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Diabetes management: Plan ahead for healthy holidays

The holidays are often a time of overindulgence. Sugary treats and big meals are a major part of many people's celebrations. If you have diabetes, you're right to be concerned about managing the disease in the face of all these temptations.

Fortunately, having diabetes doesn't mean you need to avoid holiday celebrations. There are many things you can do to make sure you enjoy all the season has to offer while still keeping your diabetes in check.

Planning ahead is a key part to enjoying the holidays and staying healthy with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and other experts.

Take a look at your holiday schedule and ask yourself some questions. Do your holiday plans include a lot of parties and events centered around food? Are you going to be out of town? Will you be having visitors?

Once you know what your schedule looks like, you can create a plan for keeping your diabetes in check.

Among other things, your plan should include steps to ensure that you eat right, avoid stress and stay active.

Watch what you eat

One of the biggest holiday challenges for people with diabetes is eating right. Overindulging can raise your blood sugar and cause you to put on unwanted pounds.

Fortunately, there's no need to skip your favorite foods during the holidays because of diabetes. If you're careful, you can still enjoy tasty treats and control your diabetes.

It's all about eating in moderation and planning ahead.

Here are some tips for healthy holiday eating:

  • Time your medication. Holiday meals are often eaten at odd times. You may need to have a snack at your normal meal time or have another plan in place.
  • Cook with care. You don't need to completely rework your menu because of diabetes. But you might want to make some minor changes. For instance, there are ways to make traditional holiday foods healthier. You can use fat-free or low-fat ingredients when cooking. And you can cut back on sugar when making holiday sweets.
  • Set realistic goals. Try to maintain a healthy weight, but don't attempt to lose weight during the holiday season.
  • Watch portion sizes. Take small tastes of high-calorie foods. Use a smaller plate at a buffet-style gathering. Keep your overall carbohydrate and calorie intake the same as at a normal meal.
  • Eat a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you aren't famished when you arrive.
  • When you're at a party, look for activities other than eating. Talk to family and friends and keep your distance from high-calorie snack bowls and food tables.
  • Check out the buffet before making your selections. Decide which foods will be best for you before filling up your plate.
  • Watch what you drink. Remember that beverages contain calories too.

Circumvent stress

It's also a good idea to avoid stressful situations during the holidays. Stress can have a negative effect on your blood sugar level.

To manage stress, try using a calendar to stay organized. Be careful not to take on too much. And include time for physical activity—a natural stress reliever.

Remember to exercise

The best way to compensate for eating more than usual is to be active. Go for a walk or bike ride, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or play soccer or other games with your family.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise each week.

Talk with your doctor

If you have questions or concerns about the holidays, talk to your doctor. Ask for suggestions about how to modify your diet and get the most out of your diabetes medication during the holiday season.

Reviewed 8/2/2023

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