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10 Holiday Hacks for Best Diabetes Management

Christmas Cookie Mix in a Mason Jar with a tag and ornament

I hope your holiday season is off to a healthy start.  If you have diabetes, managing your blood glucose is probably on your mind.  The month of December will likely bring more challenges as you try to balance both joy that the holidays bring as well as healthy diabetes management.  I want you to know that you can keep your diabetes in check and still enjoy the festivities of the season by considering these 10 strategies. 

1. Plan Ahead

Before you go to any holiday gathering, have a plan for what you will eat.  If you are going out to eat, look at the menu ahead of time and choose items that will fit with your health goals.  If you are going to someone’s house, ask the host ahead of time what will be served.  You can also offer to bring a healthy dish to share.  Vegetable side dishes are always great options to bring.  Here’s a great salad idea.

And plan to eat breakfast.  Skipping breakfast might sound like a strategy to help you “save up” for a large holiday meal later.  Unfortunately, this tends to make you really hungry and more likely to overeat.  Instead, start your day with something light that includes both protein and fiber, like egg & avocado toast.

2. Eat Balanced Meals

I’ve said this before: No food should be in the naughty list.  However, we still need to keep balance in mind when we’re making our plate.  Always pair your carbohydrate choices with protein and non-starchy vegetables to help maintain good blood glucose control.  I recommend using the diabetes MyPlate template as a guide:

  • Start with a 9-inch dinner plate.  
  • Choose your veggies first. Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, such as salad, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and carrots.
  • Next pick your protein. Fill one quarter of your plate with lean protein, such as turkey, chicken, tofu, lean beef.
  • Choose the carbohydrate foods you are looking forward to the most. Fill one quarter of your plate with carbohydrate foods, which include grains, starchy vegetables (potatoes, peas, beans, corn), fruit, and yogurt.  
  • Lastly choose water or a low-calorie drink such as unsweetened iced tea to go with your meal. 

3. Make Healthy Swaps

You may choose to make some lower carbohydrate swaps as a strategy to help you manage your blood glucose. Here are a few ideas:

  • Choose pumpkin pie over pecan pie. 1 slice pumpkin pie = ~46gm carbohydrate and 1 slice of pecan pie = ~63gm carbohydrate
  • Choose mashed cauliflower over mashed potatoes. ½ cup mashed cauliflower = ~7gm carbohydrate and ½ cup mashed potatoes = ~18gm carbohydrate
  • Choose fresh green beans over green bean casserole. 1 cup cooked green beans = ~6gm carbohydrate and 1 cup green bean casserole = ~16gm carbohydrate
  • Choose vegetable appetizers over crackers. 1 cup cut fresh vegetables = ~ 5gm carbohydrate and 4-6 crackers (1 oz) = ~15 gm carbohydrate
  • Choose mixed nuts over snack mix. 1 oz mixed nuts = ~8gm carbohydrate and ½ cup Chex mix = ~22gm carbohydrate

4. Watch Portion Sizes

Keep these visuals in mind.

  • 1 cup = 1 fist or 1 baseball.
  • ½ cup = ½ baseball.
  • ¼ cup = 1 golf ball.
  • 3 oz = deck of cards.
  • 1 tablespoon = 1 thumb. 

5. Stay Hydrated

When you have diabetes, staying hydrated is crucial.  If you aren’t drinking enough water, the glucose in your blood stream becomes more concentrated.  So, becoming even mildly dehydrated can have an impact on your blood glucose.  The best options for keeping hydrated include water, unsweetened tea, and sugar free flavored, sparkling, & infused water. 

6. Monitor Your Blood Sugar

Remember to continue checking your blood sugar throughout the holidays.  You might even add in a few extra checks on days that you have a party or gathering; this may help to guide your choices.

7. Keep Moving

Make movement a priority during the holidays.  Stick to your normal activity routine, even on party days.  Suggest going for a family walk after your meal.  If you find yourself sitting more, set your timer to get up and move every 30 minutes.  Research shows that breaking up sitting bouts with just 2-3 minutes of movement can improve your blood glucose.

8. Get Your Sleep

It is recommended to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.  Not getting enough sleep can negatively affect your diabetes management, including increased blood glucose, increased insulin resistance, and increased hunger the next day.  Sticking to your regular sleep schedule during the holidays will be important. 

9. Schedule Some "Me" Time

Don’t let stress from the holidays get the better of you.  Set aside time to recharge. You could enjoy a massage, watch a movie, take a nature walk, or anything that would recharge your battery.

10. Enlist Support From Others

Choose at least 1 person that you can rely on for support and accountability during the holiday season. This might be a spouse, friend, coworker, health care provider, or someone else with diabetes. Let them know how they can best support you so you can continue working towards your health goals throughout the holidays and into the new year.

Whether you’ve been managing your diabetes all your life, or you’ve received a diagnosis recently and you aren’t sure where to start, our Diabetes Support Group is a fantastic resource for anyone living with diabetes, regardless of where you are in your diabetes management journey.

Accredited by the American Diabetes Association and led by our Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), this monthly group meeting is an excellent opportunity to gain new knowledge on how to manage life with diabetes. With topical discussions from how to eat healthy during the holidays and tips and tricks on maintaining crucial foot hygiene with diabetes, this group can be an important tool for helping you live your life to the fullest with diabetes.

Our next monthly Diabetes Support Group will meet on Thursday, December 8th. There is a virtual meeting at 11am via zoom and an in-person meeting at noon. If you are interested in attending either meeting, please call our office at 316-804-6147 or click the button below to sign up!

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