Tips to Help You Navigate the Holidays with Diabetes

You are allowed to eat your favorite holiday foods. The key is to enjoy them in moderation and to plan ahead.

Cookies and stuffing and pies, oh my! The holiday season is stressful for most of us, but the added task of managing blood sugars makes this time of year exceptionally difficult for those with diabetes. Before you decide to skip your company holiday party or dine purely on salads for the remainder of the year, let’s talk about some ways you can have your cake and eat it too!

Moderation Not Deprivation

Eating is more than just a survival mechanism; it is the embodiment of social and cultural traditions, brings us pleasure, ignites our senses, and brings us closer to our loved ones. The holiday season is a special time of year when friends and family can come together to share delicious and extravagant meals. Nobody should miss out on these experiences, even if you have diabetes.

You are allowed to eat your favorite holiday foods. The key is to enjoy them in moderation and to plan ahead. Let’s review a few tips that will help you simultaneously manage your diabetes and indulge in the flavors of the season.

Tip #1 Find Balance

The word “balance” may seem overused by the nutrition industry, but it truly is the key to a healthy and sustainable diet. Depriving yourself of your favorite foods will only lead to frustration and episodes of binge eating. By giving yourself the space to enjoy an occasional treat, you will be more likely to stay on track in the long term and less likely to fall victim to overindulgence.

  • Decide ahead of time which “pleasure foods” you want to eat and set boundaries with yourself to stick with only those.
  • First, fill your plate with low-carb and low-fat foods, such as grilled veggies and meats.
  • Serve yourself your pleasure foods last to avoid overindulging.
  • Limit yourself to 1-2 servings of alcohol. But first, make sure it will not interfere with your medications.

Tip #2 Enjoy Your Food

Many of us get in the habit of rushing our meals or mindlessly grazing on high-calorie snacks without actually taking the time to savor and appreciate the food. Please take a moment with each meal to enjoy the food on your plate this holiday season! When intentionally focusing on how your food tastes and smells, you are more likely to feel satisfied at the end of your meal and less likely to reach for seconds.

Tip #3 Consider Meal Timing

If you usually take your diabetes medications around meals, be sure to plan for unusual lunch and dinner times. It may be necessary to eat a small snack or adjust the timing of your medication doses to avoid a sudden decrease in blood sugar.

Tip #4 Don’t Skip Meals

Although it may sound reasonable to skip breakfast or lunch in order to eat more holiday food at a dinner party, this can backfire and lead to potentially dangerous swings in your blood sugar levels.

Skipping a meal might cause your blood sugar to drop too low, and going to a party while hungry may result in overindulgence that can make your blood sugar too high. Rapid changes in your blood glucose can make you feel ill, making it more difficult to enjoy time with friends and family.

Enjoying your usual meals throughout the day will keep your blood sugar steady and prevent you from overeating when it comes time to attend your holiday gathering.

The Case for Rest and Hydration

As human beings, we all require hydration and rest to function at our best. For those with diabetes, neglecting these fundamental needs can cause fatigue and sickness and make managing this disease even harder. Making rest and hydration a priority during the holidays will give you more freedom to enjoy the foods you love and more energy to spend time with the people who matter most to you.

#1 Manage Holiday Stressors

The holiday season is a stressful time for all. Because stress has been linked with poor diabetes management, it is especially important for you to find ways to minimize stressors as you navigate the holidays.

Rest is one of the best ways to ease feelings of stress, but rest doesn’t have to involve sleeping. Any activity that takes your mind off of events or tasks that make you feel tense will effectively reduce stress levels and keep your diabetes in check. A few examples of relaxing activities are:

  • Taking a talk
  • Playing with a pet
  • Crafts or art projects
  • Listening to music
  • Reading a book
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Cooking

#2 Stay Hydrated

People with diabetes are at an increased risk of dehydration when their blood sugar is high. Your kidneys will try to eliminate excess blood sugar by filtering blood faster. Unfortunately, as your kidneys excrete sugar through your urine, they also remove water.

Because your blood sugar is more likely to be elevated during the holidays, you should be mindful of drinking enough water. Staying hydrated will give you more energy during this busy season and help keep your blood sugar levels steady.

When To Call Your Doctor

Although we’ve covered numerous tips to help keep your diabetes on track during the holidays, we understand that the best-laid plans sometimes go awry. Blood sugar fluctuations from overindulging in sweets or skipping meals can make you feel ill, so be sure to monitor your blood glucose levels regularly.

If you feel ill or faint and your blood sugar is low, eat a high-carb snack like a banana or a glass of orange juice. After 15 minutes, eat another sugary snack and notify a trusted loved one if it remains low. If you have frequent low blood sugars, your medication doses may be too high. Call your doctor to talk about adjusting your medications.

High blood sugar accompanied by the following symptoms may indicate a serious diabetic emergency known as Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA).

  • Severe thirst and dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fast, deep breathing
  • Flushed face
  • Fruity-smelling breath
  • Headache and fatigue
  • Muscle aches or stiffness
  • Abdominal pain

DKA is a medical emergency that you should not manage at home. Have a friend or family member drive you to the nearest emergency room if you begin to exhibit any of these symptoms.

The holidays are a time for friends, family, good food, and high spirits. We hope that by following these tips you will be able to relax and enjoy everything the season has to offer.

The Siren Team wishes you a Healthy & Happy Holiday!


WebMD. Sweet Holiday Tips for Diabetics.

Diabetes UK. Stress and Diabetes.

Healthline. What to Know About Diabetes and Dehydration.

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