Diabetes 101: Eating healthy during the holidays

African American family sharing a holiday meal

It felt like life threw you a curveball with your recent diabetes diagnosis. Now, it’s time for all of the big holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. You can’t help but feel a bit cheated and apprehensive: how will you survive this overindulgent time of year now that you have to watch your diabetic diet so carefully? There are endless work parties, get-togethers with friends, and family dinners coming up on your calendar. They’re filled with good times…and lots, lots of unhealthy food and drinks. What will you do now?

The key to prevent overindulging is to have a plan for the holidays. Remember that it’s not really about the food: it’s about the people you’re with. Do little things to set yourself up for success beforehand.

Here are some ways the holidays can still be fun without endangering your health:

example of healthy eating snack: hard boiled eggs, veggie sticks, hummus

Eat Beforehand

Skipping meals before the big party can do more harm than good. Start off the day by eating a low-carb breakfast. Before hosting your own party or heading out on a social call, eat a healthy snack so you don’t feel famished — otherwise, you’ll be more likely to actually overindulge.

Here are a few snack ideas:

  • vegetable sticks with hummus
  • walnuts
  • dill pickle
  • string cheese
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • hardboiled egg

young girl & mother preparing healthy dishes for holiday meal

Volunteer to Host

If you can host the holiday festivities, you’ll have much more control over the food and drinks served. Prepare desserts with less sugar and substitute oils with unsweetened applesauce. But don’t feel like you need to buy and prepare every single appetizer and dish yourself. Opt for a potluck-style celebration. There are some easy tradeoffs that won’t stress your guests. For example, instead of starchy mashed potatoes, ask your guests to bring sweet potatoes instead.

Balance the menu carefully between fat, carbs, and proteins. Make sure healthy options like fresh, non-starchy vegetables are readily available, so you can fill half of your plate with those. Instead of eating the green bean casserole, keep a side of green beans in the fridge for yourself.

Asian family sharing a holiday meal of healthy food

Count Drinks

Don’t drink your carbs. Drinking too much alcohol quickly derails your plans for a healthy holiday season. And, it may not be worth the risk. TheDiabetesCouncil.com offers this warning: “As alcohol by itself has a paradoxical effect on a person with diabetes, please limit alcohol consumption to 1 or 2 glasses. The carbohydrates in alcohol could raise blood sugar. However, alcohol can also cause a low blood sugar for up to 12 hours after its consumption, especially if the person is taking medications that lower blood sugar.” Better options are sparkling water with no added sugar, tea, coffee, or milk.

multiracial family playing frisbee in the park after a healthy holiday meal

Engage in Activities

If you’re hosting, add activities to your party so you’re not obsessing over food the entire time. Fill the backyard and/or living room with activity centers for card, dice, or board games. When you head to someone else’s place, bring along a few games for back up.

Get moving! Throw on a pair of our comfy, supportive diabetic compression socks and share these activities with family and friends:

  • Frisbee
  • Touch football
  • A neighborhood stroll

Following a diabetic diet during the holidays may seem like a bummer, but it’s not impossible. Set yourself up for success by eating a light meal or healthy snack beforehand. Make smart tradeoffs (like non-starchy veggies versus a casserole), and keep busy so you don’t get caught up in mindless eating. And, if all fails, give yourself a bit of grace. Take a deep breath, don’t make excuses, and then promptly get back on your diabetic diet the very next day.

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