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Top 10 Tips for Managing Blood Sugar During the Holidays

Do you have type 2 diabetes, and you’re dreading the upcoming holidays with all of the focus surrounding food? Are you anxious about managing your blood sugar through all of the festivities of the season? You are not alone! But there are some steps you can take to set yourself up for success as you enjoy the holiday season. Here are my top 10 tips for managing blood sugar during the holidays.

1. Maintain your schedule.

Try to stick to your normal schedule for waking, eating, exercising, and taking medications. The holidays can often make it difficult to stick to a routine, especially if you are off work or are traveling, but sticking to your normal schedule as best as possible can help you to minimize large fluctuations in your blood sugar. Sticking to regular eating times can help prevent overeating or snacking throughout the day.

2. Monitor your blood sugar.

It is a good idea to monitor your blood sugars more frequently during the holidays. Or, if you are not currently checking your sugar, consider doing so during the holidays. Changes to your work, exercise, and eating schedules can effect your readings. If you are taking insulin before meals, you may need to adjust your dose to cover any changes in your numbers. Also, if you are planning to travel during the holidays, I recommend checking your blood sugars before getting behind the wheel of a car.

3. Budget your sweets and treats.

Many people think that desserts are off limits for people with diabetes. Or they feel guilty for consuming them. But you don’t have to avoid dessert! To keep your blood sugars from skyrocketing, include sweets and treats as part of your carbohydrate budget — not in addition to it. Choose the meat and side vegetables or salad at dinner. Then your carbohydrate for dinner could be Aunt Emily’s nut roll that she only makes during the holidays. That way you can still enjoy your favorite holiday treats, but you don’t exceed your carbohydrate budget by also having the dinner roll, sweet potato casserole, and stuffing.

4. Watch your alcohol intake.

Moderate alcohol intake can have a blood sugar-lowering effect, so don’t drink on an empty stomach. The amount of calories and sugars vary significantly among drinks, so it can be helpful to research nutrition information about your favorite drinks. Recommendations for alcohol for those with diabetes are no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two per day for men. One drink equals 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.

5. Download mobile tools.

Use the resources available to you. You can download mobile apps to your phone, including apps that help you count carbohydrates of certain dishes, and let you know how much insulin you need to take (if you use it before meals). Some of my favorite apps are listed below.

  • MyFitnessPal
  • Fooducate
  • ShopWell
  • MySugr
  • Spark Recipes
  • Glucose Buddy

6. Order smart in restaurants.

You’d be surprised by how many restaurants offer healthy options not mentioned on the menu. Ask for options with less saturated fat and sugars. Substitute olive oil with herbs instead of butter. You can also substitute sides. Ask for fresh, steamed or stir-fried veggies instead of mashed potatoes. How foods are prepared can make a big difference, as well. Ask for baked instead of fried.

7. Bring a healthy dish to parties.

If you’re going to a holiday dinner, ask if you can bring a dish. Then prepare a dish that is lower in calories and fat, such as a vegetable tray or vegetable-based appetizer. There are many delicious, diabetes-friendly recipes that you can bring to holiday parties. If you bring a dish, you know that you will have at least one healthier option to choose from. You can find low-sugar recipes from the American Diabetes Association.

8. Be “party smart.”

At the party, enjoy some of the vegetable-based appetizers first, then the meat or cheese appetizers. Place your appetizers on your napkin instead of a plate and you’ll be less likely to overfill it. Another tip: don’t stand near the buffet table when socializing at a party. It’s also important to stay hydrated. Drink water or club soda with a lime or lemon twist. Keep a calorie-free drink in your hand to keep your hands busy.

9. Stay active.

If you can’t stick to your usual exercise program during this busy time, do some fun activities with family or friends. For example, play capture the flag or go on a group walk. If 40 minutes a day at one time isn’t possible, break your exercise up into 10- to 15-minute segments, two or three times a day. It doesn’t really matter what kind of activity you choose, as long as you are moving your muscles and staying active.

10. Remember the reason for the season.

And finally, remember the reason for the season. Try to focus on family and friends, rather than on food. Enjoy what you do eat, and savor each bite. And most importantly, remember to include time to relax and have fun!

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