How to Manage Diabetes During the Holidays

Osmosis Team
Dec 19, 2019

Osmosis shares 8 tips to keep your blood sugar levels in check during the most tempting time of the year.

Thanksgiving and the holidays are the most difficult times of year to maintain a healthy diet. If you’re living with diabetes, it can be especially challenging. How are you supposed to keep up a  diabetes management plan when temptations, travel, and parties are throwing off your routine?

We’ve put together eight tips to help manage diabetes during the holiday season. Even if you’re not diabetic, these are still useful tips that you can share with people in your life who are living with this condition, whether they’re family members or people in your care.

1. Plan ahead

By offering to host the holiday party, you get to be in charge of making healthy menu decisions. If you’re headed somewhere else, offer to bring a nutritious dish to share. Everyone will appreciate it!

2. Keep up your regular dietary routine (as best you can)

You probably know someone who starves themselves all day so they can indulge to the max at dinner. Don’t do this. Eat a healthy breakfast and stick to your usual eating habits. If dinner is being served later than usual, have a snack at your regular mealtime, and eat a little less at the holiday feast.

3. Drink smart

This tip is for everyone, whether you’re living with diabetes or not. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions; if you’re feeling a little tipsy, you’re much more likely to overindulge. If you do decide to drink, be conscious of how much you’re drinking, how fast you’re drinking, and make sure you’re drinking on a full stomach. This will keep you healthy AND help you avoid any awkward dinner situations. Alcohol can interfere with blood sugar levels and diabetes medications. If you really want to drink, be aware of the risks.

4. Eat strategically

Show up to the buffet with a battle plan. Begin eating with non-starchy vegetables (carrots, green beans, Brussels sprouts) and low-calorie proteins like chicken to take some of the edge off your hunger. Consider smart swaps, like skipping those flavorless dinner rolls so you can indulge in a little cheesecake later. You don’t need to deny yourself of the dishes you love, but if you load up a plate and move out of sight of the buffet table, you can reduce temptation.

5. Stay active

It can be REALLY hard to keep up your normal exercise routine during the holidays, so don’t be too hard on yourself. If you can’t get to a gym, consider going for several walks during the day, especially after meals. Going for a stroll will help you offset the calories and give you some alone time to relax and recharge.

6. Get plenty of rest

More time in bed? Absolutely. Depriving yourself of precious sleep actually makes it more difficult to keep on track of your eating habits. Being well-rested makes it much easier to keep tabs on what you’re eating, lessening your chances of overindulgence and difficulty controlling your blood sugar.

7. Keep tabs on your blood sugar 

Even small indulgences can affect your blood sugar levels in unexpected ways. It takes about two hours for your body to digest food and absorb nutrients into your bloodstream. Check your blood sugar a couple of hours after your meal, and then once an hour after that to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

8. Don’t be hard on yourself—enjoy the holidays!

Like we said at the start: the holidays are a dietary gauntlet even in the best case, let alone if you’re living with diabetes. If you slip up, don’t get down on yourself—you can bounce back and get into your healthy routine the next day.

Remember, the holidays are about the people, whether it’s friends or family. Enjoy all that delicious food, but focus on being in the moment with the people you love.

Learn more about diabetes mellitus with our pathophysiology and clinical reasoning videos on Osmosis.