Healthy Holiday Eating Tips for Diabetics

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When you think of the holidays, there are a few things that often come to mind: family, shopping and good food. For people suffering with diabetes and working to manage the disease, the holidays can be a time of stress.  With some simple preparation and planning, holiday meals don’t have to disrupt diabetes control and holiday enjoyment.

Diabetics know that managing their glucose levels will be challenging around the holidays given all the sweet temptations. When glucose levels are not controlled, you are at risk for high blood sugar, cholesterol levels and weight gain – all things diabetics should avoid at all costs. To best control blood sugar levels, knowing more about food can help you know what to avoid and planning ahead for those holiday parties can help you not only control your levels but manage the disease on a regular basis. Here are some simple tips:

Have a Guideline

In order to prepare for holiday eating, you have to have a guideline on the food you need and those to watch out for. That way, you know what food to avoid or how much to have if indulging over the holiday.

  • Always have a protein (meat, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, nuts, dry beans) with your carb to help level your blood sugar.
  • Although good for energy or stamina, diabetics must count carbohydrates: (breads, rice, pasta, starchy vegetables, sweets) to control sugar levels.
  • Reading labels is vital to managing your diet. Remember all values, including the calories, are per portion size. If a serving size is ½ cup with 100 calories – and you eat a full cup, then you are eating 200 calories.


Plan Ahead

If you’re going to a holiday party or restaurant, find out what’s on the menu ahead of time, and decide what you’re going to eat. That way you can adjust the rest of your day’s eating, activity, and medication schedules accordingly. Before you head off to that holiday party, be sure and run through this checklist:

  • Fill up with lower carb and more nutritious foods before you leave for the holiday event.
  • Hydrate well with calorie free/carb free drinks during the event.
  • If possible, bring your own low carb foods to munch on i.e. broccoli instead of chips/dip, cookies made with stevia/splenda etc.
  • Know your sugar level before the party.
  • Drink in moderation. Keep it to no more than 1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men and avoid drinks that have highcalorie mixers like soda, tonic, juice or margarita mix that are all packed with carbohydrate and calories.  Opt for sugar free mixes instead.
  • Don’t deprive yourself of dessert but don’t over-indulge. Take a sliver of pie instead of a full piece. Portion control can make a world of a difference.

Once the holiday festivities have come to an end, make sure to get back to regular physical activity. The holidays are a known cause for breaking routine and diabetics must ensure that they are staying active in order to help their body use insulin which helps control blood sugar.

If concerned about managing your diabetes around the holidays, its best to talk to your physician and/or seek assistance from resources in your community or individual health plan.

Dr. Smith is the Chief Medical Officer for Inter Valley Health Plan, a not-for-profit Medicare Advantage Health Plan serving Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, and North Orange County.  With eleven Medicare and Information Centers across Southern California, Inter Valley Health Plan is dedicated to keeping its members healthy and strong and delivering highly personalized service to the Medicare-eligible community. Inter Valley hosts free classes at its Medicare and Information Centers on topics ranging from personal finance, health, fitness, lifestyle and much more – all specific to the older adult community. For more information on classes, please visit and to learn more about Inter Valley’s Medicare plans, please visit:



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