Holiday planning for diabetes

If you have diabetes, it can be a challenge to be health conscious during the holidays.

Woman in black dress setting table for holiday dinner.

It can be very difficult to be health conscious this time of year as food and festivity will always be a major part of the holiday season. It’s an especially challenging time for those who have diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends planning ahead and provides the following tips and guidelines to help those with diabetes enjoy the foods associated with the holidays, while still staying healthy:

  • Think about the timing of your meal. Holiday meals, such as Thanksgiving, are often served at times that don’t align with our regular meal schedule. Take this into consideration if you are taking medication such as insulin injections or pills that lower blood glucose. Talk to your health care professional about having snacks available if low blood glucose is a concern.
  • Be physically active. Consider incorporating more exercise, such as walking, riding a bike or visiting the gym when you know you’ll be eating more than usual. Encourage family members to join you in starting new traditions that involve physical activity such as playing a game of Frisbee, soccer or touch football.
  • Try healthier versions of your favorite holiday foods. Try using fat-free or light ingredients when preparing your favorite holiday dishes. Add less sugar to dishes that already provide natural sweetness such as winter squash casseroles and fruit pies. Check out the American Diabetes Association website as well as other diabetes friendly recipes available online.
  • Have low calorie foods such as raw vegetables with low-fat dip or cheese on hand while you’re cooking or waiting to eat. Avoid high-calorie and/or fried foods that are often served as appetizers during the holidays.   
  • Be selective. High carbohydrate foods are a staple when it comes to many traditional holiday foods. Choose reasonable portions of your favorite high carb foods and allow yourself to pass on the rest.
  • Eat smaller portions. Don’t forget to use portion control when selecting foods that are higher in carbohydrates. Be mindful of keeping your total carbohydrate intake within a recommended range.
  • Eat your vegetables. Incorporate more color and nutrition to the holiday table by providing non-starchy vegetables dishes such as green salads and steamed vegetables to the menu. Vegetables not only fill you up, they can also help prevent you from overeating other foods that are loaded with calories and fat.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that people with diabetes always work with your health care team and offers diabetes programs that educate on proper eating and self-management, such as Dining with Diabetes.


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