The Holidays and Diabetes

How to Enjoy Your Food Without Compromising Your Blood Sugar!

Emily Calder, MS, LDN, RDN

By Emily Dunkley, MS, RDN, LDN, CPT


While the Holidays are often a great time to reconnect with family and celebrate, it is often accompanied with some stress surrounding eating habits. Many people struggle with what feels like endless temptation to indulge in seasonal foods. This is especially true for people who are diagnosed with Diabetes, as many of the most memorable Holiday foods are starchy or sweet! While most think that are only two options: ignore all the delicious foods and be miserable, or forget eating healthy entirely and completely indulge – the truth is you can enjoy all the holiday season has to offer, while also staying consistent with your goals and managing your blood sugar!


Here are 5 helpful tips when it comes to Holiday eating and Diabetes Management.


Don’t skip meals

So often we convince ourselves to skip breakfast, lunch, and snacks on days in which we will be attending a party or Holiday gathering due to the fact that ‘so much food will be there’. While this might feel like a good idea when it comes to managing calorie intake, it often leads to overeating! Because we have skipped our usual meals, we end up ‘hangry’ and feel as though we need to eat everything in front of us.

Rather than skip your pre-party meals, keep your structure! This will allow you to enjoy the foods at gathering’s in moderation.


Stay hydrated

So many of us do not get our daily required water. This can lead to many adverse effects and side effects – and maybe most importantly, can manifest as hunger. When we’re eating due to thirst, we can easily loose track of the calories or carbs. Try to keep a water bottle with you at all times, as well as start with water before eating meals or snacks.


Use the ‘Pairing Concept’: Add protein, healthy fat, and fiber to all meals and snacks

Protein, fiber, and healthy fats are the key to helping you feel satisfied. Adding good sources of these to your snacks throughout the day will help you manage your hunger, as well as keep your blood sugar better managed!

Here are some examples of well paired snacks to keep you going during your busy Holiday season:

  • Celery stuffed with nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew, ext.)
  • Whole wheat crackers and sharp cheddar cheese
  • Homemade trail mix
  • Veggies with hummus or yogurt dip
  • Avocado toast with a hard boiled egg


Use portion control

Rather than skipping out on your favorite food or treat all together, try using portion control! Often times we use too much restriction, and it ends of back firing when we ‘cave’ and eat what we were craving in excess. Instead, use smaller plates or bowls, eat a bit slower by savoring each bite, wait 15-20 minutes between servings, and take stock of your hunger and fullness throughout the day! These are all important tools for mindful or intuitive eating – something that you can speak to your DMC Dietitian more about!


Use the 80/20 rule!

If you are a patient of mine, then you have likely heard of the 80/20 rule. This means fill your day with nutrient-rich foods and balance 80% of the time. This includes plenty of non-starchy veggies, high fiber carbohydrates and fruits, lean protein sources, and healthy fat sources. Then, the other 20% of the time, you can feel free to splurge on comfort foods or special Holiday treats that don’t come by often!

This does not mean ‘save up’ or ‘use a cheat day’, but rather let the extras fall in where they fall in. This helps us maintain our healthy habits, enjoy our favorite foods, and avoid allowing the splurge to become a lifestyle.


Ultimately, there are dozens of ways in which we can practice healthy balance during the Holiday season. Remember to balance your meals, use portion control, stay hydrated, and maybe most importantly – enjoy spending time with your loved ones!