Holiday festivities are usually filled with a wonderful spread of delicious food. This should be a time for joy and celebration, but it may also be a difficult time to navigate if you have diabetes. Here are a few tips to managing diabetes during the holiday season with ease while taking control of your blood sugars.

Maintain consistent meal timing

Eating balanced meals and snacks consistently throughout the day is a great way to keep your blood sugar in check. Avoid skipping meals to "save up" for an event later in the day, as this will likely lead to overeating and unstable blood sugar readings. If you have a party to attend, make sure that you still consume your regular meals the rest of the day and healthy snacks between meals as needed.

Balance your plate

The diabetes plate method is a fantastic way to balance your plate any time of year, but it can be practiced during the holidays as well. Use these recommendations as a gentle guide and take this opportunity to reflect on what foods you can add to your meals that will help keep you feeling full and satisfied.

Aim to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables you enjoy. Some examples of non-starchy vegetables include:

  • asparagus
  • broccoli 
  • eggplant
  • green beans
  • kale
  • salad greens

These types of vegetables are packed with a variety of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Non-starchy vegetables also do not significantly impact blood sugar levels, meaning you can enjoy larger portions.

Fill one quarter of your plate with lean protein sources, such as:

Protein can help balance out the effects carbohydrates have on your blood sugars. It is always best to pair protein with carbohydrates to help keep blood sugars as stable as possible.

Fill the last quarter of your plate with carbohydrate foods. Ideally, complex carbohydrates are going to be the best choice due to their higher fiber content and lower glycemic index. A few different types of complex carbohydrates are:

  • brown rice
  • fruit
  • potatoes
  • quinoa
  • whole grain breads
  • whole grain pastas
  • yams

Make time to get active

Staying active is another great way to keep blood sugars in good control. Make time for the activities that motivate you. Bundle up in layers to go on a nature walk or hike with your loved ones, or have fun with your favorite winter sports, such as ice skating, sledding, skiing, and snowshoeing. Day-to-day activities like taking the stairs, mall walking while doing holiday shopping, raking leaves, and shoveling snow count, too. If you prefer staying cozy inside, maybe consider an online class that suits your interests—or even an impromptu dance party in your living room set to your favorite music.

Don't forget to have fun!

The winter holidays only come once a year and many of your favorite foods may be featured during this time. It is important to be able to enjoy your eating experience and to have fun, too. Be kind to yourself even if you feel that you may have made a "mistake." The lifestyle choices that we make consistently over time have the most significant impact on our health, not just what happens over the final few weeks of the calendar year. Take time to truly enjoy the holiday flavors and traditions by making peace with all your food choices and continuing to foster a healthy relationship with food.

For more tips for healthy eating, any time of year, visit the Nourishing section of our Lifespan Living health and wellness blog.

Katie Lester, MS, RD, LDN, CIC

Katie Lester, MS, RD, LDN, CIC 

Katie Lester is a clinical dietitian at the Lifespan Lifestyle Medicine Center. Her clinical interests include diabetes, gastrointestinal health, and nutrition concerns in pregnancy.