As wonderful and joyful as they are, the holidays also bring on a monster of things to worry about, including food. This time of year can be especially stressful if you have a chronic condition like Type 1 or 2 diabetes.
There is already so much guilt surrounding holiday food and so many opinions on when it is (and isn’t) acceptable to indulge in the name of celebration. Now, add blood sugar management to the mix, and life can get a little complicated.
So, what will be right for you this holiday season? As you approach the holidays, don’t let diabetes hold you back from enjoying the festivities.
Maintain your normal eating patterns
If you can’t maintain something long term and you are only doing it out of fear of weight gain or blood sugar spikes, how will this change support your health in the long run? Research shows that “yo-yo dieting” may be far worse for your health than maintaining weight.
Avoid dieting right before the holidays and skipping meals right before a gathering. When your eating habits fluctuate, it makes it harder to control your blood sugar because of a lack of consistency, meaning your A1C could rise, and your long-term health could take a hit.
Avoid dieting right before the holidays and skipping meals right before a gathering.
That being said, don’t be afraid to indulge.
Even if you have diabetes, healthy choices shouldn’t make you miserable; they should be habits that empower you and make you feel good. So, why avoid pumpkin pie or eggnog if you enjoy it? Just make sure you have a plan in place to tackle foods that spike your blood sugar.
Related: 7 ways to travel smart with diabetes
Keys to stable blood sugar during the holidays
Here are some strategies to help you navigate diabetes or support a loved one who has been diagnosed.
- Check your blood sugar frequently.
- Keep up with your medication and/or insulin. It’s easy to get caught up in the celebrations, festivities and family gatherings, but with diabetes, consistency is key.
- Ask your doctor about tweaking your medications during the holidays to accommodate for changes in diet and activity levels.
- Know what to do if your blood sugar is high or low. Pay attention to your warning signs.
- Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full — the leftovers will be there later!
- Educate your family and friends on what to do in a diabetic emergency.
- Bring snacks everywhere you go in case of emergencies.
- Stay hydrated. The last thing you want going into a holiday party is to deal with high blood sugar because you’re dehydrated.
- Stay active. Go for a bike ride as a family, walk around the mall or take a stroll to look at holiday decorations. Do what you need to do to stay active. It’s amazing what a little activity can do to help control your blood sugar levels.
- Maintain as much balance and consistency in your eating habits as possible. If you’re traveling or staying at a relatives’ home, talk to them about ways to make this happen.
- Take some time to relax. The holidays are the perfect opportunity to slow down and care for yourself.
- Enjoy the food and company. Keep in mind that the holidays are a time for celebration with friends and family. It is not a crime to partake in holiday foods and beverages, even if you have diabetes, prediabetes or another condition.
Food is something that ties people together. It’s a social and emotional experience along with a physiological experience. Practice grace and acceptance during this time as you celebrate with those you hold dear.
Need help navigating diabetes? Learn how a registered dietitian can help.
About the author
This content has been written or reviewed by a member of the Baylor Scott & White Health medical staff.