Diabetes Versus The Holidays

Concerned about how to celebrate and manage the disease?

by Sara LaBella


Thanksgiving and the holiday season are just around the corner. The thought of holiday food can be a source of anxiety for people living with diabetes.  There are ways to enjoy the holiday season without increasing your stress or your blood sugars.

The first bit of advice is to remember to stay active during this time of year.  You may be able to be a little more flexible during the meal if you have exercised enough.  The holidays are all about spending time with family and friends, so get them involved in your healthy lifestyle too!  Some ideas are walking around the neighborhood before mealtime, or playing a friendly game of football.  No matter what your exercise of choice is this season, help it strengthen your relationships and your health.

Don’t starve yourself before just to feast during the meal.  Snack on veggies (without fatty dips) and fruits while avoiding crackers and things that are fried or covered in cheese.  If you can fill yourself up on snacks full of lean protein and fiber, you will be able to better curb your appetite during the big meal.  Call the host before the big day and ask what type of menu they are planning.  If it sounds like there won’t be some healthy appetizer options, offer to bring a veggie platter.!

Avoid carbohydrates and starchy dishes when you can.  During this time of year, there a ton of options on the table to choose from, and be smart about the choices that you make.  If you have a few favorites that you wait all year for, you need not completely pass on them; instead,  take only a small portion.  Pass on any extra helpings of rolls, noodles pasta, corn, stuffing, and mashed potatoes.

Opt to only fill your plate once, and keep it balanced. Challenge yourself to make  the “perfect plate”.  Fill up half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables; this means avoiding corn, peas, pumpkin, plantains,  and potatoes.  Fill up this section with foods like broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc.  A quarter of your plate should be reserved for lean protein, such as turkey, chicken, or fish.  If possible, avoid fatty ham, and beef. The last quarter of the plate is for carbohydrates.  Be sure to be conscious of what you put in this section!,If dishes  are cooked with a lot of butter or cream, keep the portions small.  The important thing to remember is balance.  Try to not eat more carbohydrates and fats than you would on a normal day.

Last but not least, try to limit the intake of alcohol during the holiday season. It could cause huge fluctuations in your blood sugar and can be damaging to your diet.  Stick with a glass of wine or a light beer.  Always have a full glass of water on hand that will help to fill you up and keep you hydrated so you’re less likely to make poor food choices.

Remember to celebrate and enjoy the holidays; don’t look at them like a punishment!  There is a way to enjoy yourself without going overboard. Be sure to test your blood sugar often, both before and after the meal. Record them along with what you ate so that you can continue to take the lessons to continue to make healthy choices in the future.


1. Woolley, E. (February 21, 2012). List of Starchy Vegetables. About.com Type 2 Diabetes. Accessed October 29, 2012.  http://diabetes.about.com/od/nutrition/a/List-Of-Starchy-Vegetables.htmInstead of only focusing on the food, appreciate the time with loved ones!


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