help keep your blood sugar levels within a normal range. Walking not only keeps you moving and on track with your goals, it’s a fun and healthy activity you can do with friends and family.
  • Don’t be hard on yourself if you overeat or get off track with your meal planning. Instead, look ahead, problem solve and come up with a plan that gets you on the path to healthier eating.

According to the American Diabetes Association, “the most important thing about managing diabetes during the holiday season is to plan ahead.” Michigan State University Extension recommends taking some time to look at your schedule and plan accordingly. Watch your portion sizes and adjust your menu to lower the amount of fat, sugar and carbohydrates that are in your favorite foods. The USDA’s Healthy, Thrifty Holiday Menus provides healthier recipe options for traditional Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and or Kwanzaa meals. 

MSU Extension also provides programs that can help people with diabetes learn how to more effectively manage this disease, including the National Diabetes Prevention Program, Diabetes PATH (Personal Action Towards Health) and Dining With Diabetes.

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