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UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence Blog

Holiday Eating Tips

Posted On: Monday, November 25, 2019 Posted By: Adam Edelstein Tags: Diabetes Education


It's not easy

The holiday season is a difficult time to stay on course with healthy eating.  Travel, parties, family meals, cookies, pies and alcohol make managing your diabetes a challenge. These tips are intended to make you think about food decisions, owning what you choose to eat, and planning ahead.

Healthy eating contract

Download this contract and make a commitment to yourself in writing. Place it in on the fridge, or someplace where you'll see it every day. If you need help with your diabetes management this holiday season, such as adjusting insulin with carbohydrate intake, talk with your diabetes care team.

Strategies for holiday parties and "Season's Eatings"

These strategies from the American Association of Diabetes Educators will help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels and still enjoy the parties. As with everything else with diabetes, you'll need to take a few extra steps.

  • Eat a small, balanced meal or snack before you leave home. Arriving to a party hungry makes you more likely to overindulge.
  • Bring a healthy dish that you enjoy, and can substitute for a not so healthy option.
  • Check out ALL of the food options 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... Don’t finish it!
  • Choose vegetables first. Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and tomatoes are healthy options on most appetizer tables. Take only a small spoonful of dip or skip it entirely.
  • Chips and crackers should be eaten in moderation, and always avoid eating them straight from the bag. Put a few on a small plate and don’t load them with creamy mayo-based dips.
  • Avoid grazing by not hanging out near the food. Focus on socializing instead of eating.
  • Enjoy your favorite holiday treats, but in small portions. Eat slowly and savor the taste and texture.
  • Additional blood sugar checks during a party day may help you to make healthier decisions.
  • Drink a large glass of water before each meal. 
  • Take a walk after the meal or get some exercise the day of a party. Physical activity keeps you focused on your goals, and provides a welcome break from being surrounded by treats. Exercise is also a great way to lower blood sugar levels.


The "Big Meal"

  • Eat breakfast or snacks earlier in the day and avoid the idea of saving carbs for the big meal later in the day. Skipping meals can make it more difficult to manage your blood sugar.
  • Limit the amount of starchy foods on your plate. It'll be tempting to have some mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole and rolls, however, try to choose just one of those items. Or just take a few spoonfuls or bites of each.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables served raw, grilled or steamed. Avoid vegetables in creams, gravies and butter.
  • Stick to calorie-free drinks such as water, tea, seltzer, etc. If you drink alcohol, limit the amount and have it with food. Talk with your care team about whether alcohol is safe for you.  

What is "A Drink?"        

Most people living with diabetes can safely drink alcohol in moderation, which means an occasional drink or two. Alcohol reduces blood glucose levels. It's important to remember that drinking on an empty stomach may cause low blood glucose or hypoglycemia.

Avoid sweet sugary alcoholic drinks as they will be high in carbohydrates and will raise your blood sugar. If you like wine, 5 oz. of red wine is a lower carb option with 4 carbohydrates per drink. If you prefer hard alcohol, 1.5 ounces of vodka, whiskey, or gin with a diet drink should have little to no carbs.

Make sure to drink plenty of water after every alcoholic drink. To learn more about Alcohol & Diabetes, click here.

And remember...

If you overindulge, don’t beat yourself up. The feeling of regret after eating a large amount food, and/or eating something unhealthy, is called "Eater's Remorse." If you make the decision to eat or drink something that is not good for you...own it. Stand by your decision and make a plan to get back on track.