Holiday Eating and Exercise Tips for People with Diabetes

Holiday eating and exercise tips for people with diabetes - dinner

Staying healthy and active during the holidays can be a challenge even for the most disciplined. Below are a number of tips to help you during the holidays.

Staying Healthy During the Holidays - For Diabetics

  • Eat breakfast or snacks earlier in the day and avoid the idea of saving carbs for the big feast later on. If you skip meals, it may be harder to manage your blood sugar.
  • Limit how much of the starchy, high carbohydrate foods you put on your plate. It might be tempting to have a normal serving of mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole and rolls, however, try to choose just a small amount of each of these items. And remember to do the same with all the desserts…a little of each is a better strategy.
  • It’s OK to cut off a smaller serving of a pre-portioned food (ex: protein, like turkey, should be about the size of the palm of your hand). I was a party yesterday, and cut the portion of meat in the serving dish in half before putting it on my plate!
  • Avoid “stock-piling” carbs at 1 big meal.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables served raw, grilled or steamed. Avoid vegetables in creams, gravy and butter.
  • Stick to calorie-free drinks such as water, tea, seltzer, or diet sodas instead of punch or mixed drinks. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit the amount and have it with food. Talk with your healthcare team about whether alcohol is safe for you. One alcoholic beverage a day for men and women is the recommendation.

One drink is:
-12 oz of beer
-5 oz of wine
-1½ oz of 80-proof distilled spirits
-1 oz of 100-proof distilled spirit

  • Check with your pharmacist and doctor regarding the safety of alcohol with your current medicines and conditions.
  • Enjoy your favorite holiday treats, but take small portions, eat slowly, and savor the taste and texture.
  • After your meal, take a walk with family and/or friends. Exercise will also get you moving, keep you focused on your goals, and give you a welcome break from being surrounded by treats. Exercise is also a great way to lower blood
    sugar levels as in aerobic exercise (walking) your muscles burn blood sugar for energy!
  • Chew sugar--free gum to get the lingering taste of food out of your mouth (this really does help!)
  • If you overindulge, don’t beat yourself up. If you eat more carbs or food than you planned for, don’t think you have failed, just make a plan to get back on track.
  • Eat a small, balanced meal or snack before you leave home. If you arrive to the party hungry, you’ll be more likely to overindulge (another great reason to NOT skip breakfast and lunch).
  • Study ALL of the food options, and think about what you are going to have before you put anything on your plate. Decide which foods are worth eating and which can be ignored, and then stick to that decision.
  • If you taste something that you don’t enjoy, leave it on your plate—don’ finish it!
  • Choose vegetables first. Broccoli, baby carrots, cauliflower and tomatoes are good choices that are usually on the appetizer table. Take only a small spoonful of dip or skip it entirely.
  • Eat chips and crackers in moderation and avoid eating them straight from the bag. Put some on a small plate and avoid loading them down with creamy mayo-based dips.
  • Try not to hang out near the food to avoid grazing. Find a comfortable spot across the room and focus on socializing instead of eating.
  • Remember to regularly check your blood sugar throughout the holidays and adding a few extra checks on a party day may help guide your choices.
  • Sip a large glass of water or mineral water. This will keep you hydrated and provide you with a better option than alcohol.
  • Take a walk or attend your usual exercise session the day of a party. Make it a priority rather than saying there isn’t time. It is probably more important than the party!
  • Spend more time talking to family, taking a walk to the park, practicing golf or tennis swings together …and less time eating.
  • When eating together, turn off the TV, internet, smartphones and tablets.
  • When eating, be mindful…do not rush.
  • Appreciate the colors and flavors often only available at this time of year.
  • Go smaller (plates) and slower (pace meals with more chewing and fewer bites).
  • Bring colorful salads and vegetable mixes to potlucks for side dishes.
  • Flavor water with sliced, peeled cucumber or rinsed fresh mint leaves.
  • Plan in advance of the holidays to include more physical activity, even if only more mall walking.
  • Add another serving of vegetables mid-day to keep up your color score (except for those on low potassium diets).
  • Special family recipes can be modified for less sodium, fat and carbohydrate.
  • Meet with a registered dietitian (RD) for medical nutrition therapy (covered by Medicare and most commercial plans).
  • Meet with a diabetes care and education specialist (CDES) for diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES). Medicare calls this benefit diabetes self-management training (DSMT).
  • Call your health insurance 800 number (on back of your insurance card) to ask if your plan covers:
    1) Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (or Diabetes Self-Management Training)
    2) Medical Nutrition Therapy for diabetes
    3) Continuous Glucose Monitoring

Ready to find out more?

As a Diabetes Educator and Nutritionist I help my patients cope with managing their diabetes - whether it's diet, nutrition, supplements, blood sugar, or pump therapy.

Please reach out and contact me if you need support, I truly understand. I live it every day. 

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