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How To Manage Diabetes During The Holidays

*Disclaimer: All content and information in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only.

The holiday season is a time for festive celebrations, gatherings with loved ones, and of course, indulgent feasts. However for people with diabetes, the holiday season can present unique challenges between balancing family traditions, delicious temptations and maintaining blood sugar levels in a safe range. In this blog post, we will explore practical tips and strategies to help you manage your diabetes during the holiday season so you can partake in the seasonal festivities.

What does it mean to manage blood sugars with diabetes?

Managing blood sugars with diabetes is a comprehensive and daily commitment to maintaining glucose levels within a target range and preventing complications associated with fluctuating glucose levels. To manage blood sugars, individuals with diabetes are required to regularly monitor blood glucose levels often through the use of glucose meters or continuous glucose monitoring systems (CGMs) and making informed decisions about diet, exercise and medication. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) suggests the following guidelines for target blood sugar levels:  

  • Fasting Blood Sugar (before meals) Target Blood Sugar: 80-130 mg/dL
  • Postprandial Blood Sugar (after meals) Target Blood Sugar: Less than 180 mg/dL

When navigating blood sugar management during the holiday season, maintaining your usual blood sugar goals alongside festive routines may feel daunting and impossible. It is encouraged to discuss with your healthcare team to determine a safe blood sugar range that remains realistic and achievable during the holiday season and special occasions. This collaborative approach ensures that blood sugar management remains realistic and achievable during the holiday season. 

How to prepare for a holiday meal with diabetes

Preparing for a holiday meal with diabetes requires a thoughtful approach for enjoying your favorite holiday dishes. By incorporating structure and flexibility into your holiday meal preparations, you can indulge in the holiday festivities without compromising your blood sugar levels. Here are some tips to help you achieve the best of both worlds this holiday season: 

Bring a comfort dish

Consider contributing a comfort dish to the holiday spread that has a carbohydrate count that you’re familiar with for a reliable option to enjoy alongside other foods. 

Prioritize fiber

Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate source that slows down digestion and can help mitigate post-meal blood sugar spikes. Try prioritizing your fiber intake by filling half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. 

Eat dessert with your meal

Opt for enjoying dessert alongside your meal rather than a few hours later for a more balanced and complete meal to reduce significant blood sugar spikes later on.

Pack leftovers

Extending the joy of holiday meals by packing up leftovers not only allows you to enjoy your favorite foods throughout the week, but also helps in controlling portion sizes. 

Stay active

Incorporate physical activity into your holiday routine, such as a family walk, a game of football or walking the dog after a meal. Physical activity can make your body more sensitive to insulin which can help manage your blood sugar levels.  

Monitor blood sugars closely

Given the variability of holiday meals, you may want to stay informed by monitoring your blood sugar more closely to assist you with making timely adjustments to your medication as needed. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does eating a large meal raise blood sugar?

Any meal, whether small or large, will raise blood sugars when they contain carbohydrates. 

What foods can diabetics eat as much as they want?

Fiber-rich foods, such as non-starchy vegetables, generally have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels. 

What should people with diabetes eat on Thanksgiving and Christmas?

During Thanksgiving and Christmas, people with diabetes can eat a balanced meal by applying the mindful practices discussed earlier. These guidelines can help people with diabetes include their favorite festive foods while ensuring their blood sugar stays within a safe range. 

Resources:

  1. https://diabetesjournals.org/care/article/46/Supplement_1/S97/148053/6-Glycemic-Targets-Standards-of-Care-in-Diabetes

About Amanda Ciprich, MS, RD

Amanda Ciprich, a registered dietitian with a specialization in type 1 diabetes, was diagnosed with T1D herself at the age of 18. With her expertise and personal experience, she has authored two books, including "The Caregiver's Guide to Diabetes: Practical Advice for Caring for Your Loved One." As the founder of T1D Nutritionist, a virtual insurance-based private practice, Amanda provides counseling and guidance to individuals with T1D and their families, supporting them in effectively managing diabetes

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