People with type 2 diabetes are used to monitoring everything they eat and drink. But doing so during the end-of-year holidays can be especially challenging. Because along with family time, shopping, gifts and expressing thanks, the holidays bring food, food and more good food.
Sometimes people with type 2 diabetes may think, “it’s too hard to diet during the holidays; I’ll just worry about it in January,” said Lillian Swatek, an outpatient dietitian and nutritionist with Banner Health. “Having high blood sugars consistently over a period of time, like the weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years, can contribute to the complications of diabetes.”
We sat down with Swatek to discuss managing diabetes during the holiday season. She says gaining weight—even as little as five pounds—may worsen insulin resistance and blood sugar control.
You will likely face food triggers during the holiday season. These include food gifts from family and friends or coworkers that bring tempting treats into the office. Swatek offers these tips to keep your levels in check at social gatherings, even with temptation all around you:
- Don’t skip meals or arrive at parties hungry because this can lead to overeating. Eat a light snack, like a small portion of fruit or a cheese stick, before heading to the party.
- Survey all the food and drink selections at the party first, don’t just get in line and start piling up your plate. This way you can decide clearly what you really want.
- Skip items that are available anytime, like rolls and potatoes, and select more special, seasonal items you’ll enjoy.
- Fill up a good portion of your plate with healthy foods for type 2 diabetes, like vegetables and salads.
- For potlucks and family functions, contribute a dish from a type 2 diabetes friendly recipe.
- Start with small portions of your favorite items—you can always go back for more later. But, you’ll likely find the small portion was satisfying enough.
- Drink beverages without sugar, like flavored sparkling water, before and during the meal to help fill you up.
- When eating out, ask for a take-out container at the beginning of the meal and immediately put half away for later, or split the meal with someone else.
- If you receive high-sugar, high-calorie food gifts just accept them graciously. You can have a small portion and then give away, freeze or throw out the rest if they are too tempting to have around the house.
“Try to think about the holidays differently and remind yourself that it’s not just about the food,” said Swatek. “Try to focus on spending time with family and plan fun activities like walking to see light displays or playing ball in the backyard. If you overeat one day, try to eat better and exercise the next day.”
As always, testing blood sugars and weighing yourself regularly is critical to making sure you stay mindful about your choices and behaviors, especially during the holiday season. Get more tools and resources to stay healthy with type 2 diabetes, including our Diabetes Education App.