News of the Center

By Mary Rose Deraco RN, BSN, CDE

The holidays can be a time of great joy, but it can also pose a challenge for people with diabetes. The traditionally food-focused season can result in weight gain and difficulties maintaining glucose control. In addition to the high cost of managing diabetes, budgets can be stressed with the increased expense of gift shopping and holiday travel. Parties and social commitments can distract you from the healthy routines of exercise, meal planning, sleep, and meditation that keep you centered and balanced.

When preparing for a more fulfilling holiday season, ask yourself what was difficult about last year so you can plan to overcome your barriers and pave new roads to success. Here are some of the tips I share with my clients to to create a more fulfilling holiday season.

Changing Routines

Changes in routine or activity can result in the need for adjustments in insulin or medications. If you are traveling overseas or taking a trip that requires a lot of exercise, you may want to meet with your health care provider to discuss how to adjust your medications and insulin when you travel. Most experts recommend that you monitor your blood sugar and weigh yourself more often over the holidays. One recent study found that the simple act of weighing yourself daily prevents the weight gain that many people experience over the holiday season.

Healthier Holiday Eating

Many traditional holiday foods are high in carbohydrates, so portion size is the key to success. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, and desserts contain a lot of carbohydrates, sugar, and hidden fats, which can pack on the pounds. Don’t feel like you have to sample everything on the table. Have a reasonable “taste” of your favorite foods and, when filling your plate, use the plate method as your guide. Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables and divide the other half of your plate into lean protein and complex carbohydrates (preferably grains, beans, or high-fiber starches.) Try to keep your total carbohydrate intake close to that of a regular day. If you plan on eating a big meal, make the other two meals low-carb and low-calorie. If you don’t have daily carbohydrate goals, see your diabetes educator or dietitian for guidance.

A great place to find diabetes friendly recipes for favorite holiday meals is the Diabetes Food Hub, a site created by the American Diabetes Association: The food hub offers a meal planner with a shopping list generator and additional holiday and year-round eating tips.

Parties & Drinking

While holiday parties can be fun, they can pose a challenge for people who are trying to maintain their weight and a healthy lifestyle. Avoid the temptation of high-calorie appetizers by eating a healthy snack before you leave. For potluck events, bring a platter of raw or blanched veggies or shrimp cocktail with your favorite low-calorie dip. You can also sit away from the buffet and appetizers and gravitate toward guests who are eating healthier foods.

Holiday spirits and beverages can be a huge calorie trap that can cause unwanted fluctuations in glucose. Stay hydrated with calorie-free fluids such as flat or carbonated water or unsweetened iced tea or coffee. Avoid drinking empty calories in juice, soda, lemonade, or traditional holiday drinks like eggnog. Avoid cocktails that are mixed with sugar and fruit juice and choose lower-carb alternative such as light beer, dry wine, or spirts served on the rocks or mixed with diet or club soda. If you are taking insulin or other medication than cause hypoglycemia, remember that drinking alcohol can cause low blood sugar, especially overnight.

Remember to Exercise

Strive to stay active over the holidays by walking first thing in the morning before you get busy or after big meals to lower your post-meal glucose levels. Exercising in the morning can improve your body’s ability to burn glucose more efficiently throughout the day. Physical activity improves your mental and physical fitness by improving metabolism and sleep as well as releasing hormones that help regulate stress and anxiety. Try to keep up with the American Diabetes Association’s recommendation of a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week and add it to your list of New Year's resolutions for next year. Have a healthy holiday season, and let me know if there is anything I can do to support you in 2020!




Navigating the Holidays
with Diabetes