How Do I Eat Healthy at the Holidays with Diabetes? Ask a Nutritionist.

Categories: Ask a Nutritionist, Blog

‘Tis the season for family, festivity, and food—lots of food. Temptations are everywhere, and parties and travel can disrupt daily routines. But you can still eat healthy during the holidays, even with diabetes.

So how exactly do you stick to your diabetes meal plan when everyone around you seems to be splurging? Here are 5 tips that can help:

1. Holiday-Proof Your Plan

You may not be able to control what food you’re served, and you’re going to see other people eating tempting treats. Meet the challenges armed with a plan:

  • Eat close to your usual times to keep your blood sugar steady. If your meal is served later than normal, eat a small snack at your usual mealtime and eat a little less when dinner is served.
  • Invited to a party? Offer to bring a healthy dish along.
  • If you have a sweet treat, cut back on other starchy foods such as potatoes and bread during the meal.
  • Don’t skip meals to save up for a meal. It will be harder to manage your blood sugar, and you’ll be really hungry and more likely to overeat.
  • If you slip up, get right back to healthy eating with your next meal.

2. Outsmart the Buffet

When you face a spread of delicious holiday food, make healthy choices easier:

  • Have a small plate of the foods you like best and then move away from the buffet table.
  • Start with vegetables to take the edge off your appetite.
  • Eat slowly. It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol. If you do have an alcoholic drink, have it with food. Alcohol can lower blood sugar and interact with diabetes medicines.

Also plan to stay on top of your blood sugar. Check it more often during the holidays, and if you take medicine, ask your doctor if the amount needs to be adjusted.

3. Fit in Favorites

No food is on the naughty list entirely. It’s often about portion control and moderation! Choose the dishes you really love and can’t get any other time of year, like Aunt Edna’s pumpkin pie. Slow down and savor a small serving, and make sure to count it in your meal plan.

4. Keep Moving

You’ve got a lot on your plate this time of year, and physical activity can get crowded out. But being active is your secret holiday weapon; it can help make up for eating more than usual and reduce stress during this most stressful time of year. Get moving with friends and family, such as taking a walk after a holiday meal.

5. Get Enough Sleep

Going out more and staying out later often means cutting back on sleep. Sleep loss can make it harder to manage your blood sugar, and when you’re sleep deprived you’ll tend to eat more and prefer high-fat, high-sugar food. Aim for 7 to 8 hours per night to guard against mindless eating.

Most of all, remember what the season is about—celebrating and connecting with the people you care about. When you focus more on the fun, it’s easier to focus less on the food.

Have a Safe, Healthy and Happy Holiday Season!

Joanne M. Gallivan, M.S., R.D.N. is a registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She served as the Director of the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) in the Office of Communication and Public Liaison for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 1997-2016.  Previously, Ms. Gallivan has served as project manager for NIDDK’s Weight-Control Information Network (WIN), a national source of information on weight control, obesity, and weight-related nutritional disorders for health professionals and the public; as Contract Manager for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s National Cholesterol Education Program and Obesity Education Initiative, and as Director of the Prince George’s County Health Department Nutrition Division located in Maryland.

Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic is a free clinic in Charleston, SC, that provides free medical care to uninsured adults. The Free Clinic serves adults with no health insurance living at or below 299 % of the Federal poverty level who live or work on Johns, James, & Wadmalaw Island or Folly Beach, or serve the Hospitality Industry of Downtown Charleston. You can sign up for our monthly e-news updates, or follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.