Diabetes Healthy Eating Tips and Strategies for the Holidays
Updated: Oct 7
For diabetics and pre-diabetics, holiday gatherings with friends and loved ones are joyous but can also be a quagmire of difficult decisions between what, when, and how much to eat. Here are some tips so you don't lose your stride in 'The Great Gobble' of Thanksgiving.
Here’s your 'recipe' for staying on track no matter what’s cooking.
Whether you are busy preparing to host a dining room full of guests or relaxing with several days off from school or work, for almost everyone, the Thanksgiving holiday is a medley of giving thanks, affirming relationships, and indulging.
And while the revelers are splurging, you can give thanks for having received some much needed willpower and fortitude to stick to your diabetes meal plan.
It's All In the Timing
You may not be able to control what food you’re served, and you’re going to see other people eating tempting treats. Meet the challenges armed with a plan:
Eat close to your usual times to keep your blood sugar steady. If your meal is served later than normal, eat a small snack at your usual mealtime and eat a little less when dinner is served.
Don’t skip meals to save up for a feast. It will be harder to manage your blood sugar, and you’ll be really hungry and more likely to overeat.
Eat slowly. It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full.
What's Your Gameplan?
Invited to a party? Offer to bring a healthy dish along.
If you have a sweet treat, cut back on other carbs (like potatoes and stuffing) during the meal.
Additionally, use that as your inspiration to get up and get moving! Take a walk with family, introduce the kids to burpees, challenge some friends to who can do the most push-ups. Have fun!
If you slip up, get right back to healthy eating with your next meal.
Focus on whole foods instead of highly processed foods as much as possible.
Intend to monitor your blood sugar a bit more often if that is something your physician has already instructed you to do.
Fitness for Favorites
"Exercise is essential for everyone—especially for people with diabetes. Being active most days of the week keeps you healthy by reducing long-term health risks, improving insulin sensitivity, and enhancing mood and overall quality of life. Most of the time, working out causes blood glucose to dip."(2)
The times that exercise promotes an increase in blood sugar is generally when adrenaline is being produced, which triggers glucose production from the liver. So the occasions when exercising will actually increase glucose tend to be sprinting, high-intensity training and weightlifting. ... But were you really planning on doing any of these on Thanksgiving?
But being active is your secret holiday weapon; it can help make up for eating more than usual and reduce stress during this most stressful time of year. Get moving with friends and family, such as taking a walk after a holiday meal, especially after indulging.
Dinner Plate Dynamics
Remember the Food Pyramid by the USDA back in 1992? With all those carbs pictured as the base and foundation? Well, that pyramid fell over. My Plate started in 2011 and above is a version published on the CDC website dedicated to diabetes.
It’s easy to eat more food than you need without realizing it. The plate method is a simple, visual way to make sure you get enough nonstarchy vegetables and lean protein while limiting the amount of higher-carb foods you eat that have the highest impact on your blood sugar.
Start with a 9-inch dinner plate (about the length of a business envelope):
Fill half with nonstarchy vegetables, such as salad, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussel sprouts.
Fill one quarter with a lean protein, such as chicken, turkey, beans, tofu, or eggs.
Fill one quarter with carb foods and starchy vegetables. Foods that are higher in carbs include grains, starchy vegetables (such as potatoes, carrots and peas), rice, pasta, beans, fruit, and yogurt. A cup of milk also counts as a carb food.
Rules of Thumb
These days, portions at restaurants are quite a bit larger than they were several years ago. One entrée can equal 3 or 4 servings! Studies show that people tend to eat more when they’re served more food, (3) ... wow, did we really need a study on that? So getting portions under control is really important for managing weight and blood sugar.
If you’re eating out, have half of your meal wrapped up to go so you can enjoy it later.
At home, measure out snacks; don’t eat straight from the bag or box.
I'm a huge fan of this “handy” guide, you’ll always have a way to estimate portion size at your fingertips. Below are the conversions for the numbers. Take a picture with your phone so you keep it ... well, ... handy.
3 ounces of meat, fish, or poultry Palm of hand (no fingers)
1 ounce of meat or cheese Thumb (tip to base)
1 cup or 1 medium fruit Fist
1–2 ounces of nuts or pretzels Cupped hand
1 tablespoon Thumb tip (tip to 1st joint)
1 teaspoon Fingertip (tip to 1st joint)
American Diabetes Association. Why Does Exercise Sometimes Raise Glucose (Blood Sugar)? https://diabetes.org/healthy-living/fitness/why-does-exercise-sometimes-raise-blood-sugar. Accessed on 11-22-22.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes. 5 Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/holidays-healthy-eating.html. Accessed on 11-21-22.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes. Diabetes Meal Planning. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/eat-well/meal-plan-method.html. Accessed on 11-21-22.
** image credits https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/eat-well/meal-plan-method.html
The content and any recommendations in this article are for informational purposes only. They are not intended to replace the advice of the reader's own licensed healthcare professional or physician and are not intended to be taken as direct diagnostic or treatment directives. Any treatments described in this article may have known and unknown side effects and/or health hazards. Each reader is solely responsible for his or her own healthcare choices and decisions. The author advises the reader to discuss these ideas with a licensed naturopathic physician.